The one common thread is this presidential election is how much voters dislike the presumptive candidates of our political duopoly. The reality is -- voters want more choices.
Sadly, one area where Republicans and Democrats are most willing to cooperate is stopping third party efforts with rules and regulations meant to protect the duopoly. One such reform in California now means many areas are effectively one-party states. For instance, my choice for Congress was limited to Republican A or Republican B. No other option allowed.
The big parties rig the system to do as much harm to third party options as possible.
When Republicans were losing their breakfast over Trump's likely nomination they discussed a third party option. But, the laws they helped push through made it virtually impossible. There are so many hurdles and barriers to entry, political competition is effectively illegal.
Libertarians are the only third party in position to secure ballot status in all 50 states, which often means spending their limited resources to secure ballot status, leaving little for a campaign.
Over the years Democrats and Republicans faced third party efforts and learned how to use their law-making ability to cripple third parties before they start.
In spite of the crippling efforts, Libertarians have suddenly found themselves in an enviable position. Not only do they look likely to have ballot status in all states, but also have two declared candidates who are credible, experienced and newsworthy -- Governors Gary Johnson and William Weld.
More enviable is these two candidates -- and only these two -- are politically positioned toward the middle-of-the-road voter. Over and over polls have shown most voters are fiscally conservative but socially liberal. This is most true of the largest block of voters: independent voters.
But, the duopoly refuses to offer voters that ideological combination. Republicans insist candidates support free markets -- but not too free -- and social intolerance. Democrats don't want to regulate the bedroom, but want heavily politicized markets, which reduce competition and protect special interest groups.
Only Governors Johnson and Weld have consistently represented the middle ground. Both were fiscal conservatives elected as Republicans who refused to kowtow to the Religious Right. They supported a woman's right to choose and same-sex marriage. This combination of fiscal responsibility and tolerance won them office in their respective states -- New Mexico and Massachusetts -- in spite of each being Democratic strongholds.
In 2007, Southern Baptist theologian R. Albert Mohler, Jr., complained America was a "post-Christian" nation. Jon Meacham, at Newsweek, asked what common set of values held America together as a society, if not religion. His answer:
If we apply an Augustinian test of nationhood to ourselves, we find that liberty, not religion, is what holds us together. In The City of God " Augustine -- converted sinner and bishop of Hippo -- said that a nation should be defined as "a multitude of rational beings in common agreement as to the objects of their love." What we value most highly -- what we collectively love most -- is thus the central test of the social contract.
Judging from the broad shape of American life in the first decade of the 21st century, we value individual freedom and free (or largely free) enterprise, and tend to lean toward libertarianism on issues of personal morality.
Meacham put his finger on the main issue -- liberty, not religion, holds America together. That's why the Religious Right lost their crusade against marriage equality, and why they'll eventually lose the entire "culture war" they started. They demand religious-based laws, which reduce the liberty of others. As much as it would annoy them to know it, they proposed a strongly anti-American position and will be beaten because of it
Molly Worthen correctly noted in the New York Times, America's political shift is not toward liberalism, but toward secular libertarianism. She isn't particularly happy our "homegrown libertarian ideology" allows people freedoms she'd prefer they didn't have -- something conservatives lament as well, though on different issues.
Worthen said the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality "signals that secular libertarianism is on the ascent while its Christian cousin is in retreat."
Political polls bear this out. Americans are now fine with same-sex marriage. They aren’t keen to engage in censorship, think immigration reform is needed to make it easier for immigrants, aren't keen to ban abortion, don't want higher taxes, worry about over-regulation, and are skeptical of foreign interventionism. Gallup's Governance Survey found 27% think government too big and shouldn't interfere with business so much, but also say government shouldn't be promoting "traditional morality" either; in other words, they're fiscally conservative and socially liberal. No other political ideology polled higher.
America is ready for a real third party. It may not be the Libertarian Party -- which also has to battle it's own ideologues within the party -- but if one does come into existence it will have to embrace the middle ground of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism.
However, this year, and in this election, the political winds are being kind to Gary Johnson and William Weld, provided the Libertarians have the sense to realize it at their nominating convention