- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2016

The crowd at Saturday’s Libertarian Party presidential debate didn’t always appreciate former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s stances on the issues — such as his support for driver’s licenses. Or the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

On the other hand, the audience erupted in cheers when candidate Darryl Perry said he would oppose laws placing restrictions on recreational drug use, including age limits.

For Libertarians, it’s all about liberty. The question is whether delegates to the party’s convention will nominate Sunday the strongest potential presidential candidate in Mr. Johnson, or choose someone who adheres more strictly to their principles.

Mr. Johnson, the 2012 Libertarian presidential nominee, urged delegates at the end of the rowdy two-hour debate to do “anything that creates more freedom” by expanding the party’s appeal in the November election.

“I thought my marching orders were to grow the Libertarian Party,” Mr. Johnson said in his closing comments at the convention debate in Orlando, Florida.

He has hit double digits in hypothetical match-ups with the likely major-party nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, an unheard-of level of support for a presidential candidate from the nation’s largest third party.

“We do have an opportunity and so many of you have worked for so long consistently to provide ballot access with your time and your money,” said Mr. Johnson. “And here it is. We’re at a threshold here, a real threshold to grow this party and to make it better. And at the end of the day, shouldn’t we try and make things better?”

Taking the opposite view was cybersecurity entrepreneur John McAfee, who implied that nominating the candidate with the best polling numbers would be like “building a skyscraper from the top floor down.”

“We are on a train filled with increasing compromise leading to a questionable win,” Mr. McAfee said. “My goal is to derail this train and lay a new set of tracks through the grassroots of this party and build from the ground up.”

Same with Mr. Perry, a small business owner who said he would not promise election or poll results but would “boldly proclaim the ideas of liberty.”

Moderator Larry Elder, the conservative Los Angeles radio talk-show host, quizzed the five contenders for the party’s presidential nomination on topics ranging from national security to social issues to fiscal policy.

Mr. Johnson often couched his answers by citing the political realities of working with Congress. For example, he said he would eliminate the Federal Reserve and any number of Cabinet departments if presented with legislation.

On the other hand, consultant Austin Petersen drew loud cheers when asked if he would eliminate the Federal Reserve by declaring, “It’s time to kill the bank!”

The crowd was quick to reward attacks on big government, taxes and regulation. Mr. Johnson drew boos when he said the decline of the coal industry was due in large part to market forces, whereas Mr. Peterson was applauded for blaming the Obama administration’s regulatory push.

Asked about the North Carolina bill banning opposite-sex bathroom use, Mr. Johnson said he would have vetoed it, while Mr. Petersen said, “Private property owners have the right to discriminate if they so choose, and that is freedom.”

Marc Feldman, a Cleveland Clinic anesthesiologist, drew laughs with his proposed solution.

“As a physician, I believe it is a very good idea to have two separate bathrooms: One for people who wash their hands, and one for people who don’t,” Mr. Feldman quipped.

Delegates will select the party’s presidential and vice-presidential nominees in separate balloting starting Sunday morning at Orlando’s Rosen Centre Hotel & Resort.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide