“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T. S. Eliot
Life is filled with choices, often really difficult ones, where we have to balance competing interests and loyalties. Libertarians are faced with such a choice in a few days.
They have to decide who their nominee will be. The good thing for them is that the contrast between their top two candidates, Gary Johnson and Austin Petersen, couldn’t be any clearer. The bad thing for them is that this contrast couldn’t be any clearer.
It’s a good thing because unlike the rest of America, who must decide between two old, arrogant, fundamentally dishonest New York liberals, libertarians actually have two very different candidates who appeal to different kinds of people.
Both would drastically cut the size of the federal gov’t, but Johnson is more of pragmatist, and a technocrat in his approach to doing this. Petersen, on the other hand, is more of an idealist who holds libertarian positions across the board, even when they’re controversial, such as in the case of allowing a religious business owner to refuse to serve a gay couple.
But their approaches, personalities, and methods of communicating are as different as night and day. Petersen is an aggressive, passionate fighter who can effectively alternate between using soundbites and detailed answers to explain his positions. Johnson is a laid back guy who gives thoughtful answers but has difficulty explaining his positions clearly and almost never shows any kind of discernible emotion.
This clear choice makes it tough for people who’ve been loyal to the Libertarian Party, and in many cases, to Gary Johnson, for years, because they have to weigh those competing interests.
Do you go with the safe candidate who has governing experience, and who you’ve gotten to know over the years, and probably personally like to some degree? Or do you go with the riskier young idealist who you don’t know very well and who lacks experience?
When making this decision, there’s one important thing you should keep in mind: Politics is a game of inches, just like football. It can be tempting to try to always throw the long ball and go for the touchdown, but pretty much every time that’s tried it results in an incomplete pass. Instead, you have to make incremental success, taking baby steps in the political arena before you can walk.
The goal of this diary is to make that decision crystal clear for you, by making the case for why Austin Petersen has the most potential to move the ball forward for the cause of freedom and limited gov’t.
Why not Gary Johnson?
For those of you who followed the GOP primary races closely, one thing should be clear by now: The American people are tired of politicians lying to us, stealing from us, giving us more of the same failed policies, and just generally being bad at their jobs. Things aren’t getting any easier for them in their personal lives, and for many of them, things have gotten worse over the past few decades. That’s why Obama was elected twice despite his youth and inexperience.
In 2012 the American people had a chance to elect as president a man with the following resume and traits:
-very successful former businessman
-successful governor from a blue state
-was fiscally conservative relative to his competitors
-had a wonkish, technocratic approach to how the gov’t should work
–had an awkward and stiff personality, but was a highly competent problem solver who could get things done.
Of course I’m referring to Gary Johnson, the 2012 Libertarian Party nominee.
But I just as easily could have been referring to Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, who actually had a chance to win the presidency.
So you can see my point. If you put aside their differences on social issues, the above points could describe Romney and Johnson almost identically.
And yet when it came down to it, Americans chose to go with the young, inexperienced, but more charismatic and articulate candidate in Barack Obama.
Ironically, libertarians are faced with the same choice right now. In this analogy Johnson is the libertarian version of Romney, and Petersen is the libertarian version of Obama, albeit with some major differences. I’m speaking primarily about tone, personality traits, and ability to appeal to a wide range of people here.
The American people want change. They want an outsider, no matter how imperfect he is. That’s why Obama was elected twice. It’s why Trump won the GOP nomination, and why Bernie Sanders is giving Hillary all the trouble she can handle, particularly with young people.
Any candidate who they perceive as being a politician with experience in gov’t will immediately turn them off, no matter what policies and ideas he stands for.
That’s what would happen if you nominate Gary Johnson.
Petersen, on the other hand, practically screams “change and outsider candidate”. That perception alone will get people’s attention.
The two main arguments supporters of Gary Johnson who I’ve talked to make are the following:
1)He has executive experience and is more qualified than Petersen. My response is, “more qualified for what?” We can probably assume the libertarian won’t win the election, so that means qualifications for president go out the window. It also means other things then take priority, primarily the ability to communicate the message of liberty and do well in debates, something Petersen has proven he’s far better at than Johnson.
