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To the surprise of almost no one, Gary Johnson bid a less than fond farewell to the Republican Party a couple of weeks ago.
Whereupon, he signed on as a member of the Libertarian Party and announced that he will seek that party’s presidential nomination this year.
That Johnson opted to make the Libertarian Party his political home is understandable.
Philosophically, the former-Republican former governor has always evidenced libertarian propensities with an ill-disguised disdain for government and what he deems its intrusive role in human affairs.
Nor is his quest of the Libertarians’ presidential nomination in the least unexpected.
Johnson has views he wants to propound. His attempt to use the 2012 Republican presidential nominating process as a platform for advancing those views came to naught.
Indeed, Gary Johnson was treated quite shabbily by the Republican establishment and TV outfits that shut him out of all but two of those mind-numbing Iowa candidate debates where every declared GOP contender save New Mexico’s former-governor had a chance to flounder and fizzle on live television.
All that notwithstanding, Johnson has his work cut out for him between now and May 4 when Libertarian delegates convene in Las Vegas, Nev., to pick their presidential nominee.
Simply put, he is late to the party, and a number of long standing Libertarian notables have already signaled their interest in the party’s nomination.
The list reportedly includes the 2008 Libertarian vice presidential nominee, Wayne Allen Root, although Root has yet to file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission.
Seven others have filed their statements, however, among them Johnson and Lee Wrights, editor of the online free speech magazine Liberty for All.
Still others may be considering a run, according to the party’s official website.
The Libertarian Party may be small, but it doesn’t go begging for somebody to carry its standard into a presidential election. In 2008 no fewer than eight candidates, including Root, were in contention for the nomination.
But even if Gary Johnson wrangles the delegates he needs at the Las Vegas convention to be anointed this year’s Libertarian standard bearer, the party remains a minor party and, historically, minor parties have sometimes functioned as little more than political sideshows to the main event in presidential election years.
The party was founded in 1971 at a small gathering in Colorado Springs. The following year it held what Libertarian historians regard to be their first national convention in Denver.
Then as now the party’s guiding principle is summed up in its official slogan: “Maximum Freedom, Minimum Government.”
In the intervening presidential election years since its creation, only once has a Libertarian candidate for president received more than 1 percent of the national vote total. That was in 1980.
In the most recent presidential election, 2008, the party garnered just 0.4 percent.
Yet despite the rather “also-ran” status it has gained over the years in our presidential elections, the Libertarian Party and other minor parties have a way of forcing the major parties to look over their shoulders and worry lest they winnow off votes from one or the other.
Ralph Nader’s adventures as the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 2000 almost certainly cost Al Gore the presidency.
Last week, 12-term Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul finished in the top tier of GOP presidential wannabes in the Iowa’s caucuses.
Nor should we neglect to remind ourselves that Paul’s first national visibility in American politics came in 1988 when he ran for president on the Libertarian ticket.
We can assume that this bit of Libertarian Party history has not escaped Gary Johnson’s notice.
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