- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2016

Republicans and Democrats may be a little worse for wear following the 2016 election, but the Libertarian Party has never been better. The nation’s third party is basking in respectable showings at the polls, intense new media interest and greater credibility. They lost, but they’re happy.

“Generations of Libertarians have dreamed of what we saw this year: major leaps in Libertarian votes, major coverage by news outlets nationwide, major strides for the Libertarian Party,” advises executive director Wes Benedict. “We’ve been marching uphill for a long time, and we are now, finally, starting to see over that hill, towards the future where our light outshines the floundering and failing Republican and Democratic parties. Many Americans are awakening to the idea that the Libertarian Party stands for their values more than Republicans and Democrats do.”

Presidential nominee Gary Johnson attracted much friendly interest from the press; the party enjoyed an unprecedented number of televised debates and town halls and a big footprint in social media. Voter support ranged as high as 15 percent for Mr. Johnson at times, and many took that approval to the polls. When he ran for president in 2012, Mr. Johnson drew just over 1 million votes. This year he got over 4 million — 4.8 percent of the total vote.

“A credible third-party ticket is now part of the national conversation,” says Mr. Johnson, who adds that it is “reshaping the political landscape.”

Things are promising elsewhere.

“The nation’s third-largest political party notched by far its most successful election cycle in races to the nation’s upper legislative chamber,” says Eric Ostermeier, a professor of politics at the University of Minnesota who reviewed the results in a new study.

“Prior to 2016, the average Libertarian U.S. Senate nominee had won 1.7 percent of the general election vote. In 2016, the party’s 20 nominees averaged more than double that amount at 4.3 percent,” Mr. Ostermeier says.

“Our vote totals jumped dramatically this year,” agrees party director Mr. Benedict. “We’ll continue providing voters with principled candidates. We’ll continue standing up against bullies, speaking truth to power and championing liberty.”

THE GREAT DIVIDE

“Seventy-seven percent of Americans, a new high, believe the nation is divided on the most important values, while 21 percent believe it is united and in agreement,” writes Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones, who notes that this sentiment has prevailed in previous polls, save for a time period following the 9/11 terrorist attacks 15 years ago.

“All major subgroups of Americans share the view that the nation is divided, though Republicans (68 percent) are less likely to believe this than independents (78 percent) and Democrats (83 percent). That is consistent with the findings in the past two polls, conducted after the 2004 and 2012 presidential elections, in which the winning party’s supporters were less likely to perceive the nation as divided,” Mr. Jones reports.

MEET THE PRESS FOR REAL

The elevators in the glittering lobby at Trump Tower in New York City were a busy place on Monday. Broadcast royalty was there. Riding up to the upper floors for a 75-minute, face-to-face meeting with President-elect Donald Trump: Fox News co-presidents Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine; CNN President Jeff Zucker and ever-present anchor Wolf Blitzer; MSNBC president Phil Griffin, CBS anchors and hosts John Dickerson, Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell; ABC News anchors Martha Raddatz, David Muir and George Stephanopoulos; NBC News President Deborah Turness; plus anchors Lester Holt and Chuck Todd.

Mr. Trump has gone a long way in erasing media claims that he was operating in secrecy.

“It was an off-the-record meeting. It was very cordial, very productive and congenial. But it was also very candid and honest,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told curious journalists assembled to learn the outcome.

Will there be such good will on Tuesday? That is a mystery. Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet with executives and editors from The New York Times.

AND ONE OTHER MEETING

Donald Trump also met quietly on Sunday with Democratic media mogul Bob Johnson — founder of BET and a significant fan of Hillary Clinton.

“Trump is a business guy, and I think he’s going to tilt toward finding a way to use fiscal policy to move the economy forward,” Mr. Johnson told CNBC in the aftermath. “Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and see if we can find common ground. That’s what’s best for African-Americans.”

OBAMA MAKES SOME PLANS

Most observers expect President Obama to continue to work behind the scenes for the Democratic Party once he leaves office. And they are right.

“Losses are tough. Unexpected losses are even tougher. But when we’re ready — and that time is going to be sooner rather than later — we are going to come together and focus on our way ahead,” Mr. Obama advises those “ready to fight” in a new organizational email.

“Even when I become a private citizen in a few months, I’m not going to stop working on behalf of the things I care about. And I hope you won’t stop either. We’ve come so far together — and this notion that somehow all the work we’ve done suddenly gets stripped away is simply not true,” the president continues. “Even if the next administration rolls back 20 percent of that, we’re still 80 percent ahead. And even that is not going to be as easy as some people think — especially if folks like you continue to make the case and mobilize.”

POLL DU JOUR

92 percent of U.S. voters say there was “more mudslinging than usual” in the 2016 presidential campaign.

73 percent say there was less attention paid to discussion of issues in the campaign than previous elections.

57 percent say news organizations had “too much influence” on the election.

45 percent say the press was “too easy on Hillary Clinton”; 27 percent say the press was too easy on Donald Trump.

21 percent said the press was “too tough” on Mrs. Clinton; 39 percent say the press was too tough on Mr. Trump.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 1,254 registered U.S. voters conducted Nov. 10-14.

Churlish remarks and helpful commentary to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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