There’s been a lot (and I mean a lot) of consternation over Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Bill Weld’s adherence to libertarian ideology. Reason has been chronicling most of the issues with Weld, and there’s are things not to like about him. He seems libertarianish, but will probably always be viewed as more of a typical moderate Republican than someone who will keep spending low and the government out of your life. Weld isn’t going to be helping any of those concerns with comments he recently made on guns and terrorism to Amrit Singh at Revolt.tv (emphasis mine):
Amrit Singh: What can we do to control this flow of guns, if anything?
Bill Weld: You know, you shouldn’t have anybody who is on a terrorist watch list be able to buy any gun, at all. Uh, I’ve called for a task force to focus on this…When I used to prosecute organized crime cases in the 80’s, we had specialized units who specialized on that, putting together information from all kinds of sources, you know, hot lines, whistle blowers, and it was very effective. We were able to eliminate the top three echelons of organized crimes in the United States…so I think that’s what we need to do on the terrorism, ISIS front.
A part of me wants to go #headdesk because you shouldn’t have anyone claiming to be a libertarian saying, “you shouldn’t have anybody who is on a terrorist watch list be able to buy any gun.” That is the antithesis of libertarianism, because we believe in due process before taking away anyone’s rights. Joe Hunter from the Gary Johnson campaign told me Weld was just giving his opinion on the issue and not giving a campaign position:
“Both Governors Johnson and Weld have made it clear that they are open to a conversation about keeping weapons out of the hands of would-be terrorists. That is just common sense. However, they have also made it clear that no one should be denied 2nd Amendment rights without due process, and that being placed on a list by the government does not constitute due process. We have not yet seen a viable proposal that achieves that critical balance between assuring Second Amendment rights and keeping weapons away from those who would use them to do us harm.”
It should also be pointed out Weld’s suggestion of a task force appears to go along the lines of making sure due process is followed. But it’s still an extremely frustrating statement, and gives credence to the idea that Weld isn’t really libertarian. There is good news because the vice presidential position is a relatively powerless position. Yes, the VP can cast the deciding vote if the Senate is tied 50-50 and yes, whoever is VP can become President in the event something happens to the sitting president, but that’s it. It has no other constitutional duties outside of being President of the Senate. Even John Adams told his wife in 1793 it was, “the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived: and as I can do neither good nor Evil, I must be born away by Others and meet the common Fate.” This idea that whoever the vice president pick is somehow makes or breaks the ticket is mostly a fallacy, unless the party is seriously worried about splintering (see John McCain picking Sarah Palin), or trying to come up with some sort of coalition (more on that next paragraph). Weld will be a voice in Johnson’s ears on policy, but he (hopefully) won’t be THE voice, and it will be up to Johnson to decide which policy to take.
I have a theory why Johnson told the Libertarian Party to nominate Weld as the vice presidential candidate (this is pure speculation, with no real evidence to back this theory up): a Mitt Romney endorsement. Romney has been one of several Republicans who has declined to give an endorsement in the 2016 race. He’s #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary, and told CNN in June a vote for Johnson was quite possible. Romney also pointed out, “it would be very easy for me to vote for Bill Weld for president,” if it were Weld/Johnson, instead of Johnson/Weld. Romney is still well-liked by people in the GOP, so if he were to endorse the Libertarian ticket it’s possible that would have an effect on some of the electorate. It’s also possible Utah would go for Johnson, instead of Trump or Clinton, which would be the first time since 1968 a state has not gone for one of the major party candidates. It’s a big risk to take, but the way the 2016 election has gone, it’s certainly one worth taking.
The key thing the Libertarian Party will have to remember is to not just let Johnson/Weld reign supreme without trying to keep them accountable. It’s a really good thing for people to be questioning Weld’s (and also Johnson’s) adherence to libertarian principles because it can keep him in check. As much as libertarians like to be left alone, they’ll have to be engaged in politics to make sure their elected officials don’t go awry and start actually supporting anti-freedom legislation like denying due process to people who are on a terrorist watch list. Libertarians are in a pretty unique position in 2016 and we’ll see how they take it. This just might be our “best shot” at making waves ever.