The Establishment Libertarians?

 
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Possible slogan: “Vote for the cannabis dealer; it’s important.”

​As recently as four years ago, Ron Paul was the face of American libertarianism: the wild-eyed old uncle with uncompromising ideas who got all the kids excited, stayed just within one of the two major  party, and who was on the receiving end of convention shenanigans (seriously, how did I miss the obvious parallels between the elder Paul and Senator Bernie Sanders?). But Paul decided against a third-party run in the previous two cycles and Gary Johnson stepped in to the leadership void, earning a solid million votes as the 2012 Libertarian candidate. Just over the weekend, Johnson won the parties’ nomination again.

For the most part, Johnson leaves me mildly unimpressed and a little dispirited (disclosure: I donated something on the order of $50 to him in 2012, before he dropped out of the Republican race). By most accounts, his record as governor of New Mexico was middling and mixed, though Johnson has both his defenders and detractors. As a Libertarian candidate… well, let’s just say that someone who runs a legal marijuana business, calls for a consumption tax, makes federal financing of his party a major priority, completely fumbles what should be an easy question about public accommodations, favors Ron Paul-style non-interventionism, and whose elevator pitch for libertarianism is “fiscally conservative, socially tolerant” isn’t exactly my favorite flavor of libertarianism.

Regardless, to say that Johnson compares favorably to the alternatives is to understate the matter rather seriously for me. Johnson may be a squish on some issues wrong on others, but there doesn’t appear to be anything personally dishonorable in his history and — on the extremely unlikely chance that he becomes president — we’re talking about someone who earned B’s from the Cato Institute when he had a Democratic legislature.

The same, interestingly, applies to William Weld, his running mate, and a former governor of Massachusetts. Weld’s term predates my residency here, so I can’t claim much knowledge, but this interview only left me moderately frustrated and offended only once (comparing a wall on the Mexican-American border to the Berlin wall is, frankly, odious) but that was a throw-away in a 10-minute interview.

In what is only the latest irony of this crazy race, the ticket headed by the pot-smoking triathlete may not only be the most boring of the available choices, but also the most experienced and responsible.

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  1. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Based on what I know, I am underwhelmed.

    My feeling increasingly is that we are headed towards a crisis in this country.  Every now and then, you get these moments in history when everything is headed downhill and on fire and no one is able to rise to the occasion before everything bursts in to flames.  Sometimes things reconfigure for the better afterwards and sometimes they don’t.  Wouldn’t take money on either outcome at this point.

    • #1
  2. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    From Reason:

    (Johnson)  showed a foreign policy vision that, while also clearly more in the main of conventional American politics, seemed legitimately disturbing to Libertarians. He was very much against the Iran nuke deal, insisting that unfreezing their assets will merely lead to more terrorism, leaving unanswered the question of what efforts the U.S. should go to to ensure that Iran never becomes a nuclear power.

    Is there a Libertarian position on the Iran deal? Ron Paul was for it. Paul fils was against.

    He more or less openly called for war against North Korea, in alliance with China. He was unwilling to condemn the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. He unqualifiedly discussed the threat of Islamic terrorism without discussion of U.S. interventionist role in Middle East in possibly exacerbating the problem.

    Neocon! And then:

    (He was smart enough to simply say “I don’t know” to silly questions about whether he’d have entered World War I and II, though others were willing to condemn World War I at least.)

    Smart?  Sorry. Pass.

    • #2
  3. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    James Lileks:

    (He was smart enough to simply say “I don’t know” to silly questions about whether he’d have entered World War I and II, though others were willing to condemn World War I at least.)

    Smart? Sorry. Pass.

    Felt the same way.

    • #3
  4. PJ Inactive
    PJ
    @PJ

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Regardless, to say that Johnson compares favorably to the alternatives is to understate the matter rather seriously for me.

    Isn’t this really the end of the inquiry (call it an A/B/C choice)?  It seems to me Johnson is the obvious answer for #NeverTrump folks.  If Johnson had run as a Republican this year and been the last man standing opposite Trump, wouldn’t we have gladly supported him?  And if he pulled it out, wouldn’t we now be enthusiastically supporting him against Hillary?

