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Looking at Gary Johnson

Jonathan Adler over at Volokh posts about assessing Gary Johnson. I think it’s a damned shame this guy disappeared from politics for so long, because when the GOP field first revealed itself, he was my guy. His candidacy didn’t last long, and to be honest, I didn’t expect it to. Dropping off the political scene entirely for ten years is essentially an end to a political career. Nonetheless, Johnson was a very successful and popular Governor of New Mexico, which is a tough state to be a Republican in.

This election he’ll be running on the Libertarian ticket now, which essentially means he doesn’t stand a chance of doing anything save winning Obama another eight years. I know when I say things like that, it pisses off a lot of Libertarian folks, but that is reality. I agree he’s the best Libertarian candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime, in terms of being a mainstream politician with actual executive experience at the state level. Presumably since he’s been a successful two term Governor, he also knows how to fund raise. But there are unfortunately, not enough libertarians in this country to carry a candidate to victory in a three way race. I could get excited about Johnson if the Democrats were fielding centrist candidates, but a surging Libertarian movement through the Libertarian party is going to mean the left get several more decades to drive the country closer to a European-style social democracy, which over the not-so-long run is going to mean the country goes bankrupt, and people will be burning money for warmth long before that.

The only way Libertarians can win elections in a winner-takes-all system is to coalition within one of the major parties. If we had a parliamentary system, that would happen as part of the government. In our system, it happens in extra-governmental political parties. Ron Paul was never going to accomplish that. Gary Johnson could have ten years ago, but not in 2012. I’m still waiting for our White Buffalo; someone who can carry libertarian principles and still hold on to social conservatives in the GOP, or someone who can forge a new movement for libertarian ideas in the Democratic party. That would take courage from a species of man who is normally uncourageous. It would take leadership from a type of people who are poor leaders. It will also take a willingness of libertarian-leaning people to understand there aren’t enough of them to carry majorities without forming coalitions with other interests. Can it happen? I think it could. But not this election.

35 Responses to “Looking at Gary Johnson”

  1. jtbolt says:

    I’d prefer a two way race. Romney vs Johnson. Other candidates in the sub 5% area.

  2. David says:

    Does he know how to raise funds on a national scale? He only raised $700,000 for his presidential bid, even T-Paw raised like 6x as much in just a few weeks as a candidate. Johnson has some great ideas, I think he’d be better off making it to the Senate – a place he could actually win. Most people have never heard of him nor could they pick him out of a one man line up.

    Social conservatives, aka bible thumpers, are dying off. The old school republican party knows this and they’re having trouble coming to terms with it. Now, Rand Paul is someone to talk about. He already has a national voice in the Senate and is not afraid to challenge the old republican model of doing business.

  3. Jake says:

    someone who can carry libertarian principles and still hold on to social conservatives

    The person you are waiting for can not exist, since the two ideals (libertarian principles and social conservative principles) are mutually exclusive.

    You’re right, Johnson won’t win this year. But he has the best chance in a long time of a) pulling the LP above the 5% requirement for federal funding, and b) making libertarian principles more mainstream while (and by) overcoming the “kook” perception that is a legacy of the Ron Paul years.

    • Alpheus says:

      Should an LP candidate even accept federal funding? That would be going against Libertarian principles! Although, I would also admit that qualifying and accepting are two different things; the first would be a milestone.

    • Jay says:

      It’s also a good thing if the LP polls at or above 15% and can demand their seat at the national debates. From a pragmatic standpoint, it would force Romney to the right on several issues to retain loyal Republican votes.

    • jetfxr69 says:

      The person you are waiting for can not exist, since the two ideals (libertarian principles and social conservative principles) are mutually exclusive.

      Statement is factually incorrect.

      As a libertarian I can find certain behavior abhorrent, but as long as I don’t attempt to use any form of force to prevent it, how is that inconsistent?

      Social conservatism doesn’t mean wanting government to solve moral issues. It means wanting people to act morally. NOT the same thing.

