Gov. Gary Johnson: Debate or Get Naked
Late last week federal judge Rosemary M. Collyer threw out a lawsuit designed to compel the Commission on Presidential Debates to invite alternative candidates to participate in the debates. While there are likely to be appeals, and while there are other legal motions pending, it now does not seem that the judicial system will intervene in time to alter what happens in 2016.According to Gov. Gary Johnson, "You can't win the presidency if you're not in that game." These sentiments are not new for the Governor; he has expressed this belief so many times that it now comes across as a familiar refrain to those following the race. In fact, this belief was a major component of his argument to the Libertarian delegates in favor of his own nomination, and was one of two reasons given for why William Weld "needed" to be his VP counterpart.The constant repetition of this theme has logical implications for the Johnson candidacy. He has stated this belief as fact so often, in public forums and in many different ways, that it is impossible to admit any error in interpreting his meaning. It is beyond any doubt to the reasonable mind that Gov. Johnson does not believe it is possible to win election if he does not participate in the national debates.This raises the natural question, for students of logic with an interest in anticipating future events, of what happens should Gov. Johnson fail to secure inclusion in the debates. One of Johnson's opponents for the nomination, Austin Petersen, took to the airwaves when the news about the lawsuit dismissal hit. His question for the Governor was simple: given the postulate that he cannot win if he does not debate, what will he do the day after it is made manifest he will not be participating?Mr. Petersen asks specifically: will Gary Johnson go home or will he continue to raise money for his "lost cause" through November? An interesting way to put it, for Gov. Johnson's formula for getting into the debates is precisely to raise more money. So right now his campaign is promoting his 15 for 15 money bomb, an effort to raise $1.5 million by August 15th from 100,000 supporters.
The social media messaging for this campaign gives the impression of a concrete plan to gain entry to the debates. Leaving aside whether or not this is likely, one would expect some broad indication of what this plan was. Instead what you find when you follow the trail is an electoral version of the old internet meme:Step 1: Raise $1.5 millionStep 2: ???Step 3: Get in debates! Seriously, there is nothing more than this. Following the link from this advertisement paid for by the campaign, with the lone caption "This is how we get into the debates" takes you to a video. The text of the entire video can be safely reproduced here without concerns for space:I'm Governor Gary Johnson. If I get to 15% in the polls, I'll be on the debate stage, and everything changes. Get me there. Johnson / Weld 2016.Wait... what? That is how you get into the debates - by asking people for $1.5 million and telling them to "get me there?" What color is the sky in Gov. Johnson's universe? What does that even mean? What are people supposed to do aside from send in their money? And if they do send in the money, and he gets his $1.5 million, are we to take this as guaranteed entry into the debates? Because the campaign sure is messaging it that way.
So Petersen is spot on to ask whether even more money will be raised if it becomes clear the cause is lost by Gov. Johnson's own definition. And given the complete lack of transparency about the plan, or what the money is for, it will be fair for people to ask, after the fact, how that money was spent, and how those expenditures were expected to impact on entrance into the debates. And people will ask.They will also ask, presuming this "plan" does not work, what Gov. Johnson's intentions are afterwards. After all, Gov. Johnson and his supporters have also repeatedly messaged that the Libertarian Party should accept the compromises that come with a Johnson/Weld ticket for a chance at success. If this success is no longer feasible, what is to be gained from continuing to accept the compromise?Austin Petersen asks if the Governor will go home, but there is an alternative course of action available. Especially if he had any sense of obligation at all towards the party that allowed him the use of their coveted ballot position. He could get naked. More specifically, he could shift gears and run the kind of campaign that he talked the delegates out of running. An unashamedly Libertarian campaign crafted directly from the party platform.
It is too much to hope for that Gov. Johnson would "break bad" and run a rogue and revolutionary campaign along the lines envisioned by John McAfee. He likely doesn't have it in him. But he certainly has it in him - he has changed his positions many times - to embrace the full Libertarian platform and to morph his failed campaign into a tireless, unapologetic and dynamic Liberty proselytizing machine to sweep across the nation with. Weld would probably bounce on that one, but there are plenty of suitable replacements available that would be aligned with the new mission.Barring this, Gov. Johnson probably should go home.Despite the reality distortion field at work in his camp right now, the luster will inevitably wear off should he fail to appear in the debates. People certainly will contribute to a losing cause if they believe there is something worth fighting for. But asking people to continue to contribute time, money and mental energy towards delivering a watered-down and twisted version of what they believe, in their name, and with no hope of victory is not terribly compelling.