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Will Americans Discover Their “Inner Libertarian”?

The Libertarian Party, with its focus on small government, “actually represents most people in this country, but they just don’t know that they’re Libertarian,” the party’s presidential nominee, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, said on Monday, rejecting a question from a Fox News anchor over whether his 10 percent ranking in the nation’s polls is because he favors legalizing marijuana.

“Oh, no way,” Johnson told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” program. “I’m fiscally conservative. I’m the small government guy.“

I like Gary Johnson a great deal. But I’m not sure I agree. Most Americans are libertarian – until they’re not. When asked if people should be permitted to smoke marijuana, or choose the adult romantic partner of their choice, most will probably say yes. When asked if America should stay out of pointless, nation-building wars like Iraq or Vietnam, most will probably say yes.

But when the rubber hits the road, and it comes time to cut or privatize programs like Social Security and Medicare – or any government programs, for that matter – it’s a whole different story. Senator Ted Cruz, for example, wanted to shut down the EPA and the IRS. We see how far he got, even in a primary for Republicans. Even the more liberal Donald Trump says he wants to shut down the EPA and the federal Department of Education. If he wins and means it, how many will support him? Not many, is my guess.

Small government people like myself, and Gary Johnson, will be quick to criticize the “establishment” Republicrats in Washington for their unwillingness to cut any government programs or confront the problems with unsustainable “entitlement” programs like Medicare and Social Security. But we have to be honest. The establishment career politicians exist for a reason; because they represent the established point-of-view. Less government in the abstract? “Sure.” Cut any actual program? “No way! Somebody might need that; I might need that. Tamper with Social Security and Medicare? Are you crazy?”

Says Johnson: “So we are two governors that have curved in heavily blue states as Republicans. We’re small government guys, but we’re also socially liberal. And I think that’s the makeup of most people in this country.”

I know what he’s saying. Sometimes people will ask if I’m a Republican, when it comes up in conversation that I detest Obama or Hillary Clinton. They’re horrified, because they think this means I support things like the Moral Majority or the Bible thumpers who want church and state more closely integrated. That’s when I say, “I’m a small ‘l’ libertarian, politically; government away from my bank account, off my body and out of my bedroom.” And yes, outside of the woman’s uterus too.

What bothers me about most libertarians is their extension of small government principles to the area of defense. I don’t want a small government when it comes to defense. No, I don’t want wasteful spending at the Pentagon, and I don’t want nation-building wars like Iraq or Vietnam. But I do want a military big and strong enough to win the Cold War and to defeat Islamofascism. That costs money and that requires weaponry – the most innovative and gigantic military we can build. What usually draws me towards Republicans, in the end, is their emphasis on defense, particularly if it’s the Reaganesque “peace-through-strength” version rather than the George W. Bush “we-will-take-over-the world-via-boots-on-the-ground” version.

Gary Johnson netted about 1 percent of the popular vote in 2012 as the Libertarian nominee, but is now polling at 10 percent, according to a Fox News poll, most likely reflecting the unfavorable rankings Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have among voters.

Johnson said that he is a viable alternative because Libertarians are “kind of the best of both parties or at least what parties are supposed to be about.”

“Aren’t Republicans supposed to be about small government?” Johnson said. “Aren’t Democrats supposed to be about civil liberties, people being able to make choices in their own lives as long as those choices doesn’t adversely affect others?”

But that’s the problem. I don’t think most people want small government, not if “small government” means no (or less) Social Security or Medicare. Let’s face it. The massive budget deficit and debt will not go anywhere without phasing out Social Security and Medicare. Those programs take in way less than they pay out, and are responsible for the government’s bankruptcy. Americans of the future – today’s 20-somethings – will be far better off finding ways to meet their needs in the private marketplace spawned by the phase out of these Communist-lite programs bankrupting America. Most importantly, with government out of health care and retirement, it will have less excuse to interfere in our private lives for the sake of saving money on such programs.

If Gary Johnson campaigns on phasing out Social Security and Medicare (the programs will die anyway, eventually), he will be lucky to get 10 percent of the vote. America is not ready for it. I don’t know when or if it will ever be. But I do know the day of reckoning will come, when people discover you cannot spend and borrow into infinity without any economic consequence.

Sure, most Americans might have an “inner Libertarian.” But they won’t get in touch with it, not when they realize the personal responsibility and honesty it requires. We had two terms of “President Obama” for a reason, after all.

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The post Will Americans Discover Their “Inner Libertarian”? appeared first on Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D. | Living Resources Center.

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  • 1 month later...

As the duopoly candidates are being confirmed, Gary Johnson remains 2 percent shy of being eligible to appear in the presidential debates.  I wish him luck because I think his presence there could be a political game changer.  However, his slow ascent in the polls suggests a reluctance to embrace a "best of both worlds" candidate by a public grown used to red meat and free money.

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1 hour ago, Devil's Advocate said:

... I wish him luck...

I do too. Not sure where I read that the last time the two major candidates had such large negatives was Bush Sr. v. Clinton. That's when Perot got 19% of the vote. Johnson probably has much less money compared to Perot. At any rate, Perot was interesting news (somewhat like Trump in that regard) whereas the Libertarians are "old news". It is going to be tough for Johnson to hit 15% in 5 polls. He has to do this by Labor day, which is when the debate participants will be fixed (at least for the first debate). 