      • Jake says:

        My understanding is that “Social conservatism” in this case is referring to a political philosophy, as opposed to a moral philosophy. The political philosophy includes the belief that using the state to prevent people from acting immorally (according to the person’s specific set of moral beliefs) is, in itself, moral, and that not doing so is actually immoral.

        The “social conservatives” at issue here are the ones that (for example) vehemently oppose the state recognizing gay marriages as equal (or even allowing them at all) because they believe the practice abhorrent, and believe they have a duty to prevent immorality (as they define it). A libertarian might also find it abhorrent, but would also say “It doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights, so if the state recognizes straight marriages, then it should recognize gay marriages equally”.

        The two philosophies are mutually exclusive.

        • I am not aware of any social conservatives that want the states to prohibit same-sex marriages. If you can find someone prepared to perform whatever ceremony you want, fine. Just don’t expect the government to recognize it.

          • Divemedic says:

            North Carolina is proof that you are incorrect.

            • Sebastian says:

              Technically speaking, the NC ballot measure will only prohibit government recognition. If you Universal Life Church or the Unitarians want to conduct gay marriages, the measure would not prohibit them, only prohibit state recognition of them.

              • Arnie says:

                An excellent clarification, and well stated, Sebastian.
                A true libertarian would let people reap what they sow without forcing others (taxpayers) to recognize, endorse, support or bail them out. The state cannot persecute them, but neither can it force others to endorse their behavior.
                I should think this also would apply to drug use, homeschooling, healthcare, retirement provision, POSSESSION of arms, and every other lifestyle choice people could make that does not directly affect the Creator-endowed rights of others.

        • jetfxr69 says:

          So, what your saying is that libertarianism and statism (regardless of the moral or amoral driver on any issue) are mutually exclusive. Got it.

          Accepted, proof by definition. Q.E.D.

  4. Alpheus says:

    I don’t think that Gary Johnson is going to take away any votes from the Republicans; indeed, I’m inclined to believe that the only votes Johnson is going to get, is from Libertarians who otherwise wouldn’t vote.

    Which reminds me: if you can’t bring yourself to vote for Romney, get out and vote anyway! Vote for Johnson for President, or someone else entirely, or no one in particular…and then vote in liberty-minded Representatives and Senators, and other positions, for State and Local elections!

    Too many people act as though the President is all that matters, and if you don’t like the President, you might as well stay home.

    • mike says:

      I voted for McCain last time, but this time I’ll be voting for Johnson if the GOP puts Romney up. I don’t want EITHER Romney or Obama to win in 2012, so I won’t be voting for either of them. Either one winning is equally bad to me, so there’s no point voting for one over the other.

  5. Jeff says:

    I don’t know anything about NM politics, but their junior senator Tom Udall is up for election in 2014. If Johnson is still as popular there as he was as Governor, maybe he’d have a shot at it?

  6. Greg says:

    I’m a lifelong registered Republican. I’ve given money to the party and participated in events like fund raising dinners etc. No matter how many times they call me and ask for money, there will never get another dime. I’m done with them and I’ll be voting for Johnson.

    I fell into line and pulled the lever for Dole, McCain and both Bushes and I’m done. I came close to being done with them back in 2004 when Toomey was running against Specter. The state party, Bush and Santorum all endorsed Specter and that should have been enough to realize that the Replican party is a lost cause.

    I’ll remain a registered Republican for now and remain a libertarian (small l) so I can support candidates within the party, but Romney, a guy who likes gun control and state run healthcare isn’t getting my vote.

    I only hope that Johnson pulls enough votes to keep the Romneys from moving into 1600 PA Avenue. He can’t win but if he does well enough it will send yet another message to the GOP.

    • Sebastian says:

      I just don’t think this is the election for sending that message. Obama’s re-election pretty much guarantees the extinction of the Second Amendment. Romney will at least be much more likely to put pro 2A justices on the court.

      Plus, political parties don’t really get that message. All that happens in that instance is Democrats win, and social conservative gets strengthened within the GOP.

