Monday, January 09, 2012

A Libertarian Strategery Note

English: Gary E. JohnsonImage via Wikipedia
To the extent that the Libertarian Party has a "conventional wisdom," that wisdom says former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has the party's 2012 presidential nomination pretty much nailed down just by throwing his name in the hat.

I'm not so sure that's true -- Johnson does have some weak points when it comes to campaigning internally in the LP, such as his support for the "Fair" Tax, and I suspect my friend R. Lee Wrights, who's been running an aggressive internal ground game for the nomination, will force a debate that highlights those weaknesses -- but just supposing it is, high on the "next question?" list is the choice of vice-presidential nominee.

Unlike the "major" parties, the LP doesn't just ratify its presidential nominee's choice of running mate. The presidential nominee is given speaking time to offer his thoughts on the VP nomination, but it's a competitive race of its own.

So, who's the ideal second half of Johnson/? 2012?

Some have suggested that Johnson may already have a pick in mind. Perhaps a wealthy running mate who can pump millions into advertising for the ticket, or a "big name" that Americans will recognize. If so, that could make things even more interesting. But if not, I have a suggestion.

Two more bits of conventional wisdom: First, that Johnson will put at least some emphasis on campaigning in New Mexico, where he served two terms as governor and can probably rack up an abnormally high vote percentage for a Libertarian presidential candidate. Second, that Johnson's position on marijuana legalization will be a big part -- perhaps too big, if the media decides it wants to use it to caricature him -- of his campaign.

With those two things in mind, I'd like to suggest that the ideal Johnson running mate would be a prominent marijuana legalization advocate from a large, non-"swing," state which is likely to have a big vote gap between President Obama and whomever the Republicans nominate, and where some sort of popular marijuana-related initiative is also on the ballot.

A state like, perhaps, California.

In polling so far, Obama beats the pants off any likely GOP presidential nominee in California. That minimizes "wasted vote" considerations: Libertarian-leaning Republicans are free to vote for Johnson, knowing that the GOP candidate doesn't have a chance anyway; Libertarian-leaning Democrats know that their party's candidate has it nailed down, so they're free to register a third party "protest vote" as well.

California is also likely to have a sweeping marijuana legalization bill, the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative, on its November ballot.

A prominent California legalization advocate on the ballot next to Johnson, campaigning up and down the state all summer and fall, could increase turnout for both that initiative and the LP's presidential ticket. The voters who come out for one or the other would tend to support both.

So, do we know anyone like that? Why yes ... yes, we do.

United States third party and independent pres...Image via Wikipedia
Steve Kubby came within about 30 votes of the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential nomination last time, even against presidential nominee Bob Barr's endorsement of his opponent, Wayne Allyn Root (a mistake which probably put a five or six digit dent in Barr's November vote total; every time Root opened his mouth, the LP ticket hemorrhaged votes).

Internally to the LP, Kubby enjoys even more goodwill today than he did at that 2008 convention, if for no other reason than that he went balls-out to stop a convention walkout by the party's radical faction and hold the party together at a tough time. He could play a similar role this time. The radicals are suspicious of Johnson's more "centrist libertarian" orientation. One of their own in the second slot would go a long way toward allaying that suspicion.

Externally to the LP, Kubby's well-known in California and positively associated with the issue of marijuana legalization. His presence on the ticket would boost both the issue and the candidate, not only in California but elsewhere ... and since some of the legalization spotlight would be on him, that would free up Johnson to get his licks in on other issues.

Just something to think about.

Disclosures: Wow, where to start?

I'm no longer an LP member, no longer vote (I'm an anarchist) and have not endorsed any candidate for the LP's 2012 presidential or vice-presidential nomination. However, I've worked with R. Lee Wrights for more than a decade, consider him nothing short of a brother, think he's the candidate most properly reflective of what the LP supposedly stands for, and have done a little (very little) back-office consulting for his campaign.

Also, I was Steve Kubby's presidential campaign manager in 2008 and still believe the LP made a huge mistake in not nominating him to either position on its ticket. I've worked with Kubby on both business and political projects since then as well. And yes, I have discussed a vice-presidential candidacy with him, and would not be writing this post if his answer had been "not only no, but f&%k no."

BUT: Kubby himself had no input on this post; he won't even know it's coming until it's up; he has not "approved this message," as it were. Nobody paid me or otherwise enticed me to release this idea into the wild, nor do I expect, if Kubby decides to throw in for VP, to make any money from having suggested it. Any pre-nomination VP campaign work I might do for him would almost certainly be unpaid and volunteer, as has been the case for everyone else I've done little things for so far this election cycle.
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