2)Johnson has much higher name ID than Petersen. That may be true within the Libertarian Party and to a small degree outside of it, but among the general electorate, both men will start out at a massive disadvantage with name ID compared to Trump and Hillary. And yet in this election cycle that will become an advantage because the media is experiencing Trump and Hillary fatigue and will eagerly give air time and coverage to whoever your nominee is. Once they find out your nominee is actually interesting and telegenic, like Petersen is, they would cover him a lot- more than they would a candidate like Johnson who tends to make people fall asleep.
Johnson has been getting around 10% in national polls, but most of that is just because people are so desperate to vote for someone other than Trump or Hillary, you could put any name in the poll and they’d do that good. In fact Johnson readily admits this when he talks about how Mickey Mouse would probably poll better than him at this point.
Think of it this way: When Trump finds out who the Libertarian Party nominee is, he’ll start attacking him, and the nominee would be smart to attack back because it’ll get him tons of airtime. He’ll be on the tv every day alongside coverage of Trump. So the normal rules of a third party candidate not getting noticed won’t apply in this election cycle. But that will only happen if you have a nominee who’s willing to fight. Johnson simply isn’t. Petersen is.
Even a consistent libertarian like Jason Stapleton, who is devoted to the cause of liberty and certainly has no reason to have bias against Gary Johnson or to hate him, has described him this way:
“When I think of Gary Johnson, he’s like water. It’s refreshing, it’s nice to have in the absence of any other beverage, it quenches the thirst, but it’s bland. It’s not scotch, it’s not orange juice. You don’t drink it and it just makes you feel good, you don’t drink it and it wakes you up in the morning, it’s not even kale juice.
Gary Johnson has the effect of water. He’s not terribly inspiring, he’s not terrible, just, eh.
I think when you put him on the debate stage, he’s not gonna inspire anybody. He’s not gonna make anyone want to vote libertarian.”
Libertarians, do you really wanna make water your nominee? That’s what you’ll be doing if you nominate Gary Johnson. To anyone without a bias for the governor, it’s very clear that this is the effect he’d have on the general electorate. No amount of name recognition or money will change that.
Austin Petersen has a unique set of skills and qualities that Gary Johnson lacks
You have to ask yourselves, which candidate will move the ball down the field for us? Put your personal preferences and loyalties aside and think about this with an open mind.
If you do, I believe you’ll come to the same conclusion I did. I started out as a Cruz supporter, and wasn’t even following your primary process until he dropped out. So I didn’t have a dog in the fight. I’ve known about Gary Johnson since he ran for president in 2012, and have always thought he was a very intelligent and decent man. I think he’d make a good president, if you could just give him a personality transplant.
But that’s not possible. So you should go with the next best thing, which is Austin Petersen.
He has the communication skills to inspire more libertarians to turn out in November, but more importantly, he has the charisma and personality to attract new people and bring them into your party. They might not be as ideologically pure as you, but you’re gonna need their votes if you want to make an impact on this election.
Petersen will draw a lot of young people to his candidacy. Don’t believe me? Just check out social media. Most of the buzz and talk is about Petersen, and this is when he has an almost nonexistent name ID. Imagine how much that buzz and interest will increase if he’s your nominee and more people know about him? I believe he’d catch fire, just like Obama did in 2007 when very few people knew anything significant about him until he ran for president.
I have firsthand knowledge of this because I’ve talked with many conservatives, and many are open to supporting Petersen, like this guy.
This is just one example, but I can assure you, if you nominate Petersen, this movement of conservatives to his campaign will happen on a much bigger scale.
Now, I know that some of the libertarians reading this will say “you’re a conservative, who are you to tell us what libertarianism is all about, or who best represents it?”
That’s a fair point, but if I haven’t convinced you by this point, don’t take my word for it or listen to me at all. Listen to a libertarian party activist who has worked on several presidential campaigns in the past and who is even friends with several members of the Paul family.
Here he is, telling you why Petersen is your best chance to make a difference in this election and win new voters, and it isn’t even a close call.
You’re supposed to be the party of logic and reason right? It’d be utterly illogical to go with Gary Johnson in this political environment. There is no candidate more unevenly matched with what the American people want in terms of personality and temperament than him. I know for some of you it won’t be easy to let go of Johnson since he was your nominee in 2012 and you fought for him and became loyal to him. I get that.