    I agree with many of the criticisms of him.  But compared to Trump and Clinton?

    • #4
  5. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    PJ,

    I could vote for Johnson, but since my vote will be purely a protest I probably support Kristol’s candidate. Or if I feel like it I will write in SMOD.

    • #5
  6. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    In much the same way as Trump is a caricature of conservatism, Johnson is a caricature of libertarianism. He’s the embodiment of the idea that libertarianism boils down to not liking war while very much liking weed, with some noise about fiscal probity and tolerance thrown in.

    • #6
  7. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf
    @BrianWolf

    I really wanted to vote for the Libertarians this time.  What a relief that would be this year!  However Gary Johnson seems to bring everything I dislike about Libertarians without any of the good things that I do like about Libertarians.  So he leaves me cold.

    I think voting for him is not a terrible idea I might be forced to do that myself but I could not advocate for him or argue people to vote for him.  He is not narcissist or evil but he is not really all that good either.  What low bars we have this year for candidates.

    “Vote for me!  I am not a narcissist or Evil.”

    Quick story a few years back there was a presidential election  here in Georgia.  In that election one of the politicians pretty much agreed with every position the incumbent had.  The reporter than asked “Why should people vote for you then?”

    The politician answered, “I am not Satan, the incumbent President is Satan and I am not.”

    Oh how I laughed at the time.  Little did I know that American politics would soon reduce me to looking for the candidate that is not Satan…

    • #7
  8. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Interestingly this Fox News poll shows him drawing equal support from both Clinton and Trump camps:

    • Trump 42%
    • Clinton 39%
    • Johnson 10%

    Take Johnson out of the options and you get:

    • Trump 45%
    • Clinton 42%

    Same margin for Trump in both cases: a 3% lead.

    • #8
  9. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Salvatore Padula:In much the same way as Trump is a caricature of conservatism, Johnson is a caricature of libertarianism. He’s the embodiment of the idea that libertarianism boils down to not liking war while very much liking weed, with some noise about fiscal probity and tolerance thrown in.

    I agree. Still, strikes me as vastly preferable parody to be saddled with.

    (I’m not endorsing yet).

    • #9
  10. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Joseph Stanko:Interestingly this Fox News poll shows him drawing equal support from both Clinton and Trump camps:

    • Trump 42%
    • Clinton 39%
    • Johnson 10%

    Take Johnson out of the options and you get:

    • Trump 45%
    • Clinton 42%

    Same margin for Trump in both cases: a 3% lead.

    Is that the one where they only poll Rupert Murdoch?

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    In this election cycle, one could argue that “middling and mixed” stands head-and-shoulders above the mean, like a mutual fund that just keeps up with inflation when the rest are losing money.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Salvatore Padula:In much the same way as Trump is a caricature of conservatism, Johnson is a caricature of libertarianism. He’s the embodiment of the idea that libertarianism boils down to not liking war while very much liking weed, with some noise about fiscal probity and tolerance thrown in.

    Yabbut, every candidate could be called a caricature of libertarianism in one way or another.

    John McAfee: Crazy gun nut who hates taxes but loves hookers and blow.

    Austin Petersen: Well-meaning, earnest, and quixotic wonk who is so inexperienced and unknown that he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry.

    • #12
  13. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    Misthiocracy:

    Salvatore Padula:In much the same way as Trump is a caricature of conservatism, Johnson is a caricature of libertarianism. He’s the embodiment of the idea that libertarianism boils down to not liking war while very much liking weed, with some noise about fiscal probity and tolerance thrown in.

    Yabbut, every candidate could be called a caricature of libertarianism in one way or another.

    John McAfee: Crazy gun nut who hates taxes but loves hookers and blow.

    Austin Petersen: Well-meaning, earnest, and quixotic wonk who is so inexperienced and unknown that he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry.

    Valid point. This is why I’ve long been of the opinion that the Libertarian Party is a joke.

    • #13
  14. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Salvatore Padula: Valid point. This is why I’ve long been of the opinion that the Libertarian Party is a joke.

    Unfortunately this year the GOP is not only a joke, but has decided to work blue.

