Perhaps one of the biggest news stories in the world of libertarianism this year was former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party record-breaking general election raw vote total of approximately 1.2 million popular votes. This figure wasn’t enough to clear a one percent threshold according to Reason’s Garrett Quinn, but the state by state gains over the Barr/Root ticket of 2008 were astounding. Libertarianism was and continues to be a thick strand in the sinews of the Tea Party movement, and it’s no surprise that a Libertarian Party candidate like Johnson, running against a progressive Democrat and an establishment Republican, garnered record-breaking numbers. Quinn, who followed Johnson on the trail for Reason during the last cycle, has an excellent piece on the future of the Libertarian Party in the December 2012 dead tree edition of the magazine. Here’s an excerpt:
I want to love the Libertarian Party. I really do. It’s the only political party out there that is anywhere close to my beliefs. I cannot stand the Democrats’ Keynesian social welfare malarkey, which ruins our economy, keeps folks from getting jobs, basically makes people dependent on the government, and is run on absolutely no logic whatsoever. Conversely, I cannot stand the Republicans’ social conservatism BS, which oppresses gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, Muslims, pagans, atheists (and agnostics), Hispanics, immigrants, marijuana users and, to an extent, women. I can’t stand either party’s foreign policy, or their joint support of such idiotic civil liberty destroying things such as our current national security state or the war on drugs. Only the Libertarian Party has a platform that I fully (or near as fully as anyone can) support.
But regrettably, the Libertarian Party hasn’t had a lot of success. This is understandable; we are unfortunately stuck on a rather ridiculous plurality vote system that became obsolete in the middle of the 20th century, an archaic throwback to a far more simpler time when the entire electorate was comprised of a bunch of old white landowners (all men, natch.) In our current system, it is nearly impossible for a third party to get success anywhere, though there are examples where they do (notably at the governor level, including, this last time around, Rhode Island.)
Many of my conversations with Republicans regarding the Presidential race and the fact that I intend to vote for Gary Johnson usually end up in one of two categories. First, there are the people who tell me that by voting for Johnson, I’m voting for President Obama. As I’ve noted before, this an absurd argument largely because it assumes that Mitt Romney is entitled to my vote as a libertarian, an argument which I don’t accept. The other argument I frequently hear is one that basically says that my vote is wasted because Gary Johnson isn’t going to have any impact on the race. I’ve always thought that the two arguments are mutually contradictory. After all, if my vote for Johnson is going to hurt Romney then it obviously will have some impact on the race, and if it isn’t going to have any impact on the race then it isn’t going to hurt Mitt Romney. You really can’t make both arguments at the same time.
I’ve always thought, though, that the best way to judge what people really think is to look at how they act, and based on their actions, Republicans really seem to be concerned about Gary Johnson’s potential impact on the Presidential race:
When he was running for the Republican presidential nomination last year, Gary Johnson, the former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, drew ridicule from mainstream party members as he advocated legalized marijuana and a 43 percent cut in military spending.
Over the last few days, I’ve been reading some interesting conversations on Twitter and elsewhere about the role that libertarians will play in the presidential election. There has been a lot of talk about Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee, spoiling the election for Mitt Romney. That has obviously caused some concern by and friction from conservatives, who are saying that a “vote for Johnson is a vote for Obama.”
Before I jump into some points, I’d like to remind my conservative friends that this is not one national race for president, but rather 51 separate races, including the District of Columbia. By my count, Romney has a long road to haul in many battleground states, including Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia. Right now, President Barack Obama holds a substantial advantage in the Electoral College, which is what ultimately matters on election day.
There is a disconnect between conservatives and libertarians. Our conservative friends tend to believe in the concept of “ordered liberty,” a principle perhaps best explained by Russell Kirk. To most libertarians, the concept of ordered liberty is really “soft statism.” As you might imagine, this view doesn’t really have much of an appeal to libertarians.
When it comes down to it, libertarians don’t fit anywhere on the political scale. While many will dumb down our beliefs as “socially liberal” and “fiscally conservative,” there is really much more to the equation. We believe in the sovereignty of the individual. Our view of morality can be best defined by what John Stuart Mill called the “harm principle.”
Conventions aren’t just about the present, conventions are also about the future. As the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa draws to a close, one of the most important questions for the party going forward is what role – if any – will libertarians play in the direction of the GOP in the years ahead.
Congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination helped to launch the modern day liberty movement and gave voice to libertarians within the Republican Party.
The rise of the Tea Party and a second Paul Republican Presidential run gave the libertarian wing of the party hope for the future and increased visibility.
As Paul’s popularity grew in the party, so did the tension between the libertarian wing of the GOP and the party’s establishment. Many in the establishment would have you believe that the tension was more about the behavior of Ron Paul’s supporters than about policy. While there is no doubt that Ron Paul has an intensely loyal and fervent following, the truth is the tension wasn’t about behavior – it was about policy.
Libertarians want an end to foreign adventurism, they want deep cuts in spending across the board (including the military), they want government out of the boardrooms and the bedrooms, they want dramatic tax reform (starting with throwing out the current tax code), they want to privatize social security and Medicare, and they want a return to sound money.
