By MATT LABASH, The Weekly Standard
I've long admired the Libertarian party from afar—the more afar, the better. For any liberty lover, it's hard not to like a party whose live-and-let-live, leave-us-alone ethos permeates their every utterance, even if you're not down for all the disquisitions on Austrian economics, privatizing highways, and the status of pro-hemp amendments in the omnibus appropriations bill.
For those like me, who vote Republican more often than not, telling friends you have strong libertarian leanings marks you as a free-thinker. But in elections in which Republicans offer up mediocrities, demagogues, or mouth-breathers (the hat trick now being pulled by the tangelo-colored reality-show star), proclaiming your small "l" libertarian bent gives you something even more valuable: plausible deniability.
So I headed to the Libertarian National Convention in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend with high hopes. I grabbed a cab at the airport, and when my Haitian driver Ron learned my mission, he asked, "Why do they bother with this?" I informed him that some say Libertarians could actually disrupt this already disruptive election year, pulling from both Democrats and Republicans. "That's what they say every four years," he scoffed. "And then it's the same, and poof, they go away, and nobody hears from them for four more years." I didn't argue with Ron, since this has indeed become a journalism cliché, on a par with reporters interviewing their cab drivers.
Polling suggests that unusually large swaths of America regard this year's major-party candidates as a choice between myocardial infarction and colorectal cancer, which explains why 270 restive journalists piled into the Rosen Centre Hotel. (It was roughly 10 times the usual Libertarian convention press contingent.) We were all wondering the same thing: In this year of discontent, is it the Libertarians' time to shine? The best a Libertarian candidate has ever fared in a presidential election since the party's inception in 1971 was the 1.2 million votes former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson pulled—only 1 percent of the total—after first washing out of the Republican primary in 2012.