CNN, in what we hope will be a trend, is hosting a town hall Wednesday with the Libertarian ticket, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Considering how poorly Donald Trump is doing, the Libertarian ticket stands to gain a record share of the vote and offers voters from both major parties an alternative to "holding their noses" or not voting for president.
The Libertarians deserve real, substantive questions (as opposed to "Do you really think you can win?"). For one thing, they differ with both major-party candidates on several issues that deserve exploration.
- Why is free trade a good thing for our economy? What can you tell workers displaced in certain industries?
- You want to legalize marijuana. What about sales to children? Why not heroin?
- On foreign policy, what should we do if Iran proceeds to build a nuclear weapon? Short of military action, what steps would you favor to curtail its support for terrorism and its regional aggression?
- Doesn't the emergence of failed states and the burgeoning of the Islamic State under President Barack Obama suggest that when we withdraw, dangerous vacuums emerge that become havens and launching pads for the Islamic State?
- If Congress voted for it, would you support a war with limited numbers of troops in conjunction with larger numbers of Arab troops to root out the terrorists and thereby eliminate the inspiration for lone wolves?
- Why should we spend less on defense when the threats to America are multiplying?
- Do you favor hiring more FBI investigators to question and track suspected terrorists?
- Should those suspected and questioned about potential terrorism be allowed to buy a gun?
- Do you favor curtailing existing background checks?
Much more interesting may be hearing their critiques of the two other candidates. Neither have been entirely forthcoming (Hillary Clinton on her speeches, Trump on his taxes) and both have long-standing ties to Wall Street. A number of questions would be illuminating:
- Will you release your tax returns?
- Should RNC delegates demand Trump release his tax returns?
- Is there a problem electing a multimillionaire or a purported billionaire as president? What do these candidates not understand that you do about "everyday Americans"?
- What examples of cronyism in government would you eliminate?
Finally, this would be a time to discuss some of the fundamentals of Libertarians and some of the assumptions on which the party is built.
- Libertarians like Richard Epstein argue that a robust foreign policy and military are not inconsistent with libertarian philosophy since these are areas of government spelled out in the Constitution and which states and individuals cannot undertake on their own. Is he right?
- In a post-9/11 world, is it a necessity to have a proactive foreign policy aimed at eradicating terrorists overseas before they come to our shores? Do you think trade and mutual understanding are real solutions to jihadists or to aggressive states such as Russia and Iran?
- What social safety net should the federal government have?
- A thriving economy does not necessarily eliminate poverty. Should we do more, and if so, what?
Neither of the major-party candidates is proposing entitlement reform or budget discipline. That alone should invite some discussion with the Libertarian ticket: How much government do we need? Can we afford? In contrast with the presumptive GOP nominee, they may have something enlightening to say.