Tilting at windmills: the Libertarian Party and the candidacy of Gary Johnson

We have a new commenter at THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL, Mr L D Jackson. Naturally, your Editor followed Mr Jackson’s link to his site, to see what it was like. He has a few interesting articles up, but the one which caught my eye was not by Mr Jackson, but by one of his co-bloggers, Ted Lacksonen, who styles himself “The Country Thinker”:

Gary Johnson Closing in on Nomination

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 | By

I will be leaving for Las Vegas Thursday morning to attend the Libertarian Party National Conference. I will be serving as a delegate from Ohio, and as many of you already know, I have endorsed Governor Johnson, and am working on his campaign.

I am confident that Johnson will receive the nomination, and when he does, the campaign will really heat up. Party leaders at state and national have had to remain neutral until the process plays out, and that restriction will be lifted on Saturday.

As you can imagine, Governor Johnson’s decision to run on the Libertarian Party ticket has energized the party. As an increasing number of prominent Republicans have gotten fed up with the GOP, we know our ascendancy as a major force in American politics is around the corner.

Currently, Johnson is polling at 6-7%, which is a large enough number to invalidate any poll that includes only Obama and Romney (D-Mass.). We expect to go over 10% when Ron Paul officially drops out, and are targeting 15% so Governor Johnson can get on the debate stage this fall.

Anecdotally I estimate that currently 2 out of 3 Johnson supporters would have been more likely to vote for Obama than a Republican. Republicans should be glad that the Governor has made marriage equality, marijuana legalization, and peace prominent in his platform, because there are a lot of single-issue voters motivated by those issues, and they sure ain’t going to vote Republican.

When I have previously written about Johnson, some readers have said that a vote for anyone but the Republican nominee is a vote for Obama. That is wrong on two scores. First, taken as a group, it appears that the Johnson camp is more heavily Democratic than Republican, so my work on the campaign is hurting Obama more than Romney (D-Mass.) Second, as I’ve said before, I would not vote for Romney (D-Mass.) for any elected office—not even County dog catcher—so Johnson isn’t “stealing” my vote for the failed Governor of the Bay State because he wouldn’t get it under any circumstances.

Anyhow, the Libertarian Party is on the rise, and Gary Johnson is set to be the libertarian standard bearer with Ron Paul’s retirement. In the current election cycle he is by far the best candidate for president, and probably represents our last chance to avoid a major debt crisis.

Your Editor has reproduced the Country Thinker’s article in its entirety; having carefully read Mr Jackson’s Copyright and Disclaimer Page, the Editor believes that both the Country Thinker1 and Mr Jackson would find THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL to be in compliance with what they have set forth.

Governor Johnson, the Libertarian Party‘s probable presidential nominee is former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM). Your Editor has always found the Libertarian Party somewhat interesting, but has never been a supporter, primarily due to serious disagreements with the Libertarians’ extreme non-interventionist policies. The Editor has always believes that the United States comes first, and that a strong and aggressive foreign policy is part of that; the non-interventionist notion is based, in the end, on the cockamamie notion that other nations are somehow the sovereign equal of the United States, deserving equal rights and respect.2

The 2010 TEA Party phenomenon was one that seemed to be the intellectual connection between the Republican Party, which the TEA Partiers saw as their best hope for getting their ideas enacted into government, and the Libertarian Party, whose economic and limited government beliefs the TEA Partiers (mostly) shared; they were libertarians, not Libertarians. Perhaps the Libertarian Party might have attracted more of them, had the LP been a realistic alternative and, quite frankly, not so lousy at getting its message out. Representative Ron Paul‘s (R-TX) campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has been a recognition that the Libertarian Party simply isn’t going anywhere. Jack Hunter wrote, on Dr Paul’s campaign website:

I have made the case that Ron Paul is not only changing the Republican Party, but is catering to a new, emerging electorate that eschews the big government aspects of both parties.

What remains to be seen is just how big that “emerging electorate” really is. However, at least in 2010, the libertarian additions to the Republican electorate were sufficient to swing control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats to the Republicans, and cost the Democrats seven3 seats off of their Senate majority. Whether such will continue in the 2012 elections remains to be seen.

However, President Obama’s campaign has definitely chosen to go the opposite way. His campaign’s breathtakingly stupid “Life of Julia” tells us how the federal government just has to intervene in everybody’s individual lives, how everybody must be ultimately dependent upon the good nature and good will of the federal government in order to survive. The TEA Party libertarians were motivated by a small-government ideology, to get the government out of our lives as much as possible; the “Life of Julia” slideshow is precisely the opposite of that.

