There aren’t just two names on the ballot in every single state — there are three. Libertarian Gary Johnson is an option everywhere, and contrary to popular wisdom, a vote for him is not a vote for Hillary Clinton — or for Donald Trump. (Here are 5 conservative reasons to vote for Trump and for Clinton.)
This is the third article in my series explaining why a thinking conservative can pull the lever for any of five presidential candidates, and I may be more convinced by this one than the others.
Yes, I know about Gary Johnson’s infamous “What is Aleppo?” (which The New York Times actually screwed up on twice) and his second “Aleppo moment,” where he could not name a foreign leader he respects. Forgive me, but I’d rather have an honest candidate who can’t name a foreign leader he respects than two dishonest ones who could list off dozens. Johnson has some serious flaws, but he may be the least of three evils.
Here are the reasons to think so.
1. No, it’s not a wasted vote. Johnson can win.
Want to vote twice? It’s easy, and there’s no fraud necessary. Just tell a Republican and a Democrat you’re voting for Gary Johnson. Your Republican friend will tell you it’s a vote for Clinton, and your Democrat friend will tell you it’s a vote for Trump. Why? Because they think in binary terms.
But America doesn’t need to think in binary — there is the slightest chance a third-party candidate can be sworn into the White House in January 2017. It’s not easy, but here’s what it looks like:
New poll showing Gary Johnson at 24% support in New Mexico makes Electoral College deadlock plausible-Nate Silver https://t.co/O3H2RP7rBG
— I like Bernie (@gstands4guts) October 4, 2016
If Johnson wins just one state — his deep-blue home state of New Mexico, which he carried twice as a Republican candidate for governor — he can prevent Trump and Clinton from reaching 270 electoral votes, the majority that one of them needs to become president. In this case, voting moves to the House of Representatives.
At that point, House Democrats might have to admit that Clinton will never take the White House, and they could join with libertarian-minded Republicans to hand the office to a third-party candidate. No, this scenario is not likely, but it is entirely possible. And you thought this race couldn’t get more interesting.
2. Honest Gary?
In a viral Facebook video which convinced 30,000 Republicans and Democrats to pledge to vote Libertarian, the narrator Abraham Lincoln declares, “if America is Gotham City, then Hillary is the mob and Trump is the Joker. … America, picking between the Joker and the mob is not a real choice. It’s time to vote for freaking Batman.” As the video pointed out, Lincoln himself ran third party — in 1860.
But the real comparison between Gary Johnson and Abraham Lincoln isn’t that they both ran third party. After the infamous Aleppo response, Johnson admitted his mistake, and said if voters considered it a disqualifier, “so be it.”
I’ve been really well served in my life by always telling the truth. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything, and I think the one unforgivable in life is hypocrisy, saying one thing and doing another.
Johnson has served eight years as a Republican governor in a deep-blue state, and somehow he managed to do so without demeaning women (either in “locker room talk” or by denouncing “bimbo eruptions”), without lying to the American people about a terrorist attack, and without the blatant pandering both Clinton and Trump frequently resort to.
Next Page: An American success story.
3. An American success story.
Johnson is a legitimately inspiring candidate. Donald inherited his wealth and Hillary racked up money through graft, but Gary won his millions through honest entrepreneurship. As David French wrote in National Review in May:
Johnson is a self-made man, starting a handyman business in college that grew into a 1,000-employee construction firm. He ran for governor as a fiscal conservative in a blue state, won handily, and can now boast that he cut taxes, vetoed hundreds of bills, presided over significant job growth, balanced the state budget, and created a substantial reserve fund. He won reelection in a rout.
Johnson vetoed more bills than any other governor at the time, and pushed New Mexico in a free market, limited-government direction.
He is also a kind of Teddy Roosevelt, as French put it, “an adventurer politician.” Johnson has run dozens of triathlons, climbed the highest mountain on all seven continents, and he built his house with his own hands. If that’s not inspiring, I’m not sure what is.
