A new group aimed at pairing “Never Trump” and “Never Hillary” votes has launched a viral social media marketing campaign aimed at capitalizing on voters’ dissatisfaction with the major party nominees and boosting Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson.
Matt Kibbe, Alternative PAC’s president who formerly led the Tea-Party-aligned FreedomWorks organization, said the strategy of the “Balanced Rebellion” is primarily aimed at recruiting disaffected constitutional conservatives and disaffected Bernie Sanders voters, particularly millennials.
The mission of the Balanced Rebellion is to pair anti-Trump Republicans and anti-Clinton Democrats together so that their votes for Johnson do not function as a de facto vote for their ideological opposite. All of them, however, will vote for Johnson.
“We’re not going for low-hanging fruit, we’re converting people that should be with either the Republican or Democratic parties,” Kibbe said. “We will certainly match hundreds of thousands of voters in the states that really matter for Gary Johnson.”
The states Kibbe is targeting include Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah. His plan appears to be borne out of the lessons he learned while working on a super PAC for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential bid in Iowa.
“The trend we saw was that a lot of young people that were rallying for Rand, ended up caucusing for Bernie Sanders,” Kibbe said. “And I don’t think that’s as strange as it sounds because I think the frustrations and the distrust of crony capitalism, the anger about permanent war, the way that the Federal Reserve manipulates money and interests and the value of what people have in their bank accounts, you hear a lot of those same frustrations coming from Ron Paul liberty movement students and Bernie Sanders supporters.”
One such Sanders supporter came up with the idea for the Balanced Rebellion. Duane Johnson, a Canadian who lives in Utah and volunteered for Sanders in Nevada during the caucus, is working to boost Gary Johnson now because he trusts the Libertarian nominee.
“I’m a software engineer and was trying to think about what I could do to maybe make it a little bit easier for people,” Johnson said. “I have friends on both sides of the aisle — people who are Democrats who can’t believe Trump got in and people who are Republicans who can’t believe Hillary got chosen as the opposite party’s leader. So then I thought why can’t I just match these people so then they can go vote for somebody else that they would actually, probably more appreciate and feel good about voting for?”
Johnson knew the Harmon Brothers ad agency, which counts libertarians among its leadership, and worked on developing a website for the Balanced Rebellion as the ad agency produced a video with the potential to go viral. The ad, which has been seen more than 17.3 million times on Facebook since it was posted on August 25, features a man dressed as Abe Lincoln comparing the 2016 election to Batman.
“Look, if America is Gotham City, then Hillary is the mob and Trump is the joker,” the Lincoln impersonator says in the ad. “The mob is always there, it’s corrupt, but at least you know what you’re getting. The Joker just got here, he’s creating total chaos, and you don’t know what he’ll do next but you know it’s going to be hell.”
The Lincoln impersonator continues, “America, picking between the Joker and the mob is not a real choice. It’s time to vote for freaking Batman. Gary Johnson is the only candidate who can beat Trump and Hillary.”
Dave Vance, a comedian and creative writer at Harmon Brothers who wrote the ad, said the Batman shtick had been something he’d been thinking about for months. He was less comfortable with President Lincoln as the vessel of a Libertarian message.
“The choice of Abe Lincoln gave me a little bit of heartburn because he’s the furthest thing from a Libertarian,” Vance said. “He used federal government power to force the Southern states to stay in the Union.”
But Vance said he recognized the value in using a popular historical figure who won the presidency as an alternative party candidate. And voters are recognizing and responding to it too.
Before the Labor Day weekend, the Balanced Rebellion effort attracted just over 50,000 voters to match, with slightly more Republicans taking the plunge than Democrats, according to Vance. Kibbe said the video has amassed more than 409,000 shares via Facebook as of Tuesday, which he claimed makes it the most viral ad of the general election. He and Vance have a goal of growing the ad’s viewership from more than 17.3 million — as of this article’s writing — to 100 million by Election Day.
Kibbe also said Alternative PAC has raised approximately $1.1 million since its inception from 760 donors. He hopes the Balanced Rebellion serves to create a new political coalition that is broadly libertarian and can survive 2016.
“I think there’s fundamental disruption of this whole myth that the political spectrum runs left to right; I think a better understanding is authoritarianism and that kind of stuff versus more liberty and a more decentralized culture,” Kibbe said. “The old rules of politics are crumbling before our eyes and the way that the two party duopoly has held onto power was always driven by money, by name ID, by endorsements from poobahs in Washington, and the trend is clearly breaking that whole paradigm up. … So does that mean that a third party presidential candidate can be competitive? I think so.”