The libertarian TEA Partiers helped push the big-spending Republicans out: their primary victories over several entrenched or “establishment” Republicans in 2010 might have cost the GOP the chance to pick up Senate victories in Nevada and Delaware, but they helped to win six other previously Democrat-held Senate seats, and installed small-government conservatives in the Senate, such as Dr Paul’s son, now Senator Rand Paul, from Kentucky. Six-term Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) just might lose his Republican primary race on Tuesday, to TEA Party-backed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock; Senator Lugar joined the go-along-to-get-along Republicans in the Senate in 1977, just four years before Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter did the same thing. Real conservative opposition to the go-along-to-get-along Republicans first coalesced in then Representative Pat Toomey’s 2004 primary challenge to Senator Specter, and though Mr Specter won renomination, and re-election, in 2004, by 2010 he knew that the jig was up, and that Pennsylvania’s Republican voters would not renominate him.4

One of the lessons your Editor remembers from Dr Malcolm Jewell, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, is that the structure of government in the United States very heavily tilts in favor of a two-party system. Our governments, state and federal, are based on the single-member district, where there is one representative in the legislature for each district. Because we do not have run-off elections5, the representative of the district is the plurality, and not necessarily the majority, winner in the general election. This system necessarily encourages large parties, which can have a reasonable hope of winning a plurality, without the necessity of winning a majority, while allowing the participation of smaller parties, but leaving them with little chance to actually win anything.6 Without a majority requirement, and the possibility of sneaking into a run-off election by finishing second, the minor parties almost never win offices of any importance. And thus, the Libertarian Party has elected, nationwide, a whopping 151 people to office, 36 in partisan and 115 to non-partisan offices, but they are all small offices such as water commission and borough council members. The only ones on the list who hold an executive office of any importance that I noted, Joel Stoner, the Mayor of Macks Creek, Missouri, and Shawna Clanton, Mayor of Culver, Oregon, were elected in non-partisan races.

Nor is your Editor impressed with the electoral systems which are friendlier to third party candidates. Several countries which are parliamentary democracies with proportional representation have such systems. Those systems allot seats in the parliament to parties which cross a specified threshold, and the top candidates on the list get the seats as far down the list as their votes entitle them. The trouble is that those countries usually wind up with coalition governments, governments which must give a small minority a power of outsized importance in some particular ministry to retain their votes in the coalition. The government in the Netherlands recently fell, due to the withdrawal of a minority party, and Italy and Israel have a history of short-lived governments due to the need to include minority coalition party members, and their abrupt withdrawal over various issues. Our system of government has led to stability for 225 years; I think ours works just fine.

Thus, while I sympathize with the libertarians a great deal, on most (not all) issues, I simply do not see a separate Libertarian Party as much of a help. Today’s libertarians have had their greatest success by working as part of the Republican Party, as Ron Paul and as the TEA Party have tried to do. Your Editor hopes that Mr Lacksonen enjoys himself at the Libertarian Party convention, but doesn’t see the Libertarian Party candidacy as serious at all.
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  1. The Country Thinker maintains his own site as well, and the article is published here.
  2. the Editor believes that this strange notion is part of President Obama’s thinking as well.
  3. Counting Senator Scott Brown’s special election victory in Massachusetts.
  4. He tried to stay in teh Senate by switching to the Democratic Party, but it turned out that Democratic primary voters preferred a real Democrat, and Representative Joe Sestak beat Mr Specter in the primary. Pennsylvania voters elected Mr Toomey to the Senate in the 2010 general election.
  5. Except in a few places, Louisiana and its open primary system being the best known.
  6. Jesse “The Body” Ventura won a gubernatorial race in Minnesota because the Republican and Democratic nominees were both lousy, and Mr Ventura was already famous. He won protest votes from both Republicans and democrats.

6 Comments

  1. First of all, thanks for visiting Political Realities. I am glad you took the time.

    Even though I lean a little to the libertarian side of some issues, I don’t necessarily agree with Ted’s conclusion that the Libertarian Party is the way to salvage our country’s political system. He is operating under the assumption that the Republican Party is beyond hope and repair.

    I considered voting third party myself this year, as I am not enamored with Mitt Romney. (I voted for Ron Paul in the Oklahoma primary.) However, after examining the options, I came to the conclusion that I would not help our cause by doing so. More than anything, I want to defeat Barack Obama. Contrary to what some people believe, Mitt Romney is not just another version of Obama. There are a lot of things he would/could do to roll back the advance of government, so therefore, I will vote for him. Not because he is a perfect candidate, but he is a far cry better than Obama.

