Via Reason, the key bit comes at exactly 10:00 of the clip below. Things start out okay, with Johnson insisting that he’d appoint originalists to the Court. Then Weld starts talking. My facial expression right now:
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) July 29, 2016
Breyer and Garland, writes Ilya Shapiro, are “the jurists most deferential to the government on everything, whether environmental regulation or civil liberties.” This comes 24 hours after Johnson himself reiterated in a separate interview that no, he doesn’t believe business owners have a right of religious conscience that should exempt them from laws requiring them to cater to gay weddings. Question: Is Hillary Clinton the only candidate running this year who’s actually a member of her own party?
You can, if you like, read this as a strategic play by Johnson and Weld. They’re trying to peel off anti-Trump conservative ideologues on the one hand and anti-Hillary Berniebros on the other. Johnson’s pandering to the first group by chattering about originalism, Weld’s pandering to the second by talking up Democratic justices. Ultimately that strategy breaks down, though, as each group of voters comes to suspect that the ticket would end up in the pocket of the other. But I don’t think that’s the actual strategy that’s at work here. I think it’s much simpler: Be nice. The two major-party nominees are widely seen as dirtbags; the more reasonable Johnson and Weld seem by comparison, the more likely they are to draw protest votes. Nothing says “reasonable” to independents and low-information voters quite like a moderate Republican turned libertarian endorsing Democratic justices. The same logic was behind Johnson and Weld failing to say a critical word about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton when prompted to do so on CNN a few weeks ago. Be nice; be nonpartisan; let disgust with Trump and Clinton do the rest, carrying you to 15 percent of the vote and a slot in the debates this fall. There’s a nonzero chance that it’ll work. But what if it does? What lesson should Johnson and the Libertarian Party draw if the ticket manages to do respectably against two historically unpopular nominees by not running as libertarians?
If you’re #NeverTrump, your dilemma here is this: Do Johnson’s flirtations with the left make it impossible to vote for him, even though everyone understands that he’s never going to be in a position to act on those flirtations? If you’re thinking of casting a vote for a guy who can’t win, it doesn’t matter what his positions are, really. All that matters is whether he’s gone too far in muddling the message you want to send with that vote. Johnson is, in theory, the candidate of smaller government; in practice, if he’s willing to entertain the idea of appointing another Breyer to the Court, then maybe he isn’t. Is ideological purity unimportant in a protest vote or is it very important since, after all, you’re choosing to forfeit what tiny influence you have over the outcome of the election in order to cast that vote? I’m leaning towards writing in Harambe the dead gorilla for president at this point but it’s something to think about.