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Salvatore Padula:

    Misthiocracy:

    Salvatore Padula:In much the same way as Trump is a caricature of conservatism, Johnson is a caricature of libertarianism. He’s the embodiment of the idea that libertarianism boils down to not liking war while very much liking weed, with some noise about fiscal probity and tolerance thrown in.

    Yabbut, every candidate could be called a caricature of libertarianism in one way or another.

    John McAfee: Crazy gun nut who hates taxes but loves hookers and blow.

    Austin Petersen: Well-meaning, earnest, and quixotic wonk who is so inexperienced and unknown that he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry.

    Valid point. This is why I’ve long been of the opinion that the Libertarian Party is a joke.

    Maybe, but nearly every Republican candidate since Eisenhower can be described as a caricature in one way or another as well.

    Really, any politician can be described as a caricature of their party. It’s an occupational hazard.

    • #15
  16. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Salvatore Padula:In much the same way as Trump is a caricature of conservatism, Johnson is a caricature of libertarianism. He’s the embodiment of the idea that libertarianism boils down to not liking war while very much liking weed, with some noise about fiscal probity and tolerance thrown in.

    Yep…

    #SighJohnson?

    • #16
  17. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    If a vote for Johnson actually mattered — if he were suddenly polling competitively with a chance at actually getting electoral votes — I’d struggle with it. I’d have some mild optimism that actual national security briefings and real responsibility would have some impact on the Ron Paul foreign policy.

    However, if he’s at 8% a vote for him is just about sending a message. Since I’m conservative, not libertarian, it’s really not the message I care to send. I’d rather be counted in as “other” with a vote for my conservative senator.

    • #17
  18. blood thirsty neocon Inactive
    blood thirsty neocon
    @bloodthirstyneocon

    Johnson wants to protect our freedom to bake cakes for gay weddings. Oh but don’t worry, his limiting principle for what cake bakers will have to put on the cake is “common sense and common decency”. You know what they say, your religious freedom ends where others’ freedom to have really gay cakes begins.

    • #18
  19. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    blood thirsty neocon:

    Johnson wants to protect our freedom to bake cakes for gay weddings. Oh but don’t worry, his limiting principle for what cake bakers will have to put on the cake is “common sense and common decency”. You know what they say, your religious freedom ends where others’ freedom to have really gay cakes begins.

    Agreed, which is why I mentioned it in the piece (also, why I promoted V the K’s piece on it last week). It’s reprehensible and Johnson should be ashamed of his position on that.

    Out of curiosity earlier, I looked to see if Trump had made any comments on the matter and didn’t see any. If anyone else finds something, I’d be curious.

    • #19
  20. blood thirsty neocon Inactive
    blood thirsty neocon
    @bloodthirstyneocon

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    blood thirsty neocon:

    Johnson wants to protect our freedom to bake cakes for gay weddings. Oh but don’t worry, his limiting principle for what cake bakers will have to put on the cake is “common sense and common decency”. You know what they say, your religious freedom ends where others’ freedom to have really gay cakes begins.

    Agreed, which is why I mentioned it in the piece (also, why I promoted V the K’s piece on it last week). It’s reprehensible and Johnson should be ashamed of his position on that.

    Out of curiosity earlier, I looked to see if Trump had made any comments on the matter and didn’t see any. If anyone else finds something, I’d be curious.

    I know Trump’s pretty much toed the pc left line on trans-gender bathroom issues. I’ve been a Trump sympathizer for quite a while, which is why I’m disappointed with his position on bathrooms.

    • #20
  21. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I voted Libertarian when confronted with the 2000, 2004, and 2008 versions of Trump vs Clinton.  This time I’ll just write in Ted Cruz’s name.

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The Reticulator:I voted Libertarian when confronted with the 2000, 2004, and 2008 versions of Trump vs Clinton. This time I’ll just write in Ted Cruz’s name.

    Why break your streak?

    • #22
  23. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Misthiocracy:

    The Reticulator:I voted Libertarian when confronted with the 2000, 2004, and 2008 versions of Trump vs Clinton. This time I’ll just write in Ted Cruz’s name.

    Why break your streak?

    I already broke it by voting for Romney in 2012.  Don’t wanna get in a rut, you know.

    • #23
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