Friday, September 30, 2016

Hillary Clinton Should Debate Gary Johnson

Michael Tomasky has an excellent piece on third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein that is a must read. His point? Voting for either isn't just a wasted vote; it's a vote for someone with "deeply troubling ideas." While Tomasky mentions Stein, he focuses most of his attention on Johnson. He writes,
It’s embarrassing even to watch, like seeing someone who genuinely thinks he can sing butcher a song. As we know, it’s the second time Johnson has had such a moment, the first coming three weeks ago, when he obviously had no idea of what was happening in, or even likely the very existence of, the world’s most tragic city. Although both of those might still rank as less embarrassing than the MSNBC clip in which he quite literally bites his tongue to make...some point or other about the debates.
Libertarianism in recent years has developed a kind of hipster cred. It seems to be against the man. Libertarians are anti-war, usually (the cred narrative started with Ron Paul’s scathing attacks on the Bush/Cheney crowd). They support abortion rights and gay rights. Live and let live. And most of all, libertarians want to legalize pot. I think that’s the big one, for young people especially. I readily concede it would have seemed pretty appealing to the me of 30 years ago.
But here’s the catch. The libertarian live-and-let-live credo doesn’t apply just to young people who’d like to blow a doob in a public park (that’s how we put it back in my day, sonny, and I’m not going to make any phony attempt to be hip). It applies to polluting corporations. It applies to corporations and individuals who want to make unlimited dark money contributions to political campaigns. It applies to the forces pushing free trade. It applies to employers who don’t want to be nickel-and-dimed over paying their workers a minimum wage. It applies to gun manufacturers, and to the National Rifle Association. 
Still hip? 
These are libertarian beliefs, and Gary Johnson adheres to them, as Eric Zorn just laid out in a crushing column in the Chicago Tribune, which is backed up by my own research and that of others. There’s also a ton of chapter and verse in this great Rolling Stone piece by Tessa Stuart. Johnson shrugs his shoulders at climate change and doesn’t think the government has any business addressing it. He supports the Citizens United decision and thinks donors should be able to spend “as much money as they want.” He backs the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which I would think most young people oppose strongly, after listening to Bernie Sanders inveigh against it for a year. Speaking of Bernie, Johnson opposes tuition-free college. He’s against a federal minimum wage—that’s right, any federal minimum wage (although sometimes his answers are so wandering and circumlocutory that it can be hard to tell). And as for guns, he told Slate in 2011: “I don’t believe there should be any restrictions when it comes to firearms. None.”

Tomasky's warning - and it is a warning - could not be clearer. Millennials who have not warmed to Hillary Clinton, have turned their gaze towards Johnson and Stein. And the results are starting to spell trouble for her. In a race that has tightened over the last month, every vote counts; and with polls in some swing states within the margin of error, the fact that both Johnson and Stein appear to be siphoning off more votes from Clinton than Trump could prove to be the difference between winning or losing in November.

So what to do? Simple. Hillary Clinton should issue a challenge to Gary Johnson for a one-hour debate. And she should do it now. If Johnson insists, she could even extend the invitation to include Stein. 

Why not? Hillary has already proven her bonafides in debates with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Does anybody seriously believe that she can't dispatch the likes of Johnson and Stein? Really?

The obvious risk is that once up on the stage with Clinton, Johnson and Stein will gain what they have wanted most: a national audience to present their case to the voters. But as Trump found out on Monday, sometimes having a national audience isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

But while I don't actually think the Clinton campaign will follow through with a challenge to debate Johnson and/or Stein, it should, if for no other reason than to expose the two of them to any and all millennials whose votes were essential in Barack Obama getting reelected in 2012.

Consider the RCP averages in a four-way race for the following states: Florida: Clinton 1.2; Colorado: Trump .5; Pennsylvania: Clinton 1.8; Ohio: Trump 2.0; North Carolina: Trump .8; Nevada: Trump .6.

Each and every one of these states could go either way, meaning Clinton could win by a wide margin or, gulp, Trump could. Of course, we're still waiting for the post-debate polls to see what impact, if any, Trump's dismal performance will play. But this much is clear: If Hillary Clinton cannot pull these millennials away from Johnson and Stein, she runs the very real risk of losing in November.

Look, Hillary Clinton has never been a risk taker; it's not in her DNA. But this is one time when she should consider taking a leap of faith. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein not only aren't serious alternatives to her; they couldn't even hold a candle to Ralph Nader or, dare I say it, Ross Perot.

But if they're given half a chance, they could end up doing the same amount of damage.

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