Stossel’s Libertarian debate highlights the good…and bad of the third party option


A stoner, an outlaw, and a teenager walk into a television studio. Not the start of a terrible joke, but the latest Libertarian Party debate, hosted by John Stossel on Fox Business, the first half of a two-hour forum. The second half airs next Friday, April 8.

Participating in the debate were former New Mexico governor and previous Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, software entreprenuer John McAfee, and Libertarian Republic founder Austin Petersen. Each demonstrated plenty of knowledge about liberty issues, but also plenty of idiosyncracies that, while largely unnoticable among the Libertarian faithful, might hinder their appeal in a general election.

Helpfully, Stossel himself pointed out some of these issues and had the candidates address them.

Petersen is only 35 years old and inexperienced in the campaign and television world. He was very animated and forceful in his answers, but has a very freshman debate club tone that would need to be refined over the campaign.

While Johnson is an experienced governor and business owner and a globally accomplished athlete, he has a very aloof and rambling style that plays into the pothead caricature of Libertarians. It doesn’t help that he recently owned a marijuana product line and admits to sampling the wares. While not illegal, it would certainly be the first time a general election candidate admitted to current, not just past, controlled substance use.

John McAfee’s life story could inspire the sequel to the broadway smash, Hamilton. He answered each biographical charge Stossel aired against him effortlessly, including admitting to the lapse in judgment that led to his DUI arrest just last year.

On the issues, the three candidates were much more solid, but still left room for improvement.

Stossel brought up the typical libertarian issues - gay marriage, drug legalization, noninterventionism, size and scope of government - but he phrased them in a way as to steer the candidates away from cliche and toward substance. There wasn’t much difference between the three here, with one candidate occasionally being the outlier on a few issues in the otherwise unanimous Libertarian platform.

In the inevitable Hillary/Trump election, the Libertarian Party has its greatest opportunity in history to make a mark on the national stage. Choosing the right candidate at theirnational convention in May and honing them into a media-savvy liberty machine will be key to taking advantage of that chance.

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