I know that third parties have never done particularly well in our Presidential elections. Former President Theodore Roosevelt won 27% of the vote in 1912 and received 88 electoral votes. In 1968, George Wallace received 13% of the vote and won 45 southern state electoral votes.And Ross Perot, after leading in early 1992 then dropping out July, came back to score 19% of the popular votes. But Perot won no electoral votes.
But this year history and tradition do not seem to matter very much. Age certainly does not appear to be a factor as two 68 year old frontrunners and threatened by a 74 year old Democratic challenger, a 93 year old GOP icon suggests a 73 year old former Speaker as Donald Trump’s running mate, and a 72 year old Vice President perhaps waits in the wings to substitute if needed.
The two parties appear ready to nominate two of the most unpopular candidates in the country and confidence in both the Democratic and Republican parties is at an all time low. Not quite half (45%) say they are willing to support an independent candidate – and this is late in the game. Trump has broken all the rules of engagement and Hillary Clinton faces either a possible indictment or at least some sort of serious reprimand.
But most importantly is the question of who Millennials will support. Donald Trump’s support is miniscule among this group – the cohort likely to drive the results of this election. And Hillary Clinton does not generate any enthusiasm among younger voters because she appears to many to be a combination of too establishment and too disingenuous. Even though Bernie Sanders most likely will endorse and campaign for Clinton, as will President Barack Obama, who received a large percentage of support among young voters in 2008 and 2012, they still may not vote in significant enough numbers. To be sure, many will hold their nose and vote for Clinton because of their fear of a Trump victory. But the real question is will there be enough excitement to get Millennials out to vote. While early reports on the Johnson/Weld ticket suggest that as former Republicans they are more li
Enter Gary Johnson and the Libertarians. As of this moment he is polling 10%-11% in national polls – about 10 to 11 times the support he received in 2012. While he spent only $2.5 million dollars for his run in 2012, he and the party have chosen former Massachusetts Governor William Weld who has raised about a quarter of a billion dollars during his career.
Johnson and Weld just may have the most compelling message for Millennials. They are running as fiscal conservative purists and can draw from a group that is deeply concerned about both college debt and unparalleled public debt. And they are social libertarians – pro-choice, anti-government meddling in matters of personal privacy, decriminalization of most drugs, and they oppose United States meddling in foreign adventures and war. These young people are America’s First Global generation and they are diverse and less inclined to see other peoples and cultures as the “other”.
Probably of greatest significance: Millennials are very impatient and jaded at the slowness of government decision making and gridlock. While early reports on the Johnson/Weld ticket suggest that as former Republicans they are more likely to hurt Trump, I think otherwise. Clinton and the Democrats need every Millennial vote they can get. I wonder if younger men, in particular, might be more likely to give the Libertarians a longer and more lasting look.
This is not only a year when anything can happen, it has been a year when anything already has happened. And I don’t believe we are done with surprises. I am not saying that Gary Johnson and Bill Weld will (or can) win the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, but I am suggesting that with two unpopular candidates (most likely) heading the two major parties, the Libertarians could have a breakthrough year. They could have a very special appeal to Millennials.