His answers may not be tantalizing to libertarian purists and ideologues, but Gov. Gary Johnson’s pragmatic, middle ground approach to this election cycle is a good formula for broadening the party’s appeal.
By: Dan King
This article first appeared at Liberty.Me
During last night’s CNN Libertarian Town Hall, Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, Gov. Bill Weld branded themselves as pragmatic centrists. On broadening the ticket’s appeal, Weld even got a little creepy talking about he and Johnson and “loving” and “tolerant,” and welcome outsiders with outstretched arms. Based on my own social media feed, and polling from various media outlets, this approach has won the Johnson/Weld ticket some love from disgruntled Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
My Facebook feed has been flooded of late with people coming around to Johnson and Weld – even some friends who were actively against Johnson in 2012.
During last night’s town hall, one of my friend’s posted, “With a candidate like this, I don’t understand how it isn’t a no brainier to #feelthejohnson in November. Fiscally conservative and socially liberal, I mean no more income tax, less government and you can make your own choices. I know I wasn’t a big fan in 2012, but he is s the guy and needs to get in!!”
Another friend, a former Bernie Sanders supporter said, “I have made my decision if Bernie isn’t the nomination. If it is Trump against the should be jail bound witch I will be voting for Gary Johnson.”
“Please, please consider third party candidates. I don’t care if you end up voting for Hillary, but at least get educated on this guy,” added another former Sanders-supporting friend, when sharing an article about Johnson.
This shift to support for Johnson and Weld is reflected in national polls, as well. The latest CNN poll found Johnson at 12 percent, and he’s been as high as 13 percent in some other polls. In Utah in particular, Johnson has seen huge poll numbers, up in the 25 percent range. A poll of active-duty military actually found Johnson beating both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a three-way race.
Johnson and Weld don’t get on the stage and jump into the nitty-gritty of the Non-Aggression Axiom or recite quotes from Murray Rothbard or FA Hayek. While that is frustrating for many libertarians, their approach will broaden their appeal to those who are less susceptible to picking up the “Road to Serfdom,” or “For a New Liberty.”
That’s actually how I was drawn into libertarianism. I didn’t enter the philosophy as someone with a bookshelf full of Rand, Rothbard, Hayek, Mises and LeFevre (although that would now describe my bookshelf). I entered libertarianism as someone who simply described themselves as fiscally responsible and socially tolerant. After reading many of the aforementioned thinkers, I now value the finer minutia of libertarian thought; but if someone tried to introduce the philosophy to me by reciting purist platitudes I probably wouldn’t be the active libertarian I am today.
While I respect the hardliners in the Libertarian Party – like Darryl W. Perry – I have a hard time believing an anarchist, or someone more ideologically libertarian than Johnson would find the success Johnson has found. He may not be a purebred libertarian, but he’s introducing the philosophy to people and giving them the opportunity to research it further. If the biggest concerns about Johnson, from a libertarian standpoint are his stances on gay wedding cakes and healthy diets, then so be it. In a three-way race with Clinton and Trump, he’s still far-and-away the only candidate looking to cut the size and scope of government, the only one pushing to end even part of the War on Drugs, the only one questioning military interventions, the only one pushing for real school choice, the only one pro-free trade and the only one looking to cut back the massive spying apparatus
In an election where the two major party candidates have astronomical unfavorable ratings, and only 9 percent of Americans have cast a vote for one of those two thus far, Johnson gives the Libertarian Party the best opportunity to broadening its appeal to a diverse array of people.
This article first appeared at Liberty.Me