Libertarian Party's VP pick destroys any remaining illusions of party's seriousness
Justin Amash got out just in time. His congressional career is kaput, but that's perhaps for the best.
The Libertarian Party, of which Rep. Amash briefly sounded out a presidential bid, has ratified its ticket to the White House. Jo Jorgensen, a Clemson lecturer, was chosen as its presidential contender, while anarchist podcaster Spike Cohen secured the vice presidential spot. The convention took place within the libertarian's natural habit: online. Over one thousand delegates crammed into a Zoom meeting to determine their standard-bearers.
The upshot was typical libertarian fare. A normal enough–appearing candidate was paired with an eccentric obsessed with pushing the envelope of respectability until it tears. In this case, Jorgensen, a ho-hum academic, has been odd-coupled with Cohen, an acolyte of Vermin Supreme, the perennial joke candidate and hustings staple who dresses like a peripatetic magus.
Cohen's platform, on which he ran, is perverse. It includes pleas to legalize recreational plutonium, construct a Waffle House on every corner, impeach the entirety of the Supreme Court's bench and replace the robed justices with a bib-overalled janitor, and go back in time to kill baby Woodrow Wilson. Whether any of these proposals is serious or not isn't worth asking. Cohen says a My Little Pony movie convinced him to change his name to "Spike," transposing his baptismal name of Jeremy. Nothing he professes is serious.
If you had your chips on 2020 finally being the L.P.'s breakout year, you can call your loss now. Whatever gravitas Jorgensen may have brought to the ticket has been bollixed with the ascension of Cohen.
The Libertarian Party voted and got the ticket it deserves, as the saying goes. The self-sabotage was a democratic choice.
As Cohen attracts the wrong kind of attention for a third party long begging to be taken seriously, the Republican Party can breathe a sigh of relief. Whatever exiguous concerns GOP heads had that the Libertarian Party would present a respectable alternative to Donald Trump or Joe Biden have been allayed. And they don't have to wait for the candidate to express her ignorance of world affairs on Morning Joe.
The Libertarian Party's unserious nomination puts the dwindling NeverTrump movement farther back on its heels. A presidential campaign featuring a character like Cohen can't claim respectability, which is the currency NeverTrumps exchange in. Nor can it provide a vehicle for the candidates to present a thoughtful alternate to the two-party status quo most Americans are frustrated with.
In 2016, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld could at least cite prior executive experience as a selling point. And despite plenty of jokey verbal miscues, both erstwhile governors made a case for sensible, middle-of-the-road solutions to seemingly intractable national problems. Johnson's twee tagline of being "fiscally conservative and socially cool" was inoffensive enough for cautious suburbanites.
The problem was, few Americans bought it, mostly because the country is not all that libertarian. While Johnson and Weld took plenty of shots at Trump for being "mean" and uncaring toward the plight of immigrants, voters weren't ready to throw open the country's doors for just anyone to waltz in.
Jorgensen is already promising to be a "practical and principled" candidate who will "run a more serious campaign." That assurance has already fizzled out with a scamp like Cohen as her deputy. With the same warmed-over party planks as the last presidential go-around, it's hard to see the L.P. gaining any more ground. The party remains where libertarians are most comfortable: on the fringe.
Justin Amash's efforts to draft support for the party will be nugatory. The most prominent NeverTrumps are all in for Biden, giving lie to the notion that they were ever dedicated to limited-government beliefs to begin with. Trump has achieved a no-enemies-to-the-right victory without firing a tweet-shaped shot.
Expect libertarians to argue over the merits of legalizing heroin sales to five-year-olds at the 2024 party convention. This year is a bust.
Image: Muddied Waters Media via YouTube.