Character attacks could benefit Trump reelection

Opinion section
Valley News - Opinion

The attacks on President Donald Trump’s character could actually help his reelection and not because of a backlash or by diverting the Democrats from campaigning on substantive issues.

In the 2016 election, the combined vote total for Trump and Gary Johnson exceeded the votes for Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein combined. Trump carried 30 states, and in four others the votes for Trump and Johnson combined exceeded the combined votes for Clinton and Stein. The Democrats’ best strategy in the 2020 presidential election may be for the Libertarian to take away more votes from Trump than the Green Party nominee takes away from the Democrat.

Computer anti-virus company founder John McAfee is one of the candidates seeking the 2020 Libertarian Party nomination. He is more respected by the computer industry than by the moral wing of the conservative-libertarian right. If McAfee wins the Libertarian nomination the use of character attacks could take votes away from McAfee and could thus give Trump the plurality in key states.

In some past presidential campaigns, the Libertarians have nominated a former Republican governor or congressman. Their 1992 nominee was Andre Marrou, who became the first Libertarian elected to a partisan office when he won a seat in the Alaska state legislature. The Libertarians have also nominated party activists. None of the previous Libertarian Party nominees has the name recognition outside the political world McAfee does.

In 2016, Johnson became the second Libertarian Party nominee to receive more than 1% of the total vote. The other was Ed Clark, who was actually a fourth-party candidate in 1980 since John B. Anderson was on the ballot as an independent. Clark was a party activist, but his vice-presidential nominee was one of the Koch brothers and David Koch’s spending allowed Clark to have the support he did. Clark actually finished third, ahead of Anderson, in Alaska, and he was fourth in the other 49 states while finishing fifth in the District of Columbia behind Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Anderson and Citizens Party nominee Barry Commoner.

McAfee doesn’t have the financial wealth Koch had, but he has more name recognition than Koch let alone Clark had in 1980. McAfee’s name recognition might provide the Libertarians with their greatest support ever in a presidential election.

If some state banned guns and rural residents in that state who know how to use a lasso started roping trespassers and some non-white unconvicted criminal died with a rope around his neck, the liberals would complain that the deceased wasn’t allowed the proper justice to defend himself. John McAfee is also entitled to the courtesy of being presumed innocent until proven guilty. What is fact is that there are accusations about McAfee’s character.

If the character of Trump can be assaulted during the presidential campaign so can the character of John McAfee. That could keep McAfee from realizing his full potential as the Libertarian Party nominee and could thus reduce the number of votes McAfee takes away from Trump.

The character weapon wasn’t sufficient to defeat Trump in the 2016 campaign. This time it could defeat the best chance the Democrats have of preventing Trump from being reelected.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at