During the Libertarian convention, I was asked how libertarians generally felt about Gary Johnson’s preferred running mate, former Massachusetts government William Weld. At the time, I said that Weld made for a remarkably strong ticket for the Libertarians and broadens the base for libertarians but that there was widespread suspicion that Weld did not have libertarian values in his DNA. Many resented the view that the Libertarian party is treated as a back stop for Republicans and others viewed Weld as a classic establishment figure, including his well-known friendship with Hillary Clinton. To make matters worse, Carl Bernstein and others who were quoted as saying that Weld was considering withdrawing because he did not want to hurt Clinton’s chances against Donald Trump. He denied that he was withdrawing. However, this week, those past suspicions are in full rage on libertarian sites after the Boston Globe reported that Weld had told reporters that he was going to focus on trashing Trump and again saying how he thought Hillary Clinton is remarkably well qualified to be president. Weld has again denied the stories, but he has repeatedly stated his admiration for Clinton. The result is a total mess for libertarians who hoped that this could be the year that the ticket could make it to one of the presidential debates.
Weld brought a needed element to the Libertarian base in broadening the appeal. Many of us have libertarian values but can differ on some issues. Johnson and Weld show that such principled and sometimes nuanced differences in their views. For example, you can differ on the merits of policies but agree on the limited role of the courts. You can differ on climate change but agree on the need for properly enacted solutions or generally favor market approaches when possible. For that reason, I think Weld was an important step for the party if it wants to emerge as a true and viable option politically on the national scale. However, the recent controversy has reignited this tension and the uncertainty of some libertarians.
The Boston Globe reported that Weld told its reporters that he was changing his focus to campaigning against Donald Trump and that he did not want the Libertarian ticket to undermine efforts by Clinton to defeat Trump. The response on the Internet was thunderous. Weld critics immediately proclaimed that he was showing his true colors and returning to the establishment fold. Some even suggested that Weld wanted a position with Clinton. There was no support for claiming such quid pro quo but it was the rage. However, it is clear that Weld stated recently that “I’m not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States.” That is pretty awkward when you are supposedly the vice presidential candidate supporting a different person for president.
To make matters worse, the Globe reported that Weld stated that “it would be fun to participate” in an effort to “come up with a new playbook” for the Republican Party after the 2016 elections. He also is quoted as saying that he is “not going to drop [Libertarians] this year.” Those quotations, which have not been denied, has been used by many critics to charge again that Weld’s appearance on the ticket is merely a marriage of convenience and that he does not view himself as a libertarian.
Weld has not denied many of these quotes but insisted that the article misrepresented his intentions and added “Let there be no doubt. I am the Libertarian nominee for Vice-President, proudly running with Gov. Gary Johnson, and both Gary and I will be running hard and making our case right up until the polls close on November 8. Our ambition is to serve our country.”