The unexpected, meteoric rise of celebrity presidential candidate Donald Trump has torn the Republican Party asunder, causing many leading GOP politicos that once represented the party’s establishment and conservative wings to suggest that they might support a third-party candidate.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders has become the unlikely voice of a new younger generation of progressives that are fed up with the status quo that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represents. Many freshly-inspired voters and activists have recently stepped into the political process only to feel themselves being stiff-armed by Democratic Party superdelegates, party insiders whose votes have more weight than those of rank-and-file voters.
Amid these melees, America’s best organized third party, the Libertarian Party, has found itself suddenly achieving a series of victories that seemed impossible just a few years ago.
Earlier this month, the Libertarian Party became a ballot-qualified party in Oklahoma, a state with such mountainous ballot access restrictions that no third-party presidential candidate had appeared on the ballot there since the year 2000.
The party is also prepping for its first-ever nationally-televised presidential primary debate at 9 p.m. EST on Friday on Fox Business Network’s Stossel program.
Even more shocking is the fact that a recent national Monmouth University poll of registered voters which tested Libertarian Party frontrunner Gary Johnson against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump found Johnson at 11 percent support, just 4 percent shy of the 15 percent support level required to qualify for the general election presidential debates.
If former two-term Republican New Mexico Governor Johnson, a socially-liberal and fiscally-conservative self-made businessman, were to find himself in the general election debates with Trump and Clinton, he would be the only candidate onstage with executive experience in government, an unusual claim for a third party candidate to be able to make.
The only remaining Republican and Democratic primary candidates with executive experience are Ohio Gov. John Kasich on the Republican side and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who once served as mayor of Burlington, Vt., on the Democratic side.
The Libertarian Party’s organizational success has even reportedly caught the attention of some major-party candidates who dropped out of their primaries earlier this year.
Libertarian Party chairman Nicholas Sarwark told The Washington Times on Wednesday, “We have been approached by candidates who have dropped out of the old party races about running on the Libertarian Party ticket. At this point, none of them have jumped in … but we have explored the options and talked to them about the logistics of it, what they would have to do, how they would be able to become part of the process.”
Sarwick declined to say which candidates had approached the party.
In an unconventional political year in which the Republicans seem poised to nominate an unhinged celebrity that shouts profanities in speeches and the Democratic frontrunner is also facing the specter of a possible FBI indictment for mistakes that raise questions about her handling of classified national security information, the Libertarian Party’s current frontrunner might find himself in an opposite-day general election scenario where the third-party candidate is the only one who can emphasize his record as governor in an effort to cast himself and his party as more serious and presidential than the circus-like atmosphere of modern major-party politics. At a moment in which voters seem to prefer outsiders, the Libertarian Party can also play up its anti-establishment credibility as the best-organized third party alternative to what has been a generations-long Republican and Democratic stranglehold on U.S. politics.
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