But as the man in the video I referenced above said, you have to put your personal feelings aside, take a step back, and look at this rationally, and then do what’s best for your party and the nation. You have a once in a lifetime chance to make a difference here. If you go with the safe pick, which is Gary Johnson, it’ll end up having only a small impact on the national election, and you’ll always look back and wonder what could have been if you just went outside the box and nominated a truly unique and radical candidate like Austin Petersen.
Both in life and in politics, to create the change you seek, you must take calculated risks
Libertarians are all about limited gov’t, and the root of that philosophy is personal freedom and responsibility. But what’s the point of having freedom if you never take a risk? The whole point of being free is being free to take risks, otherwise we just give into the temptation to conformity and sticking with the status quo, and become slaves to our own fears.
Risk-taking is what built this country. The men and women from the days of our Founders moved out West and built homes and businesses where no man had gone before. They knew they could die of starvation or be killed by Indians, but they also knew that in order to reap the potential rewards of the fertile new land, they had to go outside their comfort zone and do something radically new for them. The same is true of the Libertarian Party right now.
I’m a supporter of Austin Petersen, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be honest and objective when it comes to his chances of actually winning the presidency, and when it comes to his flaws and weaknesses. I don’t put my trust in any political candidate, nor do I vote for them, because they will never live up to your expectations. I vote for principles and ideas, the candidate I choose is merely the best vessel for representing and defending those things.
So let’s have some real talk.
I believe Petersen’s, or any libertarian’s chances of winning the general election are about as close to zero as possible. I’ll say they’re at 1%, because there’s always the possibility that hugely damaging secrets will come out about both Trump and Hillary and will hurt them in the eyes of the public so much that they both drop like rocks in the polls.
If that happened, it’s possible neither candidate would win the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency, and the election would be decided by the House of Representatives.
But even in that scenario, it’s almost a guarantee that the GOP-led House would elect Trump over a libertarian. The only way that might not happen is if the previously mentioned scandal was so damaging that they realized it would also hurt their own brand if they were associated with him, and out of desperation elected a libertarian like Petersen.
At this point you might be asking, “Why are you painting this bleak picture for us, and why are you supporting a candidate who probably can’t win?”
Good question. I’m supporting Petersen not because I think he’ll be elected president, although that would be an amazing bonus.
If winning was all that mattered I would have already committed to voting for Trump. But I’m not one of those mindless Republicans who thinks that we should support the nominee, no matter how liberal he is, and that winning is important just for the sake of beating the Democrats, even if we replace a liberal Democrat in the Oval Office with a liberal Republican.
Instead, I’m supporting Petersen because I believe conservatives and libertarians have a rare and unique chance this election cycle to spread a message of freedom, limited gov’t, personal responsibility, and the value of the Constitution and the system the Founders set up that makes this country great even in the worst of times.
Spreading the message of liberty
If the goal is spreading the message of liberty to as many people as possible, then the key to achieving that goal is picking the most effective messenger who can attract the most voters and articulate our principles in a relatable and clear way to mainstream Americans.
Johnson simply isn’t that guy. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a good man who was a good governor. In fact if you ignore the policy differences, he reminds me a lot of Jeb Bush. I know the hardcore libertarians out there will bristle at that comparison, but I think it’s an accurate one.
Both are wonky and love to get into the weeds when discussing complicated issues. Both have an “aw shucks” attitude and a stuttering style of speaking that makes it really hard to follow them. Both give long answers and tend to go on far too long for the average american’s short attention span. Both absolutely love to talk about all of their successes as governors, which are impressive, but simply irrelevant to most americans today. Most importantly, both don’t seem to have a mean or aggressive bone in their bodies.
These are all good traits to have- if you aren’t running against the two most unethical, aggressive, and ruthless candidates to ever run for the presidency, as Jeb Bush quickly found out.
Facing such soulless people, we need a fighter who knows how to strike the balance between articulating the values and principles we hold dear, but also knowing when to go on the attack and draw the necessary contrast between himself and those two corrupt candidates. I believe Austin Petersen, due to his wide range of knowledge on the issues, and his aggressive personality, is uniquely qualified to strike this balance.
Gary Johnson is uniquely unqualified to do it. I would actually be afraid for him if he won the nomination, because the second he did, Trump will come after him, and that’s something Johnson has never had to deal with in his entire career of public service.
