By: Nicholas Babaya
This past weekend was a particularly important time in US politics. The Libertarian Party’s National Convention was held in Orlando, Florida where the Libertarian delegates chose their nominee for President of the United States. This year, as in 2012, Gary Johnson (NM) was elected. Johnson’s 2012 presidential campaign for the Libertarian Party yielded the second largest number of votes in the party’s history.
Prior to this, Johnson was a successful 2-term Republican Governor of New Mexico, a majority-Democrat state. When he left office, New Mexico was one of a handful of states with a balanced budget. Johnson has since continued to preach fiscal responsibility and social liberalism. In my mind, there is no doubt that he is indeed, a libertarian and a good choice for the Libertarian Party nominee.
Which naturally begs the question, why do so many people hate him?
The LP candidate with the second most votes was a young Libertarian activist by the name of Austin Petersen. Petersen was notable in his skilled use of social media to reach out to potential LP voters. When Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican race, Petersen’s support was boosted by disgruntled conservatives who might have seen him as an appealing and avid defender of the Constitution, and also being the only candidate who was pro-life.
Now, as a non-American observer, when comparing the political positions of Gary Johnson to Austin Petersen, John McAfee, Darryl Perry or any other candidate, it was certainly noticeable to me that Johnson may not have been as principled of a Libertarian as the others. Where Petersen and McAfee were staunchly against any kind of government interventionism, Johnson was more flexible, but only to a very small degree, and nothing nearly to the extent of what Republicans or Democrats might do. Even Johnson’s vice presidential nominee, former Republican Governor of Massachusetts William Weld, was seen as rather controversial. Weld had previously endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, for instance. Naturally, candidates are going to have different views, however the backlash to this from non-Johnson supporters has been truly disgusting.
Facebook pages started spewing anti-Johnson rhetoric (I’d like to mention in particular this page and in a few cases, this one as well) and comment wars ensued. There were even a few #NeverJohnson hashtags being thrown around. Johnson has since won the nomination, and yet there still seems to be this stubborn, elitist group of Libertarians who refuse to support him.
This stubbornness could prove to blow what is easily the best opportunity the Libertarian Party has had in their entire existence. Hardly ever has there been such unpopular candidates from both the Democrats and the Republicans as there is now. The Republicans are faced with voting for an authoritarian, war-mongering, xenophobic statist; a man whose foreign policy violates the Geneva Convention and whose domestic policy violates the US Bill of Rights. Indeed, the Republican Party can no longer be thought of as the leaders of the conservative movement in America because their nominee for this election, Donald Trump, is anything but conservative. The Democrats are faced with the war-mongering, lying, woman-card-pulling secretary of state who many argue should be in jail right now. Voters, both conservative and progressive, are now more than ever before going to be looking for a third party candidate.
In fact, Johnson’s relatively moderate policies (keyword there being ‘relatively’; compared to any of the Republicans, Gary Johnson is very libertarian), actually make him the best and most electable option for the party. His socially-liberal views could be very attractive to Democrats and his record of fiscal responsibility and advocacy of small government is what Republicans have been wanting for years. And yet, stubborn puritanical libertarian elitists refuse to get behind him because of a few relatively minor concerns.
Folks, let me put this in the perspective of a South African.
I see America as a country bursting with freedom. The US Constitution is, in many regards, a libertarian document, and it exemplifies the kind of values of negative liberty that I long for by protecting its citizens from the government. The American spirit of free markets and freedom has made the US the freest and most prosperous nation of its scale.
Americans are now faced with two options. The first is to vote Democrat or Republican and have your government grow, your incomes stolen from you to fund wars and welfare and your personal liberties infringed upon by an insistence to legislate morality. The second is to vote Libertarian for a candidate you might have one or two differences with, but is far superior. This should not be a game of perfectionism, it’s highly unlikely in any situation that one might completely agree with any given candidate.
If you consider yourself a libertarian (or just a decent human being for that matter), know that voting for Gary Johnson is not voting for the lesser of two evils. You’re actually voting for an option which isn’t evil. In South Africa, we don’t have libertarians on our ballot, and we don’t have the luxury of voting for a party which actually largely agrees with our philosophy. In South Africa, we get to choose between the Left, the Far-Left and the Extreme-Left.
I urge all those who cherish freedom in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave to vote Libertarian in this crucial election. If there is a time to put our differences aside and unite for the cause of liberty, it’s now.
* Nicholas Babaya is a student at Rhodes University, South Africa, and a regular contributor at the Rational Standard.