If there's been an election in recent past where America would even consider voting for a third-party candidate, it's the 2016 race. As I argued in last week's article, we haven't seen the two parties so divided in recent memory, and as a consequence, there are people who would've never even considered voting for a third party that are desperately searching for an alternative candidate.
This year there are two "third party" contenders this year - Green Party nominee Jill Stein, and Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson. Stein is posting numbers at around 3%, while Johnson is consistently polling 8% or above. Stein's poll numbers are consistent for most third party candidates, but Gary Johnson is surprising the world. The last candidate to hold numbers even close to that was Ross Perot in '96.
Gary Johnson is a self-described socially liberal yet fiscally conservative candidate. He's pro-abortion, pro-marijuana legalization, pro-gun rights, favors dismantling the NSA & repealing the ACA. All of these positions seem consistent with traditional libertarian thought, however, once you dig a little deeper into Johnson's policies & history, it becomes harder and harder to call him a true libertarian. Instead, he becomes an odd mashup of incongruous policies borrowed from Republicans, Democrats, and more traditional libertarian thought. Ultimately, I think that this ideological cocktail will be too much for voters to swallow.
For example, he claims to be fiscally conservative, and wants to cut federal spending by up to 20% (there the Democrats will disagree,) yet the fiscal record he established as governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 would suggest otherwise. (During his 8 year tenure the state budget ballooned from $4.397 billion to $7.721 billion.) - this causes concern among the more fiscally conservative voters. Running on the Libertarian ticket, obviously personal freedom will be a large part of his campaign (his stance on drug legalization is consistent with traditional Libertarian thought) yet his comments about banning the burqa have caused concern. He argues against Donald Trump's proposed wall, and suggests that making visas easier to obtain would reduce the rate of illegal immigration (which earns him points among more progressive voters) but also proposes repealing the ACA & reducing funding to Medicare & Medicaid (which in turn will alienate those very voters.)
Here's the deal - ultimately Gary Johnson is a unique mixture of conservative, liberal/progressive, and libertarian ideals. He's clearly trying to appeal to a wider base of voters and break out beyond the 1-2% mark that traditional third party candidates poll, however in trying to appeal to everyone he'll appeal to no one.
Don't get me wrong - I've long been an advocate for third party candidates. I've really been hoping that 2016 would be the year where a 3rd party candidate took the main stage (I certainly don't like either of the other candidates there), but Gary Johnson isn't the man for the hour.
Instead, I'm afraid Johnson will continue the time-honored tradition of third party candidates: he'll be forgotten.