Ten days ago the New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton’s campaign would soon take aim at the campaign of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who had pulled close to Clinton with younger voters in some polls. Within 24 hours there began a wave of anti‐Johnson commentary from left‐leaning figures and outlets who had previously had little to say about the former New Mexico governor and his candidacy. The office of former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, Johnson’s running mate, was “inundated” with dozens of phone calls demanding that he drop out and endorse Hillary — in a Boston radio appearance, Weld said he had an idea where that viral outbreak had originated — and Carl Bernstein even put out a story on cable TV that Weld was thinking of pulling out, which the campaign had to spend a day denying. Nor has the effort flagged: “Democrats target Libertarian ticket,” The Hill reported yesterday, noting that everyone from Sen. Bernie Sanders to billionaire Tom Steyer were now on message against casting a protest vote in the election.
When the Times ran its report on Sept. 16, I dashed off this response, which I’ll publish here since it didn’t make it into the paper’s letters column:
To the editor:
According to your report, advisers to Hillary Clinton are “alarmed by the drift of young voters toward the third‐party candidates,” in particular Libertarian Party nominee Gov. Gary Johnson, who was within two points of overtaking Mrs. Clinton for first place among voters 18–34 in the most recent Quinnipiac Poll. They are plotting counter‐strategy to appeal to these voters.
If Mrs. Clinton desires to poach voters from Gary Johnson, she could always try to champion individual liberty, honest and efficient administration, and low‐hubris leadership that is realistic and humble about what government can do. Yet the article contains few indications that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers grasp these sources of Gov. Johnson’s appeal.
Should Mrs. Clinton wish to make a direct appeal to Gov. Johnson’s voters, she might also offer to debate him.
Yours etc. — Walter Olson
I might have added that Mrs. Clinton could pull a two‐fer and poach voters from both Johnson and Green candidate Jill Stein by recognizing the dangers of omnipotent government surveillance and military overreach. I know, crazy talk. But I can dream, can’t I?