Who cares about Gary Johnson’s “Aleppo moments”?

Here I have helpfully compiled the top five reasons why it doesn’t matter that Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson essentially can’t name a single foreign leader–or at least not one who can be justified as “respectable”–if asked. Some of these are a little complex, but hopefully you’ll be able to follow along:

  1. Gary Johnson will never be president
  2. Gary Johnson will never be president
  3. Gary Johnson will never be president
  4. Gary Johnson will never be president
  5. Gary Johnson will never be president

I get it, though. Gary Johnson has the potential to play genuine spoiler this year, though counter-intuitively, for a libertarian candidate, it’s because he seems to be a threat to take more votes away from the Democratic nominee–though, I have to tell you, that narrative is not particularly compelling if you actually dig into the numbers. I have no idea whether Johnson voters are slightly more likely to vote for Trump or Clinton, or to forego voting altogether, if they abandon him for whatever reason, but there’s not very much evidence that they’re really going to make a difference in November.

But “Johnson hurts Clinton more than Trump” does seem to be turning into conventional wisdom, in large part because it’s a narrative that lets the chattering class justify one of its favorite pastimes: blaming young lefties for the ills of the world. So this is the frame under which Johnson’s candidacy is being covered and it’s almost certainly the mindset with which the Clinton campaign is approaching Johnson right now. Gaffes like this–and it is a gaffe, even though Matthews’ question was the dumbest kind of gotcha interviewing–and his “Aleppo” misstep–also a gaffe, also in response to a dumb, gotcha question–are going to be covered seriously. Now that Johnson has given his own ignorance a catchy name–“Aleppo Moment,” because why not compound stupidity with extraordinarily bad taste?–you’re only going to see that coverage grow.

But, at the risk of repeating myself, Gary Johnson will never be president. Who cares if he can name any world leaders or knows where and what “Aleppo” is? Obviously I can’t know this for sure, but I’d imagine you’d be hard pressed to find a single Gary Johnson supporter who thinks he’s got a chance to win in November, and I’m including Johnson himself in that group. They’re not planning to vote for him because they think he’s going to win–they’re planning to vote for him because they don’t like the two major party nominees. Confronting those voters with evidence that Johnson is manifestly unsuited to the job isn’t going to matter, because they already know he’s not going to get the job.

Johnson’s numbers may well shrink as the election approaches–that’s fairly typical for third and fourth party bids, though given the unprecedented unpopularity of the Clinton-Trump choice, who knows? I don’t, however, think his numbers will drop much because people are suddenly worried that he’ll make a bad president.




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