    That is another reason why I believe it is vital for us to help elect as many principled conservatives to Congress. If we can strengthen our control of the House, and regain control of the Senate, that will do a lot to help control Obama, if he should win, or to help pull Mitt Romney to the right, if he manages to defeat the President.

  2. LD Jackson said: “….I will vote for him. Not because he is a perfect candidate, but he is a far cry better than Obama.”

    And that says it all. There are no perfect candidates, but there are better choices. LD and I want a better choice so we’ll be voting for Romney.

    The left can keep their class warfare, war on women, race war and all their crazy environmental and business killing initiatives. There’s a better way, a free’er way and a more prosperous way than blaming everyone else and trying to tax producers into oblivion. We can start by recognising that people are entitled to only what they earn and produce themselves and not to the labor of others.

  3. Gary Johnson seems to be a bit of a self absorbed kook. The fact that he barely registered while taking part in the GOP primaries speaks volumes.

  4. Gary Johnson is a very impressive man with a list of accomplishments from superior athletic performance in a surprisingly wide range of areas to a solid record of public service as a fiscal conservative and social libertarian two term GOP governor of New Mexico. He was so successful and so popular in NM that had he not been limited to two terms, voters there would have returned him to the state house without hesitation.

    Johnson was also a candidate for the GOP nomination in this primary election cycle. However his inability to attract popular support (only about 2%) and/or substantial funding caused his early withdrawal in December 2011. Truth is, in my opinion, he didn’t get a fair shake. He’s a better man than his vote totals indicated.

    While Johnson remained in the race he participated in several nationally televised debates, and was excluded from several others on the basis of his lack of popular support. During one memorable debate Johnson got off the best quip of the evening when he said that “His next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than this (Obama’s) administration.”

    Johnson’s departure from Republican ranks and his timely embrace of the Libertarian Party’s nomination isn’t just opportunism and sour grapes. Johnson has supported Libertarian positions throughout his political career and he not only endorsed Ron Paul in 2008, after he dropped out in late December Johnson also encouraged his supporters to vote for Paul for the 2012 GOP nomination.

    The Libertarian Party would be fortunate to have such an accomplished man as its leader, but make no mistake, Johnson doesn’t stand a chance of doing anything but taking votes away from the eventual GOP nominee, contrary to the fuzzy headed thinking of political dreamers.

    Now, I fully sympathize with fellow conservatives and TEA Party members who are fed up with the Republican Party establishment, but facts are stubborn things, and one currently inescapable fact is we operate within the confines of a defacto two-party system and no amount of wishing thinking is going to change that fact in the foreseeable future, and certainly not in time to save the USA from the disaster of a second Barack Obama term.

    Consequently, if a vote for Gary Johnson isn’t a vote for Barack Obama it’s damn sure the next best thing. Getting rid of Obama is the overarching goal and if that means voting for a RINO like Mitt Romney, them I’m voting Romney, and so will anyone able to see beyond their personal political and social passions to the best obtainable outcome for our nation.

    If we unite behind him Romney and only Romney has a chance to rid us of our oppressor. Any other course works to Obama’s advantage.

  5. In 2004, I voted for a third party candidate in the general election for the United States Senate, Constitution Party candidate Jim Clymer, rather than the odious Arlen Specter. However, it was a safe vote, because it was clear that Senator Specter, then still claiming to be a Republican, was going to defeat the Democratic nominee, the far-left Representative Joe Hoeffel. Had the election appeared to have been a close one, I suppose that I would have held my nose and voted for Senator Specter.

    John Hitchcock has already said that he will not vote for Mitt Romney, period, but, since he lives in Texas, he can safely vote third party, or not vote for President at all, and Republicans won’t have to worry: Mr Romney will carry Texas regardless. Ropelight is a Florida voter, and Florida could be close, while Hoagie and I both live in Pennsylvania, which could also be very close.

    I’m concerned about Governor Romney moderate views on some of the social issues, and the “RomneyCare” health care law in Massachusetts, but I can absolutely and unhesitatingly support him on one thing: he understands economics and business and what it really takes for business to succeed. The Democrats still see corporations and business and capitalism as some sort of vague enemies of the people, but it is private enterprise which provides jobs for Americans, not the government and not the generosity of the Democrats.

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