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Going the Way of the Whigs

Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson ambled into a modestly-populated auditorium at NYU Tuesday afternoon, looking a tad forlorn. Yes, the former two-term New Mexico governor and GOP exile will appear on the ballot in all 50 States come November — pending a few legal tussles, discussed later in this article — but as is always the case with Third Party candidates, the media does not really care.

Although, in fairness to the media, this event at NYU hosted by the campus Libertarian Club (who purport to be the largest political club on campus) was also just extremely weird and a little embarrassing. The first speaker was “Kennedy,” the former MTV VJ and current snarky correspondent for the FOX Business show Stossel. Kennedy apparently assumed that people care about her history in the radio industry and her tenure as an MTV VJ, cracking played-out jokes about how the channel “used to play music” which elicited nary a giggle. She wanted everyone to know that she was very cutting-edge because she supports the legalization of marijuana and is totally cool with gay people getting married. “The good news is, Libertarians are awesome. Let’s be honest,” Kennedy said, to feeble cheers. “We love people so much, we want to save them from Government!”

When Kennedy exhausted her repertoire, up came Kristen Davis, the bizarre-looking escort service “entrepreneur” whose claim to fame is bringing down former NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer in that idiotic prostitution “scandal” a few years back. Davis pledged to run for Mayor of New York City in 2013, just as she ran for Governor of New York State in 2010. “New York politicians — they’re just a bunch of whores,” declared Davis. “And who better than me to control them?” After the event, she went around posing for ironic photos with College Libertarian types.

Next was none other than former pro wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who reported first meeting Gary Johnson back in the late ‘90s when they were both Governors. Ventura spent the first several minutes of his speech complaining about TSA pat-downs and the federal lawsuit he’d filed to stop them; he now refuses to fly, and left the event early to catch a train back to Minnesota. He also touched on a few more substantive points, proclaiming that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision would mark “the downfall of our country, I believe,” and inveighing against the Drug War. Being an ex-Navy SEAL, I asked Ventura what he made of all the groveling over Osama bin Laden’s corpse of at the Democratic National Convention — but he said he watched not one minute of either Convention. This, however, did not mean his appetite for politics had diminished. “In 2016, you may get Jesse Ventura,” he hinted from the podium.

Judge Andrew Napolitano followed Ventura, but I didn’t write any notes.

Gary Johnson’s speech was typical for anyone who has seen Gary Johnson give speeches; repeal the Patriot Act, bring corporate income tax rates to Zero, don’t bomb Iran, and so forth. He wore apeace sign t-shirt underneath his blazer. “I have smoked marijuana,” Johnson said, to big cheers. Henceforth, his campaign’s big focus will be twofold: 1) combating the GOP’s cynical efforts to drive him from the ballot in key swing states, and 2) making a stink about not being included in the upcoming presidential debates. Roger Stone, the gruff political strategist and “advisor” for Johnson, provided me with some analysis on those fronts (a lifelong Republican and stalwart of the Conservative Movement, Stone left the Party earlier this year in disgust).

“The Michigan Secretary of State ruled that Gary Johnson cannot be on the ballot because that state has a ‘Sore Loser Law’ which prevents that,” Stone said. The so-called Sore Loser Law “doesn’t allow you to run in the primary, lose, and then run in the general election,” and the precedent for this stricture is apparently John B. Anderson’s gadfly campaign in 1980. The U.S. District Court judge in question, Paul Borman, ruled that Anderson ran in the Michigan Primary that year and then was denied for the General Election per the “Sore Loser Law” — thus disqualifying Johnson. Stone told me this is all hogwash and that Anderson did in fact appear on the General Election ballot in 1980.

“The Judge is just wrong. You can check and see how many votes he got.”

So what’s going on, I asked?

“The Judge is a Republican. The Secretary of State is a Republican. The Attorney General is a Republican. The Attorney General, Bill Schuette, who wrote the letter denying us also is the Chairman of the Romney campaign. That’s a conflict of interest. He needed to recuse himself. Now I have to go back and end his political career.”

“I hope he has no aspirations for higher office,” Stone warned, “because I will need to move to Michigan and fix that.”

It was sort of amazing to watch Stone, the longtime take-no-prisoners GOP backbreaker, fume with such contempt for Romney and the Conservative Movement writ large. “They’re obsessed with the defeat of Obama,” he said, “not recognizing that the policies of Obama and Romney on the ‘Big Picture” issues facing the country are identical.”

“The Republican Party is no longer a democratic process,” Stone growled. “It’s a top-down process. They’re going the way of the Whigs — goodbye!”

Michael Tracey writes  for Salon and The American Conservative.

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