TAMPA, September 26, 2012 – You may be an independent that finds the major party candidates for president particularly weak this year. You may be an “Old Right” conservative that can’t bring yourself to vote for Mitt Romney. You may be a died-in-the-wool liberal who thinks Barack Obama’s presidency has been just a little too similar to Dubya’s.
Or, you may be a libertarian.
If you belong to any of those groups, you might be considering voting for Gary Johnson. Ironically, if you are a libertarian, you may need the most convincing.
Gary Johnson isn’t well-grounded in libertarian theory and it results in him taking some positions that libertarians don’t like. I made the argument myself that Johnson is not really a libertarian at all. In two subsequent interviews (here and here), Johnson didn’t allay those concerns.
Regardless, Gary Johnson is the best choice for president this year for voters from all over the political spectrum.
For libertarians, Johnson may not be Harry Browne, but it isn’t hard to imagine Browne behaving similarly in office. As Governor of New Mexico, Johnson vetoed over 700 bills. He balanced the budget without raising taxes. He even came out publicly against the War on Drugs.
As president, Johnson has promised to propose a balanced budget during his first year in office. He says that means cutting the federal budget by over 43%. Regardless of how he got there, libertarians have to agree with this.
Likewise for all of those conservatives who complain about “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only). If they truly do want to see the size and influence of the government reduced, Johnson is really their only choice. Romney openly admits that he will spend more in his first year in office than Obama is spending now.
Some Republicans claim that voting for Johnson would be “handing the election to Obama,” but that’s not true. Johnson is pro-choice. He wants to end the war in Afghanistan. He is pro-gay marriage. He wants to abolish the Patriot Act. These are all core liberal issues that Obama has failed on. Johnson could easily take as many votes from Obama as he does from Romney.
The most compelling reason to cast a vote for Johnson is what it could do for the third party movement in general. The majority of Americans say that a third party is needed in American politics, but most don’t pull the lever for the other parties on the ballot right now. Why? They don’t think a third party can win.
That won’t change overnight, but a surge in third party votes will start to turn the tide. If Johnson were to break into double digits, as Ross Perot did in 1992, the momentum is not as likely to fade this time. The U.S. economy is in a protracted recession and is no longer responding to the Federal Reserve’s inflationary cure-all as it did during the Clinton years. If a third party were to show promise in 2012, one could reasonably expect better in 2016. 2020 could see 30 percent, which could win in a three way race with other parties also taking some votes.
Johnson is making a strong pitch to Ron Paul supporters, many of whom see Johnson as the next best thing. Others say they are going to write in Ron Paul’s name even if he is not on the ballot. They would do better to vote for Johnson.
Many states don’t count write-in votes at all. Others require the candidate to have qualified as a write-in (which seems to defeat the purpose, doesn’t it?). Even in those states that supposedly count write-in votes, Paul supporters should be skeptical after their experiences in the primaries.
Imagine if a third party was a viable option for Ron Paul’s campaign this year. Ron Paul’s supporters can help ensure that the next Ron Paul will have that opportunity.
Even die-hard Republicans and Democrats have a good reason to nurture a third party. In election after election, politicians from both sides campaign on the party line and then do exactly the opposite when they get into office. Why? Because they know they have the die-hards locked up. They know the Republican base will never vote for a Democrat or vice versa. A viable third party would keep them honest.
Of course, there is the tired argument that voting for a third party candidate is “throwing away your vote.”
The only way to “throw away your vote” is to vote for someone you know is going to betray you. Reagan promised to shrink the government and then doubled it. Bush promised to shrink the government and doubled it again. Obama promised to undo Bush’s warmongering, civil liberties violations and unconstitutional executive power grabs. He doubled down on all of them. Voting for a Republican or a Democrat in this election is a lot like Charlie Brown letting Lucy hold the football again.
If elected, either Romney or Obama will propose the first $4 trillion federal budget in U.S. history. With either in office, Americans can expect more war, more debt, less freedom and fewer opportunities. You can choose that or you can take Johnson up on his invitation to “be libertarian with me one time.” What do you have to lose?
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.