Republican Sasse Could Lend Legitimacy to Libertarians
Yesterday, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) announced that he plans to vote for president in November and that he and his wife will decide in October for whom to vote. Sasse definitively ruled out voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, stating that while he “hasn’t looked closely” at Gary Johnson yet, that “the Libertarian Party is something [he] would certainly consider in the long term.”
Sasse clarified his comments on Twitter, asserting that he was not endorsing any presidential candidates, but that he and his wife will evaluate all candidates other than Trump and Clinton in October. To date, the only other candidate who will appear on Sasse’s Nebraska ballot will be Gary Johnson — who was also the only third-party candidate to appear on the Nebraska ballot in 2012.
Also notable is that prospective third-party conservative candidate David A. French announced Sunday that he will not seek the presidency. Many states’ filing deadlines are looming, and any effort to recruit an independent candidate will be no easy feat.
Sasse gained fame earlier this year when he became the first sitting Republican Senator to become part of the “Never Trump” movement. While some prodded Sasse to himself enter the presidential contest, he has dismissed such calls.
The junior Senator from Nebraska was elected in 2014, replacing the retiring Mike Johanns. In the brief time Sasse has been in the Senate, he has earned a 94% rating from FreedomWorks, good enough for fifth-best behind only Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Jeff Flake.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are each just one day away from earning enough delegates to win their respective party’s nomination, and Americans will soon be turning toward the November general election. With the conservative movement in general disarray and unlikely to find a feasible candidate, and the Green Party apparently not organized well enough to launch a national campaign, the battle-lines in all fifty states will soon be drawn between Trump, Clinton, and Johnson.
The Libertarian ticket of Johnson and William Weld has already received unprecedented amounts of attention since its nomination last Sunday. Johnson, when included in polls, has consistently tallied in double-digits, even with a majority of Americans still not knowing who he is.
The magical number for the LP in terms of polling is 15% — that being the percentage at which Johnson and Weld can become the first third-party candidates to participate in the nationally-televised debates since Ross Perot and James Stockdale in 1992. The ultimate goal of 5% of popular votes cast on Election Day is more important in the long term, as this would guarantee matching public funds and ballot access for the Libertarian Party in future elections. That feat was last accomplished by a third-party by Perot in his second run at the presidency in 1996 as a member of the Reform Party.
With five months remaining in what has already been an unpredictable presidential election season, the Libertarian Party could see itself receiving what were previously thought of as unattainable endorsements and votes of confidence. If Senator Sasse does indeed decide to endorse Johnson and Weld, he could open the door for other Republicans and Democrats to follow suit.
Nonetheless, this year’s election has the potential to be a great success for libertarians, as Americans seem to now be experiencing what lovers of liberty have warned against for a generation: the duopoly of a political party system wherein each side shares more in common with its so-called adversary more than it is willing to concede.
If Governors Johnson and Weld are able to successfully take their message to the American people in this time of anger and dissatisfaction, it could set the stage for not just a “libertarian moment,” but rather, a libertarian generation.