The policy differences between libertarians and the current GOP are real and they are significant. The question going forward is whether this marriage can be saved?
After the GOP convention in Tampa in August, Ron Paul’s presidential campaign and political career will officially come to an end. Despite the protestations of some hardcore supporters, Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee and in fact, he will likely not even be nominated at the convention in Tampa.
Many supporters are gravitating towards campaign of Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, however to be perfectly blunt, my three month old puppy has a better shot at being elected President than he does. In addition, there will be same number of Libertarian Party members of the House and Senate, none. This is not what I hope will happen, this is simply stating reality. If the liberty movement is to continue after the end of Ron Paul’s career, we need to lay a solid foundation for political success. I believe the best way to lay a foundation for the liberty movement is take a page from professional baseball and build a “farm team” of future leaders to run for political office and activists to work the races.
In professional baseball all Major League Baseball teams have a developmental system of minor league teams. The minor league teams are rated from AAA all the way down to A. In addition, there are special developmental leagues for rookie players drafted right out of college. Other sports leagues are trying to replicate the system to develop the next generation of professional athletes. We in the liberty movement, regardless of what we call ourselves, need to take the same approach to politics and political office.
On Twitter, many conservatives and Republicans have been badgering people who are threatening to not vote for Mitt Romney. They have been saying that if you don’t vote for Mitt Romney, you’re voting for Barack Obama. This is silly reasoning at its best. The only way you vote for Barack Obama is by actually voting for Barack Obama. Libertarians and others who love liberty should vote their conscience in November and vote for the candidate who best represents their views.
The Republican Party has not offered very much for libertarians to vote for. The GOP controlled House has failed to lead on reducing the size and scope of government. Mitt Romney has not offered up any serious or substantial cuts. Plus, Mitt Romney supports anti-liberty legislation such as the Federal Marriage Amendment and the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA. Plus, Romney during the primaries supported a hard-line on immigration reform and on foreign policy, generally offers more of the same as Barack Obama. Finally, there is the simple fact that all throughout Mitt Romney’s political career; he has been on just about every side of every issue possible, sometimes simultaneously. Romney, politically, is not a man to be trusted even in a millennium of Sundays.
On the other hand, I don’t need to tell anybody who reads this site how horrendous of a president Barack Obama is. He has been an absolute failure from a libertarian perspective, so I can understand the inclination to replace him, even with someone like Mitt Romney. However consider this, what kind of message would it send to the Republican Party to nominate someone like Romney and have him win?
It’s the one question I’m asked more than anything else: “Why do you stay with the Republican Party? You seem like more of a Libertarian to me.”
It’s a fair question, I suppose. There are a lot of issues where I don’t agree with many of my Republican friends: I think we should end the war on drugs; I think we should cut way back on the military aggression we show the world; I think government revenue should exceed government expenses; I think the federal government should be strictly limited to the powers expressly given to it in the Constitution.
There’s some common ground to be found with my fellow Republicans, for sure. And it’s those days that being a Republican is easy. When we’re on the same side of the talking points, it’s all good. But when we disagree, the name calling starts, the rumors start working their way through the rumor mill, and idiocy abounds. It’s those days I have to remind myself why I choose to remain in the Republican Party.
I have good friends in the Libertarian Party who offer constant reminders that they welcome my views of limited government and increased individual responsibility. When you look at the Libertarian platform, you’ll see that somebody like me lines up really well with the vast majority of a Libertarian’s beliefs about the role of government.
But even though I know I’d be welcomed enthusiastically into the Libertarian Party, and even though certain people who I used to think were friends have resorted to juvenile behavior when they disagree with me, I choose to remain in the company of these people. Here are a few reasons I have decided to stay with the GOP:
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to hangout for a few days with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson while he was visiting Georgia for the state Libertarian Party convention.
As you may know, Gov. Johnson left the Republican Party just after Christmas to seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president. During his run for the GOP nod, Gov. Johnson was excluded from all but two debates, and when he did get to participate, he wasn’t treated as a serious candidate.
The treatment of Johnson was certainly odd. He has more executive experience than any of the other candidates seeking the Republican nomination. Moreover, he has a solid resume, including a stellar fiscal record; as evidenced by his scores from the Cato Institute and the fact that he vetoed 750 bills — more than the other 49 governors combined.
In fact, I still don’t quite understand why the Tea Party movement couldn’t get behind Johnson, who was clearly the most fiscally conservative candidate running for the GOP nomination. He was, or should have been, their candidate. A limited government Republican that had a proven record of winning in a two-to-one Democratic state.
I had planned to vote for Gov. Johnson in the March 6th Republican primary. His fiscal record and consistant support for personal liberty made him the best candidate in my eyes. When he dropped out, I planned to vote for Rep. Ron Paul.
Back at the beginning of the month, I accepted the role of state director in Georgia for Gov. Johnson’s campaign, which included preparing for his visit — booking media and events for him to speak at, etc.
In the podcast, Jason and Chuck discuss some of his issues with the voting record of Sen. Johnny Isakson (the incumbent Republican), the aftermath of ObamaCare and free-market health care solutions, immigration, cap-and-trade and the economy.
You can download the podcast here.