At the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, Donald Trump officially became the party's presidential nominee. The nomination, almost guaranteed since May, was anything but expected before primary voting began, as the businessman and reality TV star's candidacy, and politics, are far from typical. Hours after the nomination, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson made his pitch to disenchanted Republican voters, saying that he is running against Trump specifically. A businessman himself, the former New Mexico governor contrasted his fiscally conservative and socially moderate-to-liberal platform with what he described as Trump's exclusionary politics.
"Despite the calls at the GOP convention in Cleveland for national unity, Donald Trump sees our country as a land of exclusion," Johnson wrote in POLITICO. He particularly criticized Trump's positions on free trade and immigration, the Republican candidate's core issues. Building a wall on the U.S./Mexican border, deporting undocumented immigrants, and limiting the import of goods from other countries like China and Mexico in order to create more jobs in America are three of his most-touted campaign promises.
Johnson, and the Libertarian Party, are for small government in all areas, from immigration to trade to personal liberties. Concerning trade, Johnson supports a reduction of barriers to trading with other countries, not greater restrictions. And his tune is similarly antithetical to Trump's on immigration; after stating that only a very small percentage of undocumented immigrants pose any kind of threat to Americans, Johnson said, "The vast majority are here seeking opportunities and better lives, and they wouldn't be 'illegal' if we had a functional system that made 'legal' immigration a viable option for those excluded by arbitrary quotas and bureaucratic paralysis."
Johnson also took a dig at Trump's vice presidential pick, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, for perpetuating divisiveness in his state. "In Indiana, Governor Pence unwisely pushed a law that pitted religious freedom against the rights of gays and lesbians, and then backtracked on religious freedom." Back in May, Johnson stated that religious freedom laws that allow people to deny services to others based on religious beliefs "are really just a way to discriminate against gay individuals, the LGBT community."
Johnson described Trump's nomination as the death knell of the Republican Party, comparing it to the fate of the Whigs. In 1848, outsider candidate Zachary Taylor was elected president under the Whig Party. His ineffective one year in office (at which point he died) is largely credited with the party's dissolution. Johnson sees a similar fate on the horizon for the Republican Party with Trump at the helm, and he sees this as the perfect opportunity for a different party to rise up.
Of course, the Republican Party has been established for much longer than the Whig Party, which was only a thing for about 20 years. And Johnson stands little chance at actually getting more votes than Trump as a third-party candidate. Although, if he manages to pull 15 percent in a number of polls, he could qualify for presidential debates, which would be huge for both him and his party. And, if he gets at least five percent of the vote in November, the Libertarian Party will qualify for government campaign funding in the next election.
Johnson can expect to do better than usual thanks to the unlikely Republican nominee. Currently, Johnson is averaging 8.5 percent in polls, an impressive number for a third-partier. And we can bet that, going into the general election, he'll continue to capitalize on Trump's more out-there proposals to boost his own candidacy.