I can already see it now, Trump’s people briefing him on Johnson, and him spending days thinking about how to brand him and create a nasty label that will stick, like “little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted”. Then he comes out of his lair and holds a press conference where he brands Johnson “Stoner Gary”. Combine that with the ads Trump will run against him, and it’ll be a deadly one-two punch.
In 2012 most Americans didn’t even know Johnson was on the ballot, so he got no publicity, let alone getting attacks by one of the nominees of the two major parties. If you watch Johnson in debates, whether it was the ones between him and Petersen this year, or in the past when he ran for the GOP nomination in 2012, he seems inherently incapable of even mentioning his opponents, much less attacking them.
It’s as if he’s trying to pretend he’s the only candidate on the debate stage and he’s just talking to voters directly, without any competition. This approach just completely avoids the reality of politics, which is that in order to win, you have to convince voters of three things:
1) That your ideas and policies are the best to improve their lives
2) That you’re a competent person of character and integrity and thus can be trusted to keep your promises and effectively carry out those policies, and
3) That your opponent(s) is unsuited to hold the office you both seek because he or she isn’t trustworthy, isn’t competent, and that his or her policies have failed in the past and will fail in the future.
Johnson has proven to be ineffective in doing all of these things, but especially the third one. If you don’t land any blows on your opponent, you simply can’t beat him. That’s like being in a boxing match with a heavyweight champion who just knocked out all of his previous opponents, and just standing in the ring and hoping he punches himself in the face and knocks himself out. That won’t happen, and instead he’s gonna walk up to you and knock you out because you weren’t prepared to defend yourself from his punches.
Johnson has proven that for whatever reason he is unwilling to say a bad word about his opponents. That’s not gonna work against Trump and Hillary, because they’re what’s standing between the Libertarian Party nominee and the White House. You’re not gonna get through them unless you aggressively expose them and show the American people why they aren’t qualified to be Commander in Chief. Again, Johnson is uniquely unqualified to do this.
On the other hand, as we’ve all seen in the libertarian debates, Austin Petersen is more than ready and able to attack his opponents on their weaknesses, and he would do the same with Trump and Hillary.
As I previously stated, I don’t have any ill will towards Gary Johnson. Quite the opposite. I respect him for being an honest politician and for refusing to use personal insults against his opponents. In fact I can’t find anything wrong with him personally in terms of his character, which is high praise coming from a political cynic like me.
I just think it’s obvious that he’s the wrong candidate at the wrong time.
Principles and policies matter
If you want the most libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson isn’t your guy. He had a mixed record as Governor of New Mexico, as this article points out.
He used gov’t money to subsidize things like the film industry and other pet projects, all at the expense of the taxpayers.
That’s not the kind of “experience” I’m looking for in a libertarian presidential candidate.
But I believe the thing that may end up persuading some delegates to switch their support from Johnson to Petersen is his pick of Bill Weld for VP.
I’m not sure who he thought he was appealing to when he picked Weld, but it sure wasn’t libertarians. Weld was a former Republican governor of Massachusetts who supported a ban on assault weapons, the Iraq War, and the unnecessary use of eminent domain, among other things.
If libertarians want to have a former liberal Republican governor of Massachusetts who now claims to be conservative or libertarian on their ticket, they might as well ask Johnson to step aside and nominate Mitt Romney.
We already have two liberals from the Northeast on a ticket, we don’t need another one who happens to call himself a libertarian. We need a bigger contrast with the Republican and Democrat nominees to give the American people a clear choice this November. Austin Petersen provides that contrast. Nominating two former Republican governors of blue states doesn’t.
Libertarians, my message to you is simple. If you wanna create more libertarian voters, you need to persuade more people that neither the Democrats or Republicans are looking out for their best interests, and that the policies of both parties have not only failed them, but on most issues are far more similar than they are different, thus, not giving the voters a real choice with their vote.
But in order to do this, you must have a messenger who can connect with the Americans who aren’t hardcore libertarians, who might not share your beliefs on many issues, but who are looking for a candidate they can get behind and are desperate enough to vote for a libertarian because they can’t stand either Trump or Hillary.
This means your nominee must be able to connect on a gut level in order to reach their hearts before he can persuade their minds to do something they’ve never done before in politics, which is abandon the two party monopoly.
Austin Petersen can do this, and thus is the perfect candidate for this election cycle. He has passion in spades, and he has the intellectual firepower to back it up. Yes, he can be aggressive and even come off as arrogant at times, but no politician is perfect.
