As the Libertarian Party gathers for its presidential nominating convention in Austin at the end of May, or July, or maybe in another city at some outdoor high school football stadium on wooden bleacher seats that allow for proper spacing, one thought should be in the forefront of all decisions – 2020 provides the circumstances for becoming a major, political third-party.
Only 1 in 10 adults believe the two-party system works. Gallup finds 57% of Americans say a third political party is needed. The Pew Research Center report finds: “Public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 17% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3%) or “most of the time” (14%).”
A Real Clear average of polls for April 2020 finds only 35.1% of Americans believe the country is on the “right-track” whereas 57.7 % believe it is on the “wrong-track.”
How many polls do Libertarians need to convince them the time is now to be a major third party? Libertarians or for that matter, any other “wannabe major political party,” should heed Henry Ford’s advice – “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you can’t, you’re right.
As important as a positive attitude, is the “competition” in the presidential arena. In the left corner is a man referred to as “Sleepy Joe Biden.” He is gaffe prone; decades of gaffes insulting blacks, Indians, women, disabled, to name a few. He also has a lifetime of plagiarism starting with law school papers and continuing onto Senate floor speeches and presidential campaigns.
In the right corner is a man described by behavioral scientists as a perfect example of a “narcissist”, “ A grandiose self-image. A very inflated ego. A continuous need for attention. A big urge to be admired. And if that admiration is lacking or the narcissist is criticized, which is even worse, he lashes out recklessly.”
In 2016, Trump won because he was not Hillary Clinton. In 2020, someone will win because they are not Donald Trump. In this type of an election, the unexpected can happen. But to make the “unexpected” happen, there needs to be a candidate that presents himself/herself as a competent person who listens to people and presents a vision for restoring trust in government.
Trust is earned by honesty and straight talk, including how to manage government to benefit people, even if it involves addressing our massive debt, shrinking the federal government and devolving power to the states.
To be taken seriously, the Libertarian presidential candidate must show respect for voters by addressing issues and avoiding antics that might be entertaining but demonstrate a lack of respect for the seriousness of the office sought.
Since cash will be in limited supply, the focus should be on doable, creative, cheap and fun efforts that get the candidate in front of voters daily. Immediately upon being nominated, start the proverbial “road trip”! The scenery is beautiful, the people are friendly, and many are just waiting to hear new ideas.
Announce the road trip and schedule of appearances as part of a press event at which you discuss your vision for America and how to achieve it. If personal appearances are not permitted, make it a Forest Gump moment by having supporters follow you in their cars. Earn media coverage.
Make a few stops in every state. Speak at local chambers of commerce, local trade associations, community and charitable groups. There are certainly a few in every state that would build a real or virtual audience for you.
Keep your cell phone charged so you can talk to every newspaper and blogger along the way that will listen. The entire road trip should be a “talk with America.” Each talk should be put on You Tube, Skype, Zoom, Twitter, Facebook.
Don’t laugh at off-the-wall, but creative, ideas. Some can be winners if they are different, entertaining and capture the essence of the campaign. Lawton Chiles came to prominence when he walked 1003 miles from Pensacola to Key West, Florida to win a U.S. Senate seat. He showed how hard he was willing to work to be a Senator. It earned him the name “Walkin’-Lawton.”
Mitch McConnell is a Senator due to some of the most hilarious ads in U.S. political history. He was far behind in the polls when his communications staff came up with a brilliant idea from watching a commercial about dogs. He filmed a pack of dogs searching the nation looking for incumbent Senator Huddleston, who could not be found since he was always making speeches. Another ad has the dogs chasing Huddleston through the fields, running away from his record. The tagline was simple “Switch to Mitch.” The New Yorker places the ads in the top ten of all-time political ads.
Then there are the ads Malcom Wallop, (Wyoming), ran when he defeated the long-time, popular Senator Gail McGee. In the ads, Wallop, instead of leading a cattle drive, gets on his horse, and leads the “Wallop Senate Drive.” In another ad Wallop takes on the growing number of regulations coming out of the federal government. One regulation required portable toilets for cattle drives. The ad shows him strapping port-a-potty to his horse while talking about how out of touch Washington is with Wyoming.
Finally, since-person-to-person contact may be limited, being on the debate stage will be essential to dramatically change the dynamics of the election. Third-party candidates have only been in presidential debates twice; John Anderson in 1976 and Ross Perot in 1992. Being in the debate made a huge difference in votes, Anderson securing 6.6% of the votes and Ross Perot, securing 18.9%.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (“CPD”) will not willingly give exposure to third-parties, so it will be another legal fight. Take the fights to the courts but also challenge the tax-deductibility status of the CPD and its sponsors since the CPD is a political not “educational” organization. Organize a boycott of the sponsors for restricting democracy. Being denied participation in the debates is a decision to give millions of dollars of free air-time to the two political parties that are nothing more than corporations whose sole goal is to take control of the United States.
Can anything really be done to bring competition into the political system? Well, the political world has been dramatically changed by people advancing ideas far out of the mainstream in their time; e.g., Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, Lincoln and our founding fathers. Ideas do matter and they have changed the world.
The 2020 election will be about ideas and who can persuade the American people they have the vision to lead a country in desperate need of leadership.