In a presidential election season dominated by personal attacks and hyperbolic rhetoric, the Libertarian Party’s nominees sought to portray themselves as the adults in the room, as they addressed roughly 500 supporters and curiosity-seekers on Boston Common Saturday afternoon.
Two-term former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, the party’s vice presidential candidate, and presidential nominee Gary Johnson, a past New Mexico governor, presented their ticket as an alternative to the candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties, both of which are viewed negatively by many voters.
“Is this the craziest election ever?” Johnson asked, to a chorus of agreement from the crowd. “And you know how crazy it is? I’m going to be the next president of the United States.”
Despite that statement, the candidates mostly sought to convince voters not so much that their long-shot campaign actually will win in November, but that it conceivably could prevail.
Weld said many people have “been brainwashed by the palaver coming out of Washington that ... this is etched in stone somewhere: It has to be an R or a D or else it’s not real. And if you vote for anybody else, you’re wasting your vote.”
He said their ticket still can win the 15 percent support in five public polls required for Johnson to be eligible for presidential debates, which he said would provide a platform to build name recognition and win voters.
Weld was critical of both major parties but never mentioned Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by name, instead focusing his most stinging barbs on her Republican rival, Donald Trump.
“We have one presidential candidate who delights in setting group against group, who, candidly, in my opinion, his strategy is to stir up fear and hatred, and use them to his advantage,” Weld said. “It is true that people’s teeth are on edge in this country right now. ... There’s all kinds of areas where Mr. Trump is trying to stir up negativity.”
Johnson mentioned Clinton briefly, but he, too, was most acerbic in discussing Trump, particularly the New York developer’s proposal to build a wall along the US border with Mexico.
“Donald Trump, you know, during the Olympics, was intently watching the Olympics. He wanted to see how high the Mexican pole-vaulters could go,” he gibed. “Building a wall across the border is crazy.”
Johnson laid out a platform of small-government policies that hewed closely to Libertarian orthodoxy on most matters.
“Libertarians — common sense: keep government out of my pocketbook and out of my bedroom,” he summarized.
Discussing domestic issues, he said he would work to reduce regulation, present a balanced budget to Congress in his first 100 days, and reform Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the country’s private insurance system.
On foreign policy, he pledged to cut military spending and avoid international military interventions and efforts at regime change.
Those vows won cheers and applause from many in the crowd, which included people of many ages and backgrounds but skewed toward millennials, a group Weld touted as among their most ardent supporters.
Daniel Kolsoi, 23, said the candidates’ message resonated with him.
“I thought it was great,” said Kolsoi, who traveled to Boston from Central Massachusetts for the rally. “It was really good to see how enthusiastic people were.”
But Brandeis University student Casey Cho, 20, said he previously supported Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and would probably vote for Clinton in November.
“I wasn’t really convinced by them,” he said of Johnson and Weld, “but I do think they were great speakers.”Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.