      • jetfxr69 says:

        Plus, political parties don’t really get that message. All that happens in that instance is Democrats win, and social conservative gets strengthened within the GOP.

        Ummm, no. What happens in that instance is that Democrats win, and the GOP “learns” that they needed to move FARTHER LEFT, because that’s “what it took” to win.

      • mike says:

        Yes, this election – like every other election – is the most important election EVAR. So we have to put our principals aside and vote for the party. Just this one last time. And just like every other time.

        Newsflash: A lot of people finally caught on to that trick.

  7. Andy B. says:

    The only way Libertarians can win elections in a winner-takes-all system is to coalition within one of the major parties.

    That’s been tried before and has never worked, because the major parties are all about their own power and not about ideology at all, other than as it provides lyrics for their love songs to us. If Libertarians could write eight-figure checks for them, then they might be able to influence their policy — a little.

    As a big-L Libertarian for a period roughly between 20 and 30 years ago, it is possible I handed out more literature for Republican candidates and “conservatives” in general, than for Libertarian candidates. The theory was that on a majority of issues (e.g., economic issues) we were on the same side, and it was nice to feel we really were somehow in the game. Such favors never, ever, ever were reciprocated, and in some cases social conservatives who used us felt no qualms about then denouncing us in public. Their issues are their issues, and everything except their issues are the work of Satan. The same people we helped at the polls were only too glad once in office to vote for steps that would limit ballot access for minor parties.

    And, need I point out that they seldom if ever delivered anything on our supposed “shared” issues?

    • Sebastian says:

      I think a lot of that is because SoCos are reliable allies when it comes to bringing organization, volunteers, and votes to the table. If a libertarian wing of the the party is going to challenge the influence of social conservatives, I think it’s going to have to bring comparable assets to the table.

      As far as Pennsylvania goes, I am not optimistic, because we have a sclerotic party apparatus in the GOP, and I’m not sure the “tea party” groups here are strong enough to oust it and start running their own candidates from the local level on up.

      But in other states, where the GOP is a bit more dominant, and the sclerotic appendages don’t go back as far as they do here, it should be more possible for libertarian minded people to make inroads. The big problem, as I see it, is that both libertarians and SoCos are a bit unwilling to compromise, but because the SoCos bring a stronger ground game to the table, they can get away more often with being stubborn and unmovable. In states with a bit more of a “f**k you” tradition to authority and establishment than we have here in PA, more might be possible.

      • You are correct that SoCos bring more volunteers and votes to the table. The reason is partly numbers, relative to libertarians, and also an ideological difference. Libertarians are often Randian in origin, and the focus on self-interest makes it harder for such libertarians to justify the effort put into a project that has no direct benefit.

        • Alpheus says:

          It isn’t just the Randian influence. When you tend to be anti-government, it’s difficult to want to be involved in government.

          This isn’t just a problem with libertarians, though–conservatives have a strong element of this as well. To further rub salt into this wound, anyone who thinks government should be involved in everything is going to be naturally attracted to government work! Rather annoying, really, but there’s not much we can do about it.

    • jetfxr69 says:

      Such favors never, ever, ever were reciprocated, and in some cases social conservatives who used us felt no qualms about then denouncing us in public. Their issues are their issues, and everything except their issues are the work of Satan.

      Do we know anyone else or any other group for which “Their issues are their issues, and everything except their issue are the work of Satan”?

      (see discussions of people who will be voting against Romney, because they don’t understand–or don’t want to accept–the backstory Bitter laid out here several weeks ago)

    • Jake says:

      In other words, “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy, no more, no less.”

      • ecurb says:

        Rule 29, eh?
        I get to vote for Johnson because my state’s going for Obama anyway. Glad I’m not facing the choices some of you guys are.

    • I’m not sure that this is true. SoCos are overwhelmingly pro-gun, generally supportive of the federalist distinction (many were not happy with California’s medical marijuana law, but even less happy with the Raich decision). Yes, SoCos are generally not willing to scrap the welfare state, but do recognize that it needs serious reform–hence the 1995 changes that substantially corrected the flaws of AFDC.