On top of all this, Petersen is young, and not only understands millennials, but can relate to them. I believe he would turn out far more young people to vote for him than Johnson ever could. Based on the polls, we already know both Trump and Hillary are doing horribly with young people and for good reason. Neither of them can even remotely relate to my generation.
Moreover, today’s young voters are desperately looking for an authentic politician because they’ve been lied to and deceived by politicians in both parties for so long. That’s one reason why they’re flocking to Bernie. He might be a clueless socialist, but he’s an honest one, and that’s a big deal to today’s youth.
Well, guess what? Petersen is also an authentic candidate, whether you disagree with his ideas and positions on the issues or not. All you have to do is watch some of his facebook videos, where he talks directly to voters and gives us direct and clear answers to our questions, and it becomes clear that he’s telling us exactly what he believes, even if it costs him some votes.
It turns out that Sen. Cruz was the candidate who won the most votes with young people on the Republican side. Where do you think all of those young Cruz voters will go? They aren’t gonna vote for a Democrat, and it’s been proven that they can’t stand Trump. They won’t wanna vote for Gary Johnson either. But they will be open to voting for Austin if he’s the Libertarian Party nominee.
If there was any time in your party’s history, or for that matter, the history of this country, for you to take a risk with who you choose to nominate, it would be this year. It’s time to roll the dice and go for broke, because what do you have to lose? You’re likely to lose the election, and you’re used to losing anyway,(so is the GOP, if that’s any consolation) so it’s not like your reputation as a winning party will be destroyed.
Nominating Austin Petersen would be a gamble to some degree because he doesn’t have the experience in gov’t that Gary Johnson has. But with big risks come big rewards, and a Petersen nomination would bring a big reward to the Libertarian Party. I believe it would bring a surge of new registrations, particularly among young voters, and it would help your libertarian candidates running for state and local offices win their down-ballot elections. People would want to be associated with a new, fresh face instead of just another old white guy at the top of the ticket.
The bottom line is this: If you’re afraid to take a risk with your nominee, then you’re just as bad as the GOP, who we’ve all rightly mocked for nominating the safest, most boring candidates over and over again (Dole, McCain, Romney, etc).
It’s up to you libertarians. Do you literally want to continue to do the same thing, expecting a different result, which is the definition of insanity, or do you want to go in a new and exciting direction?
If you nominate Austin Petersen, it will be the equivalent of a political earthquake. How do I know this? Because me and my fellow conservatives will make it happen. Not all of us, but more than enough to do what needs to be done. Ever since Cruz was knocked out by Trump, we’ve just been itching to find a candidate who will take him down, or at least go down trying. We all know Johnson can’t and won’t do that.
Petersen, on the other hand, has said he’ll go after both Trump and Hillary, and we’ll passionately join him in that fight. He will be the youngest presidential candidate in history, which alone will create a narrative the media will hype up for ratings.
A 35 year old libertarian from the heartland of America vs two elderly, corrupt, big gov’t New York liberals? Who wouldn’t pay to see that fight? The media surely will, and because of that Austin won’t even have to do much work to get noticed. They’ll come to him.
Finally, let me make one thing clear: the core message of this diary isn’t some kind of threat or warning, it’s simply a statement of fact- If you nominate Gary Johnson, conservatives won’t vote for him in November.
Think of it this way: Me and many of my fellow conservatives are homeless right now. We’re out in the cold and we’re looking for a good Samaritan to take us into their home and give us food and shelter. Right now we just got done walking in a desert and we’re on the outskirts of civilization, and there’s only one house on the horizon. That house is the Libertarian Party.
If you nominate Gary Johnson, you’ll be sending a message to conservatives and conservative libertarians that will be loud and clear: you don’t want us in your house. If that’s the case, that’s your prerogative, but we won’t forget it. You’ll lose the vast majority of our votes, and they won’t come back. You’ll lose them for good, because even a homeless person has enough dignity and self-respect not to crawl back and beg for shelter to the same person who rejected them in the past.
The hour is late. The forces of statism surround us. We need a general who will lead us into battle who we’re willing and eager to follow and fight for. That general, despite his flaws and weaknesses, is Austin Petersen.
Our eyes, along with the eyes of the entire nation, will be on you this weekend. We await your decision.