The Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld released a statement yesterday that many people interpreted as an admission of defeat in the general election and a rallying cry to vote for Hillary Clinton.
The two-term governor of Massachusetts, Weld accepted the back seat on a ticket led by former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. The pair were never a serious threat to take the White House, but at times have looked as though they had the ability to win a non-trivial number of votes in multiple states, something that could have seriously complicated things for Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who were running a much closer race a month ago than they are now.
However, the glory days of the Johnson-Weld ticket are behind it, with a national polling average at 5.6 percent and trending downward, and yesterday Weld called a press conference specifically to address “all those in the electorate who remain torn between two so-called major party candidates whom they cannot enthusiastically support.”
So far, it sounded like standard third-party boilerplate, and if Weld had gone on to explicitly urge undecided voters to choose the Libertarian Party as a third option, it would have been a thoroughly unremarkable moment.
But he didn’t. Weld specifically took aim at Trump, warning that the pressures of the presidency would cause him to come “unhinged” and that Trump is not “stable” enough to serve in the office. He also slammed the GOP nominee for suggesting that he might not accept the election results.
“This is the worst of American politics,” Weld said. “I fear for our cohesion as a nation, and for our place in the world, if this man who is unwilling to say he will abide by the result of our national election becomes our President.
“This great nation has weathered policy differences throughout our history, and we will do so again. Not in my lifetime, though, has there been a candidate for President who actually makes me fear for the ultimate well-being of the country, a candidate who might in fact put at risk the solid foundation of America that allows us to endure even ill-advised policies and the normal ebb and flow of politics.”
Even though there wasn’t a word about Hillary Clinton in his prepared remarks, Weld might still have passed the whole thing off as a standard campaign event with a call to vote Libertarian. But again, he didn’t. Instead, he closed with this:
“In the final days of this very close race, every citizen must be aware of the power and responsibility of each individual vote. This is not the time to cast a jocular or feel-good vote for a man whom you may have briefly found entertaining. Donald Trump should not, cannot, and must not be elected President of the United States.”
Setting aside the fact that the “jocular” or “feel-good” vote he described might just as easily have been one for his running mate, whose occasionally goofy behavior on the campaign trail has been widely noted, it came across to many as a backhanded endorsement of Clinton.
oTo be sure, Weld said that he plans to continue to press the Libertarian cause through November 8, and said that the Johnson-Weld campaign has been “making strides toward breaking the two party monopoly.”
But many of his fellow Libertarians were less than pleased with the overall impression he left.
“It's hard to imagine this maneuver doing much to allay Libertarians' long-standing suspicions of Weld's motives and libertarian bona fides,” wrote Matt Welch, editor-at-large of the libertarian magazine Reason. “Many people (myself included) are at least slightly more horrified at the prospect of a President Trump than a President Clinton, but we are also not on the ballot representing a third party desperate to clear the 5 percent voting threshold.”