  8. Greg says:

    I’m just done choosing between dog crap and cat crap. It’s all crap. I’ll vote for the person the most aligned to my views and let the chips fall where they may. In November that means I vote for Johnson, if that means Obama stays in a job he is unable to do and seems to hate, so be it.

    Maybe if more people voted this way rather then folding it would make a difference, maybe not. Either way on November 7th I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I did my part to elect somebody that I believe in.

  9. Sage Thrasher says:

    I met Gary & found him a very down-to-earth, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy. His position on legalizing most “victimless” crimes, especially ending our drug war, is refreshing. However, the country’s winner-take-all district by district voting system for Congress and even state legislative offices coupled with the electoral college pretty well guarantees a two-party system forever, and Gary’s run at this point won’t change that or accomplish much. I don’t think it’s ever throwing away your vote to vote your conscious, but I also don’t see the Libertarians replacing the Republicans on the right any more than the real Communists, Socialists or Greens are going to replace the Democrats on the left anytime soon. A conservative party–perhaps the Libertarian–that doesn’t pick & choose which individual rights to support, and eschews both militarism and imposing religious sanctions on non-believers is devoutly to be wished for, but I think we’re stuck with trying to push the two parties we have in the directions we think each needs to go or else tampering with the Constitution, which frankly I don’t think we currently have the collective political wisdom to risk.

  10. Andy B. says:

    SoCos are reliable allies when it comes to bringing organization, volunteers, and votes to the table.

    That reminds me of another of my Old Stories, so gather ’round children. . .

    Back c. 1995 we organized (briefly) something called the “Keystone Firearms Coalition” here in Pennsylvania. At the first meeting we appointed, by popular acclaim, a guy as chairman because he was so good at organizing and controlling a meeting — herding tomcats, as it were. He was Christian Coalition.

    To shorten the story it can’t be said he exactly subverted the organization, but it is fair to say he never did anything to advance our RKBA goals. As a matter of fact, what he spent most of his time doing was calling up the other principals and lobbying us privately to extend the group’s interests to “other” issues. We all declined, to his annoyance.

    One evening after a statewide meeting his wife volunteered the information at dinner that “If he ever brought a gun into the house I’d kill him. . .” After that evening, what with being outed as a stealth infiltrator, he disappeared and was never seen nor heard from again.

    Yeah, their organizational skills are great. Just great. And they are better at stealth than ever. We seem to elect them all the time.

  11. Oranje Mike says:

    I did not cast my vote for Gary Johnson at the LP Convention in Las Vegas. R. Lee Wrights was my guy. That said, I will proudly cast my ballot for Governor Johnson in November. I refuse to become another victim of the “lesser-of-two-evils” mindset. Barak Obama is a weak leader of a divided congress and nation. Mitt Romney has no solutions to offer our suffering nation. Would I rather see Romney in the White House than Obama? Sure. But I’m not naive enough to think anything will actually change under Romney rule.

    • Sage Thrasher says:

      “Barak Obama is a weak leader of a divided congress and nation. Mitt Romney has no solutions to offer our suffering nation.”

      I have no doubt that a majority of voters agree with you entirely. You make a good case for voting one’s conscious. I personally don’t think the world will come to an end if either Obama or Romney wins in November, but as you say, neither will make anything better, and neither are leaders in any sense of the word.

  12. Andy B. says:

    You make a good case for voting one’s conscious. . .

    In Y2K I allowed the Republican Noise Machine to stampede me into voting for Bush. My conscience has bothered me for the past twelve years, because I knew better, even as I was doing it. Not that I would have voted for his Democratic opponent, but, by casting my vote as I did I “laid my hand on the rope” of everything that happened for the next eight years — but that also would have been true if I had voted Democratic.

    In 2008 I voted for no one for President, because even the minor party offerings were awful, and they didn’t need to be encouraged to more such crappy choices in the future. I have remained happy with that decision, and a clear conscience, ever since. Gary Johnson has opened the possibility of again voting for a presidential candidate, and living with a clear conscience.

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