4. The only fiscal conservative in the race.
Hillary Clinton has pledged to increase the size and scope of government, with a whole host of new programs and mandates. Donald Trump has pledged to cut taxes, but he has also promised not to reform entitlements.
“Neither Trump nor Clinton believe in free markets, I do believe that free markets would lead to more U.S. jobs, a growing economy,” Johnson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in September. “Nobody’s talking about balancing the federal budget, nobody’s talking about the threat of runaway government, nobody’s talking about reforming Medicaid or Medicare.”
These key free-market issues are left out in the cold in the binary race between Clinton and Trump. On trade, it’s even worse.
Donald Trump has famously expressed deep skepticism about America’s trade deals, holding out the threat of tariffs. Such aggressive trade policies have a very bad track record — one even started the Great Depression. Yet Hillary Clinton doesn’t support free trade either: after independent Senator Bernie Sanders came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Clinton followed suit, despite having called it the “gold standard” of such deals.
Johnson, however, supports free trade — he is the only candidate on the ballot in all 50 states who does so. If you want a fiscally conservative president, Trump is not your best option, Johnson is.
Next Page: What about the Supreme Court?
5. What about the Supreme Court?
The best argument for Donald Trump is the Supreme Court. The death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the Court with four liberals and four ostensible conservatives (two of whom side with liberals on key issues). But there is good reason to trust that Gary Johnson’s Court picks would actually be more conservative than those of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump once promised to uphold the twelfth article of the Constitution, a document which only has seven articles. While Trump has published not one, but two very strong lists of conservative Court appointees, he is notoriously unreliable not just on issues (he was for universal healthcare, for abortion, and even praised Planned Parenthood earlier this year), but on key promises (his sleeping around ended both of his first two marriages, after all).
Hillary Clinton follows the standard liberal argument that the Constitution is a living document and can be interpreted in whatever way a reader wants, in order to “suit the times.” Gary Johnson, however, has pledged to appoint judges “who will interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning.”
Johnson has been hailed as the best pro-life candidate, because Trump has only become pro-life recently and revealed his ignorance on the issue by calling for the punishment of women who get abortions. The Libertarian is publicly pro-choice, but he also declared that he would leave abortion policy to the states — where the strongest conservative reform has been achieved.
Johnson even said he believed Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided because it “expanded the reach of the federal government into areas of society never envisioned in the Constitution.” That sounds like the kind of pro-choice candidate I can support.
The Libertarian’s biggest weakness — the one that gives me the most concern — is his declaration that “I just see religious freedom, as a category, of just being a black hole.” On the issue of forcing Christian bakers and florists to serve at a homosexual wedding, Johnson repeated the liberal “discrimination” line. While this position is not even properly libertarian, the president would not likely have as strong an impact on it as the Supreme Court, and most of Johnson’s Court picks would probably support religious freedom. This is a risk, but less so than trusting Trump.
Johnson has also praised the Black Lives Matter movement, which has ignored evidence against its narrative and inspired racial violence in riots in major cities. However, the Libertarian does not trace the racial issues behind the movement to institutional racism, but to the sad state of the criminal justice system. This call for criminal justice reform has attracted the support of both liberals and conservatives, and is a rather satisfactory response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Finally, if you want more evidence that a conservative can back Johnson, look no further than this article by a terrified liberal, Lea Grover, on Scary Mommy blog. Among other things, Grover is terrified of Johnson’s approach to global warming — acknowledging the science but denying that humans are the main cause and encouraging a free market energy policy. If he terrifies liberals, that’s a rather good sign.
The Libertarian is far from perfect, but as the only fiscal conservative in the race, a second reliable candidate for the Supreme Court, and an honest and inspiring candidate who can actually win, he certainly demands a second look. (For conservatives in Virginia especially, since Trump just effectively conceded the Old Dominion state to Clinton. Also, if you live in New Mexico, know that Trump will not win there, and your vote is better used on Johnson.)