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The Libertarian Party Can Have a Great Year, But Only if Gary Johnson Disappears

The Libertarian Party is having a great time. The reason? The (likely) nomination of Donald Trump. Many conservatives, libertarians and conservatarians  want nothing to do with him. As a result, LP membership applications have doubled in the last few days.

LP Executive Director Wes Benedict explains:

Of course they are scared of Trump. Trump sounds like an authoritarian. We don't need a secret deal-maker. We need more transparency, and a smaller, less intrusive government that provides a level playing field for all and has fewer deals for special interests.

That's great news for libertarians and freedom-loving Americans in general, but there's also a problem. The LP has been led by former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson for some time now, and he could very well end up the nominee this year. Although he has a lot of experience, he's also a very weak candidate, especially now.

For one thing, the governor is simply too laid back. As Fox Business host John Stossel told him during the Libertarian debate last month, many people often wonder whether he's stoned all the time. Although increasingly more Americans want to legalize marijuana, I somehow doubt they want someone in the White House who's smoking weed all day long. And yes, Johnson admits he's a regular user.

Style issues are problematic, but there are more problems with the former governor: problems that have to do with policy.

First, Johnson is not a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. According to him, "we should be open to a debate and a discussion to limiting guns to the mentally ill." Now, we can all agree that a schizophrenic psychopath shouldn't get his hands on a gun, but when Johnson and others refer to "the mentally ill" they generally mean average Americans who may just have some issues, like depression. There's no reason whatsoever to believe that people on Prozac are all wannabe mass murderers, but they will lose the right to self-defense if Johnson and co. get their way.

Second, Johnson does not support the freedom of religion. During the debate mentioned above, the governor said he believes that Christian bakers have to bake cakes for gay weddings, whether they like it or not. Not doing so would be religious bigotry, he says, and he won't stand for that.

Guess what, Gary? Not allowing people to act in line with their religious beliefs is totalitarian. I'd rather see some bigotry then live in a totalitarian society, wouldn't you?

Third, Johnson is pro-abortion. That's always a problem for a pro-life conservatives and libertarians, but it's especially a problem now that both Democrats and Republicans have nominated a pro-choice candidate.

If the Libertarian Party wants to seize this chance, they have to differentiate themselves from, especially, the Republicans. They cannot do so if they nominate a guy who basically shares Trump's views on at least two (guns and abortion) of these three issues.

Luckily for them, there are other choices. The founder of The Libertarian Republic, Austin Petersen, is surging in the LP's polls. And as I discovered when I took the test at ISideWith.com, Petersen is basically a conservatarian who sees eye to eye with Ted Cruz on a great many issues. He is passionately pro-life, believes bakers have the right to choose what cakes they bake, and is a fervent supporter of the Second Amendment. Oh, and he's also charismatic and a great speaker.

If Libertarians are smart, they'll nominate someone like Petersen. If they do, 2016 could very well be their breakout year.

Michael van der Galien cofounded Ted Cruz 45, a grassroots movement supporting Ted Cruz for president. Although he realizes it's all over for Cruz, at least for this campaign season, he's still praying for a miracle. If that doesn't happen he'll settle for a third party run by a strong conservative or libertarian candidate.