Weld pledges fealty to Libertarian Party

It’s true Gary Johnson and William Weld struggled to become the Libertarian Party’s nominees for president and vice president in Orlando over the weekend, but that’s probably a good thing, given that the two former governors see a role for government while most of the party faithful do not.

Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, won the party’s nomination for president on a second ballot. Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, also won on a second ballot, but it wasn’t easy. Delegates to the convention were skeptical of his recent conversion to libertarianism; they backed him because Johnson wanted him on the ticket and only after he pledged lifelong allegiance to the party. And he had to make that pledge twice.

The delegates were right to be skeptical of Weld. His career is marked by political U-turns. He ran for governor of Massachusetts in 1990 attacking then-Senate president William Bulger, but once in office became Bulger’s political ally. Weld accepted the Libertarian nomination for governor in New York in 2006, but then dropped out of the race when he didn’t corral the Republican Party’s backing there. And he endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president in 2008 and Republican John Kasich for president this time around. It probably didn’t help that his most recent job was working as a lawyer and lobbyist at Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris and Glovsky.

Weld received a chilly reception during a Friday night debate among vice presidential candidates. Politico’s headline on its debate coverage included the words “Weld bombs in Orlando.” Weld was booed when he said he would keep the United States in the United Nations. And when he said he would cut taxes, one of his rivals yelled “taxation is theft.” Jim Fulner, a Michigan delegate, said Weld didn’t embrace the party’s ideals. “He showed that he was Republican-lite,” he said. “He didn’t mention a single Libertarian idea.”

Ultimately, the party approved the Johnson-Weld ticket because Johnson wanted Weld as his running-mate and because a rejection of Weld would have been clear evidence to the outside world that the party is full of crazies. At one point during the convention, a bearded man got up on stage and performed what the Globe called “a hapless striptease.” Weld didn’t think the man had much style. “I’ve seen better at [Harvard’s] Hasty Pudding,” he said.

Now that the convention is out of the way, Johnson and Weld can get down to business. They have to raise money, garner lots of media attention, and win the support of at least 15 percent of voters in polls to get an invite to the presidential and vice presidential debates. Weld has already engaged in some verbal sparring with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Weld compared Trump’s plan to deport 11 million immigrants to Kristallnacht, Adolph Hitler’s 1938 pogrom against Jews. Trump fired back, suggesting Weld is an alcoholic.

Some think the team of Johnson and Weld could do some damage, possibly even carry a state or two, something no third-party team has ever been able to do since 1968. A couple of scattered polls have shown Johnson pulling 10 percent support in a three-way race with Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Still, Johnson and Weld face a severe uphill climb in attracting disaffected Democrats and Republicans. Even Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has said he won’t be voting for anyone for president, including Weld, his mentor. Baker says he loves Weld but has problems with many of the Libertarian Party’s positions.




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