Why Not Gary Johnson?

Many of the friends I worked with back in my Republican days have recoiled, understandably, from the candidacy of Donald Trump. Some of them will vote for Hillary Clinton, but others are longtime GOP activists who–despite being heartsick about the current state of the party–cannot bring themselves to pull a Democratic lever.

I do sympathize. When you’ve spent your adult life working for a particular political agenda, it can seem like blasphemy to defect to the other side. (On the other hand, several newspapers have endorsed a Democrat for the first time, and numerous high-ranking Republicans have done so, recognizing that Trump’s GOP is no longer the party they originally joined.)

Several of them plan to vote for Gary Johnson, the libertarian, despite the fact that a vote for a third-party candidate is still a vote for Trump, albeit an indirect one.

I wonder if they really understand what Johnson (“what’s Aleppo?” “I can’t name any foreign leaders”) really stands for. Perhaps they don’t care, since there is no way a third-party candidate will win, but it’s interesting to look beyond the Libertarian’s popular support for legalizing marijuana, to other positions that are a bit less attractive.

A recent article catalogs them.Here are just a few of his more…interesting… positions.

  • No gun control. At all. Johnson says Americans would be safer if everyone was armed.
  • No minimum wage. At all. In July, he told the Washington Examiner that, if given the chance, “I would sign legislation to abolish it.” (In 1999, during his first term as New Mexico governor, Johnson did veto a bill that would have raised his state’s minimum wage from $4.25 an hour to $5.65.)
  • He opposes laws requiring equal pay for men and women doing the same job.
  • He opposes collective bargaining for public employees, and in New Mexico, vetoed the renewal of that state’s collective bargaining law.
  • He advocates cuts to Social Security
  • He wants to remove the federal government’s role in Medicare and Medicaid.
  • He supports privatized prisons.
  • He supports privatizing public education.

These are positions that my friends who are voting Libertarian for President are endorsing.

At least Johnson isn’t running around calling women “fat pigs” and whining that he lost a debate because they gave him a bad mic….I guess that’s something. So several people I know are determined to cast a protest vote for him, or for Jill Stein, to “send a message.”

It’s not the message they think they’re sending, however. As Clay Shirkey recently wrote in the Huffington Post

But it doesn’t matter what message you think you are sending, because no one will receive it. No one is listening. The system is set up so that every choice other than “R” or “D” boils down to “I defer to the judgement of my fellow citizens.” It’s easy to argue that our system shouldn’t work like that. It’s impossible to argue it doesn’t work like that….

Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as “voting your conscience,” but that’s got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren’t voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them.