I think its nearly impossible for Johnson to win. The best he can hope for is to make a good showing: given that the Libertarians have never done much more than 1%, even 3% is a significant jump. However, unless Johnson can get something near 10%, his impact is likely to be zero. If he does get there, and if the GOP wins anyway, I doubt there's much impact. If he gets 10% and the Democrats win, it might motivate the GOP to try woo his voters. It is tough for them, because if they move away from their religious base --after so many years of pampering them -- they might face a backlash. 

My dream scenario would be that Johnson gets 10% and Trump gets 38% or less (i.e. doing worse than Goldwater's low). Then -- in my fictional world -- the GOP has a change of heart and says they will step back of crap like abortion and drugs, and instead focus on free-economy. The bulk of Johnson supporters who view themselves as a liberal-right (classical liberal) then swing back to the GOP, and the next President is slight right of center.

Might sound unambitious, but I think it's actually a super-ambitious stretch for my countrymen.

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Libertarians have established themselves as a party on the fringe, something like a political wing of anarchists.  Perot and Paul added credibility, and having two former governors now helps, but they won't become a viable alternative party unless  they can maintain a presence in the presidential debates.  I'm encouraged that Johnson's percentage hasn't leveled off yet, he's likable, and handles interviews well.  We'll see what comes of it, but his participation adds a refreshing element to an otherwise dismal choice between the crazy uncle and shrill aunt brawling in the gutter.

At this point I'm just looking for someone to vote for without feeling the need to shower afterwards.

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12 hours ago, Devil's Advocate said:

I'm encouraged that Johnson's percentage hasn't leveled off yet, he's likable, and handles interviews well. 

The issue is, what is -actually- appealing about him? There is no real platform except being pro pot and anti-regulation - and neither of those positions are really fleshed out as real policy. Worse, he isn't too consistent, thereby contributing to the idea that anything remotely libertarian (small 'L') is either ancap or a gun fundamentalist (i.e. anti gun regulation fanatics) or just wholly ignorant of politics.

I'd feel hopeful if someone sought out a comprehensive political platform with notable foresight.

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7 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The issue is, what is -actually- appealing about him? There is no real platform except being pro pot and anti-regulation - and neither of those positions are really fleshed out as real policy. Worse, he isn't too consistent, thereby contributing to the idea that anything remotely libertarian (small 'L') is either ancap or a gun fundamentalist (i.e. anti gun regulation fanatics) or just wholly ignorant of politics.

I'd feel hopeful if someone sought out a comprehensive political platform with notable foresight.

I think he's more of a GOP guy than a Libertarian. He might even be left of Cruz on some economic issues; but he's "right" of the GOP on social issues.

At any rate, if the Libertarians get significantly more than 1% of the vote, I assume that will be a protest vote against the Hillary-Trump choice. It would somewhat akin to writing in a name by people who don't want to just stay home. In some ways it would be a protest for a more establishment candidate -- i.e. GOP establishment anti-Trump.

I doubt such support will endure to the next election. Nor would much of it stick to the Libertarian party as such.

Edited by softwareNerd
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10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The issue is, what is -actually- appealing about him? There is no real platform except being pro pot and anti-regulation - and neither of those positions are really fleshed out as real policy. Worse, he isn't too consistent, thereby contributing to the idea that anything remotely libertarian (small 'L') is either ancap or a gun fundamentalist (i.e. anti gun regulation fanatics) or just wholly ignorant of politics.

I'd feel hopeful if someone sought out a comprehensive political platform with notable foresight.

The Libertarian platform and Johnson's promotion of it embraces individual freedom of actions at their own expense.  How comprehensively can that be specified without suggesting those items not on a list are subject to regulation/prohibition.  In his words, "Libertarians don't really give a damn" about how you want to live your life as long as you don't have the expectation that someone else should have to pay for it.  He's also stated that you can expect him to sign on to any effort that attempts to reduce the size and expense of government, and supports ending the IRS and replacing current taxation with a Federal Consumption Tax.  Beyond that, both he and Weld are former governors, each serving two terms.

There's plenty there to derive the policy of a Johnson/Weld administration, but it maters not unless they participate in the presidential debates.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13612038/1/if-libertarian-gary-johnson-was-president-here-rsquo-s-what-would-happen-to-the-u-s-economy.html

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Sure, there are goals, but it's not like there's a plan to get there. Just that, somehow, it will happen if he were president. Then the worst part is, it sounds like he'd want all this to happen immediately, which isn't smart. It'd take several years at least, which requires a plan. Ultimately it just turns into a "government size" argument, absent any actual policy change. Libertarians like Johnson I find to be foolish, as if it really were as simple as simply erasing some regulations. Policy takes a lot more than knowing your end goal.

A libertarian would probably do well to support a platform like fundamental reform of law enforcement, easing of immigration controls, easing of FDA regulations, or other specific areas where targeted change is possible. And it's pretty easy to speak well of self-responsibility in ways that acknowledge of course life isn't equal at all times and in all ways, but there are ways to make it easier over time for self-responsibility to be the stronger force. Johnson as a libertarian is way too "thin" to me - I'd really want to see a a well thought out plan and a real mission to it all. 

I think I voted for the LP last election, but now I feel less hopeful that it'll get anywhere or that the whole approach is smart at all. It'd need to function like a strong political party would: a handful of key policies stated simply, but extensive explanation is possible, alongside lots of data to demonstrate a policy's potential to respond to the world (a modern thing no party has truly done yet).

Johnson-as-protest-vote is okay to me, but I'm not hopeful that he's a face of change.

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4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Johnson-as-protest-vote is okay to me, but I'm not hopeful that he's a face of change.

He doesn't stand a chance of winning, so he's not going to be making any changes to laws. So, in that sense, he's not going to be the face of change.

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