By Mike Ludwig, Truth-Out.org, May 26th, 2016:
Last month, election researchers estimated that 1.5 million people under the age of 30 voted for Bernie Sanders in primaries, a number more than double the youth turnout for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It’s no secret that the 74-year-old democratic socialist energized millennial voters by challenging the political establishment, and third-party players are betting that these voters will be up for grabs if Clinton secures the Democratic nomination. Green Party front-runner Jill Stein is campaigning as the progressive “plan B,” and Libertarian candidates have not been shy about appearing cutting edge.
Libertarian front-runner and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is touting his support for LGBTQ rights, medical marijuana and ending the war on drugs. A promotional video for rival John McAfee features young marijuana smokers, antiwar hippies and Burning Man revelers alongside Steve Jobs and the controversial CEO of Whole Foods, a tableau of counterculture and techno-capitalism that seems to summarize the software tycoon’s personal identity.
These Libertarians apparently want millennial voters to know that their party is not just for aging white guys with backgrounds in venture capitalism — even when that’s exactly what they are. However, a much younger and more conservative candidate, Austin Petersen, is challenging both of them from the right, and he’s bringing a sizable chunk of the party’s youthful base with him.
This could be a big year for a Libertarian candidate. Trump and Clinton are deeply unpopular, and a recent poll found that nearly half of all voters would consider supporting a third-party candidate if Trump and Clinton are the nominees. The Libertarians already credit Trump for a surge in new party memberships and are eager to pull in disappointed Sanders fans.
To an outsider, Johnson seems like a shoo-in. He is the only candidate mentioned in major polls and recently took 10 percent of the vote when pitted against Clinton and Trump, including 18 percent of participants under the age of 35. An ongoing poll on the Libertarian Party’s website, however, shows Petersen way ahead of both Johnson and McAfee, suggesting that he may have the support of the party’s rank and file — or at least its legions of online activists — as the Libertarians prepare to nominate a candidate at their convention this weekend.