Weld may pass anti-Trump muster but can he win Libertarians?
By Evan Lips | May 19, 2016, 18:32 EST
BOSTON – Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, tapped as a running mate by Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, is no fan of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s stance on immigration issues.
Weld, a registered Republican who lives in Canton, kicked off his bid to become vice president with a bang, telling the New York Times that he can “hear the glass crunching on Kristallnacht in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vienna,” a reference to the birth of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, whenever he hears about Trump’s plan to deport the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S.
But the former Bay State governor reportedly said that while his “Kristallnacht analogy does evoke the Nazi period in Germany,” he wasn’t trying to say that Trump is a Nazi or a fascist, the newspaper reported.
A Johnson-Weld ticket may be able to attract financial support from conservatives who remain staunchly opposed to Trump, and who may see a credible Libertarian bid as a way to encourage disaffected GOP voters to still go to the polls to support down-ticket candidates like New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is locked in a tight race with Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat. Charles and David Koch, the multibillionaire financiers who support numerous conservative groups and causes, have said they would sit out the presidential campaign and focus on state races this year.
But the DailyCaller.com, a conservative news outlet, reported that David Koch pledged to pump “tens of millions of dollars” into a Johnson Libertarian campaign. The story, which cited unnamed sources within Johnson’s organization, was denied by a Koch representative Thursday, according to reports in Washington media.
While Weld’s comments certainly will appeal to the Republican anti-Trump crowd, his libertarian credentials have attracted some critics. Writing for the pro-free market blog Reason.com, Jesse Walker recalled Weld’s initial plan to cut the relentless expansion of state government when he took office in the State House in 1991 and how soon those ambitions dissolved.
“Weld is more of a moderate ‘socially liberal, fiscally conservative’ type, with ‘fiscally conservative’ defined by Massachusetts standards and with ‘socially liberal’ defined in terms a Michael Bloomberg could embrace,” Walker wrote. A 70-year-old lawyer, Weld works for ML Strategies, a Boston-based public affairs firm.
A Conservative Review report by Rob Eno, a Massachusetts Republican activist, on Thursday asserted that Weld has taken “statist positions that should make libertarians run” from him. Eno listed the former governor’s support of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Weld’s backing of affirmative actions policies and his stance on gun control.
“Weld, a first-term Republican who opposed a ban on assault weapons when he ran for governor in 1990, said he had changed his mind because of the growing number of teenage murders and weapons on city streets,” a United Press International report said in September 1993. That position stands in stark contrast to the Libertarian Party’s official platform in 2014.
“We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense,” the party’s platform reads. “Private property owners should be free to establish their own conditions regarding the presence of personal defense weapons on their own property.”
“We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms or ammunition,” the party said.
Weld isn’t the only public figure involved in the 2016 presidential race to have shown a tendency to stray from the platform of his or her professed party.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, was a registered Republican before she abandoned the party as a college undergraduate, the Times has reported.
Left-leaning websites such as Salon.com question Clinton’s allegiance to progressive ideals. Writing for Salon, Stephan Richter argues that Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, her husband, “effectively hijacked the Democratic Party.”
“Young voters were not around in the early 1990s, but they are politically attuned,” he added. “They certainly realize that the Clintons’ method of rise to fame was that they sold themselves explicitly as ‘moderates’ and ‘centrists.’” Bill Clinton ran for the White House in 1992 as a “New Democrat,” socially liberal but economically more conservative than many in the party at the time.
Hillary Clinton’s challenger this time around, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described social democrat, was elected as an independent, not a Democrat, and maintains on his Senate website his commitment to serving as an independent although on his presidential campaign website, the Vermonter calls himself a Democrat.
Sanders has frequently used his leftist leanings to question Clinton’s commitment to progressive policies:
.@kasie asks Sanders if Hillary Clinton is a progressive. “Some days,” he replies.
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) February 2, 2016
As for the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump’s past doesn’t include a voting record on issues but does reflect a myriad of steps and stances that run counter to conservative beliefs. What’s more, he has a record of giving donations to Democrats, including the Clintons’ foundation.
Yet vanquished Republican foes like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took to ripping Trump’s record only to discover that their pleas to GOP voters were falling on deaf ears.
Trump’s own voting registration record shows a history of leaping back and forth between parties. After signing up as a Republican as early as 1987, Trump registered as a member of the Independence Party in 1999. He ran for the Reform Party presidential nomination in 1999 and won its California primary before registering as a Democrat in 2001.
He switched sides again in 2009, registering as a Republican, before claiming no party affiliation in 2011 and eventually returning to the Republican voter rolls in 2012, according to Politifact Florida.
Meanwhile, Weld’s venture into the presidential race has added a distinct Bay State flavor to the proceedings, although it still remains to be seen whether he and Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, will see their names on Massachusetts ballots by the time Nov. 8 arrives. The duo must first secure and submit at least 10,000 certified signatures by 5 p.m. on Aug. 20, according to rules posted by the secretary of state’s office.
Johnson also ran for president under the Libertarian banner in 2012. That year, he managed to secure a place on the Bay State ballot. He netted 1 percent of the national vote, finishing a distant third behind GOP candidate Mitt Romney, another former Massachusetts governor, and President Barack Obama.
Weld made his candidacy official Thursday. He and Johnson must still secure the Libertarian Party’s nomination at its national convention in Orlando, Florida, later this month.