Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Andre Marrou, Ed Clark, Gary Johnson: lessons from the Libertarian past

Uncovered Politics has a great excerpt from Darcy G. Richardson's forthcoming book, Out of the Desert: The Libertarian Party at 40, that chronicles some of parallels between Gary Johnson's opportunity to make electoral history and similar moments in the past for LP candidates Andre Marrou (1992) and Ed Clark (1980).

In both cases another third-party candidate effectively used up all the oxygen in the room, condemning the Libertarian to obscurity.

For Marrou that candidate was Ross Perot:

When he accepted the Libertarian Party’s nomination six months earlier at the party’s national convention in Chicago, Marrou, 53, couldn’t possibly have imagined that Perot, the fast-talking populist promising to slay the dragon of debt while riding a wave of public discontent, would eventually jump into the fray.  It changed everything.
There was simply no way that Marrou, who spent $14.5 million less than his wealthy rival in qualifying for a spot on the ballot in all fifty states — accomplishing that impressive feat with little fanfare two full weeks before the jug-eared Texan concluded his own ballot access drive — could compete with Perot’s on-again, off-again, high-octane candidacy.
Even after implicitly endorsing the Democratic ticket and inexplicably rejoining the race in early October when his badly-bruised ego apparently needed some soothing, Perot again soaked up almost all of the media coverage.  As had been the case before Perot abruptly quit the race in July, Marrou and his vice-presidential running mate Nancy Lord, a 39-year-old attorney and physician from Washington, D.C., were barely mentioned in the press.

Ed Clark, in similar fashion, had been marginalized by Congressman John Anderson:

Unlike Marrou, Clark was convinced that he could astonish the political world by finishing third in the 1980 campaign, ahead of the Illinois congressman and media darling who had remarkably surged to an astounding 26% in the polls by mid-June.

While conceding that Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter would emerge victorious that year, the 49-year-old Clark believed that it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that he could outpoll the white-haired Anderson on November 4 while finishing third nationally.
A graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard Law School, Clark had garnered an eye-opening 377,960 votes, or 5.5 percent, as the Libertarian nominee for governor of California in 1978.  He had political moxie and knew what it would take to finish ahead of a formidable rival like Anderson.

Richardson provides considerable color and detail on the two campaigns that should provide ample warning for Governor Gary Johnson this year about what could happen if Americans Elect launches its own well-funded candidate into the presidential race:

History has a way of repeating itself.  A party whose time has seemingly come could once again find itself on the outside looking in.  The Libertarians should keep a close eye on Americans Elect, an organization largely financed by the Wall Street speculators and hedge-fund hyenas — the hapless hooligans responsible for the devastating financial meltdown that ravaged the country only a few short years ago — the same folks who shamelessly pleaded with Washington for a mind-boggling and unprecedented bailout for their reckless activity. 
 Ironic, I guess, that a potential Libertarian "spoiler" has to worry about spoilers of his own.

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