This Thanksgiving, Americans have a lot to reflect upon. The past few months have been strenuous, characterized by widespread protests, increased disillusionment with the existing political apparatus, and increased ineffectiveness on the behalf of politicians.
One must wonder, given the obvious inability of the Republican and Democratic lawmakers to actually cope with the economic and social tribulations presented to them, why the public continues to invest so much faith in their efforts?
Even as the Republican Primaries near, the field of potential contenders remains dominated by the same familiar faces that have haunted the American psyche for decades: career politicians and neo-conservatives whose woefully misguided policies have weakened the once-great United States.
However, among this field of unimpressive chameleons, there stands two principled voices of fiscal sanity. Governors Gary Johnson (NM) and Buddy Roemer (LA), courageous men who can boast illustrious and unrivaled political careers, are very likely the only two contenders who would present a formidable threat to President Obama during the 2012 election…and yet, they both seem poised to abandon the GOP.
Over the past several weeks, both Governors have hinted that they no longer feel welcome within the Republican Party, and that the time for a third party candidacy may be at hand. Both have been neglected by the political establishment, barred from the televised debates and excluded from public opinion polls. And thus, the web has become abuzz with rumors. It is rumored that Johnson will seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination, while Roemer recently appeared at an Americans Elect (an independent ballot access drive) event.
The time may be ripe for either candidate to launch a third party presidential bid. Jacob Zychick, the Chairman of the Reform Party of New Jersey, has followed Gary Johnson’s campaign since last year’s CPAC Conference. He agrees that the time is right for Governor Johnson to jump ship.
“The Republican establishment has completely tuned out a candidate who stands with the majority of Americans on most issues,” said Zychick. “Gary Johnson could make a real mark in history if he were to abandon the GOP, a move that would leave him free to promote the message that the Republicans have long sought to silence.”
While the likelihood of a major party candidate damning his party mid-race seems minimal at best, if Johnson were to abandon the GOP, the move wouldn’t be without precedent.
During the 1980 presidential election, little-known Congressman John B. Anderson, whose fledgling campaign had failed to gain any traction within the Republican Primaries, announced that he would run for president as an independent.
After he shed his party label, Anderson’s popularity sky-rocketed. His campaign achieved the media coverage and respectability he had long hoped for. The traction ultimately landed him a spot in the televised debate, albeit incumbent Jimmy Carter refused to attend, fearful his presence would grant legitimacy to the independent’s candidacy.
John B. Anderson eventually became a media darling, the face of America’s opposition to the status quo. He defied political norms and chose a former Democratic Governor as his running mate, thus further broadening his appeal. That November, he earned a respectable six percent of the vote, an impressive feat for a third party candidate.
But could Gary Johnson or Buddy Roemer replicate this success in 2012? With the proper infrastructure, it seems very likely. If Roemer secures the Americans Elect ballot line, he can position himself as a formidable contender for the presidency. He is already polling favorably within the organization, making him a near shoe-in for their nomination.
If Gary Johnson seeks the Libertarian nomination, however, his up-hill battle would not be over. Many Libertarians are wary of Republicans, still reeling from what they felt was a betrayal of their principles with the nomination of Bob Barr in 2008.
Johnson would have to win over the party’s delegates, a daunting task considering the fact he publicly criticized the Libertarian Party’s validity as a vehicle for electoral success. That November, Johnson would have to continue to fight the stigma of the Libertarian Party’s reputation, one that is widely viewed as too radical for mainstream voters.
One cannot rule out the possibility that Johnson would run as an independent or target a smaller third party (Reform Party USA or the Modern Whig Party) as a means of continuing his candidacy. Zychick feels this may be the route for Johnson to go.
“In terms of media coverage I think Johnson could do better than Anderson did,” said Zychick. “If he is in the right party.”
Whatever the case, one thing is clear. America needs a third party presidential candidate, one who can take on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee. Both Johnson and Roemer could rock the political establishment…if they have the weapons to do so.