The misplaced vanity of minor party candidates

Supporters of Jill Stein, of the Green Party, want her to be included in the presidential debates.
Supporters of Jill Stein, of the Green Party, want her to be included in the presidential debates. Associated Press

A small group of protesters recently assembled at the Tampa Bay Times office in Tampa to vent their displeasure over the paper’s coverage of the Green Party’s presidential candidate, Jill Stein.

But there was a problem.

The placard-carrying Green Party followers started their venting before 8 a.m., not realizing that many newspaper types don’t show up for work until around 10 a.m., allowing for the hangover to ease up a bit. They were giving a virtually empty parking lot a piece of their mind. It was an inspiration.

And there is another problem. Stein may be a lovely person but, no offense meant to the Green Party types, hardly anyone cares she is running for president.

The same holds true for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Take a seat on the buh-bye train with Stein. And we’ll see both of you — sigh — again in 2020.

Let’s be clear. Stein and Johnson can’t win. And their presence on the ballot can only cause mischief. They are, in every sense of the word, vanity candidates.

Every four years, figures like Johnson and Stein pop up extolling the ideological purity of the Libertarian and Green parties. And the Birkenstock crowd goes wild.

And then, after being largely ignored by voters, they return to the shadows of public life to hibernate until the next election cycle.

Johnson and Stein grumble they are not respected as presidential timber. They grouse about being excluded from the presidential debates because they failed to meet the 15 percent polling threshold. Both expect that all they have to do is show up every four years as ego-candidates and be invited onto a national stage because they are leading two minor political parties. And their supporters go wild.

They mope about not being taken seriously as potential commanders in chief, even though Johnson recently had no clue whatsoever what Aleppo was. And no, it’s not a brand of dog food. Last week, Johnson could not recall the name of a single world leader he respected, taking the Libertarian Party mantra a bit too far by being free from having an original thought.

Heap all the criticism you want on the Democratic and Republican parties. It is well deserved. They are fat, bloated, myopic, bought-and-paid-for organizations that can claim precious little loyalty from the public.

But where have the Libertarians and the Greens been?

Johnson and Stein might be viewed as viable presidential candidates if their parties could demonstrate some actual viable electability.

According to their respective websites, across the entire expanse of the nation Libertarians hold only about 150 elected offices. The Green Party can claim about 70 elected officeholders on school boards, city councils and county commissions and in state legislatures. In a nation of more than 300 million people, fewer than 300 Libertarians and Green politicians have persuaded anyone to vote them into office. Not exactly a groundswell of support.

Yet Johnson and Stein are miffed they can’t participate in a presidential debate? Donald Trump isn’t this self-absorbed.

If Johnson and Stein (or their successors) want to see Libertarians and Greens accorded the same national stature as the Democratic and Republican parties, they need to demonstrate that not only can their followers make a case for their election, but also prove to the public they know how to govern.

There has never been any obstacle preventing Johnson (if he even knows where Washington is) or Stein from running for a U.S. Senate or House seat so they can demonstrate their bona fides as legislators, policy experts, or leadership on — anything.

So the Jill Stein juggernaut came to Tampa days ago insisting that even though she is polling at 2.4 percent, it’s too soon to predict the outcome of the presidential race. Meanwhile Gary Johnson continues his campaign of oblivion.

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Tampa Bay Times