Wary of Gary
Let me start off by saying that I would like nothing more than to be able to support a Liberty candidate and vote for him this November. I have tried so hard, many times to get myself in the mood for Gary Johnson. Each time I was kidding myself.
You should know that you are free to comment and argue with me, but the purpose of this post is not necessarily to convince people not to vote for Gary Johnson, but just to further explain why I am not going to do so. This may seem unnecessary, but seeing as how this blog had hitherto been given the expressed purpose of supporting Ron Paul, in its own limited way, and that I will be ramping up the volume and frequency of posts, I feel obliged to explain why none of these posts will be featuring support for Johnson’s candidacy, and will instead be more issue-oriented (with the occasional hit piece on Obama or Romney).
So. What exactly is my problem with Gary Johnson? I’ll tell you. It’s not that he’s not a nice guy. It’s not that I doubt his sincerity. It’s not that I would prefer Obama or Romney. And it’s not just the very few (or perhaps there are more than I initially anticipated) things that he and I disagree on. But it is, in part, the things he, at times, seems focus on. I can’t listen to the guy without him blah-blah-blahing about gay marriage, taxing marijuana, flip-flopping on everything from heroin to NAFTA, and plenty of other meaningless distractions, all the while that they are mostly distractions he is still going in the wrong direction or not near forcefully enough in the right direction. Sure, he brings up the wars, the Pentagon budget, says he wants to bring the troops home, audit the fed, things like that. And the strange thing is I don’t necessarily disbelieve him. I just think that these things, the real issues, the real issues, the real issues, would be put on the back burner, or more so than they should be. It’s the economy stupid! And as long as you are going to talk about and do things that have virtually nothing to do with the economy, the very least you could do, if you want my support, or my vote, is talk about and do these things in a way I can agree with.
I have said that I would vote for Gary Johnson if he would address some of my concerns satisfactorily. When I originally listed them, I was mainly waxing rhetorical. In my mind, I was (and still am) certain that Gary would answer almost none of them to my satisfaction, which is why those particulars (re-listed below) were ever sticks in my craw in the first place.
What is it about Gary that makes me lose hope of he and I ever seeing eye to eye on these things?
I have seen and heard enough interviews where these things were touched on. None of the interviewers were anywhere near as precise on these issues as I was with my list. Nor would one think there should be a need for them to be so. You see, libertarians make a name for themselves being very rational and analytical about things. So when some radio host or some high mucky-muck in the freedom movement/free market blogosphere asks Gary Johnson, straight up: Do you support humanitarian interventionism? (just one example!), and he opens his mouth and fumbles but you think he’s eventually going to say something rooted in some clause of the Constitution or some fundamental libertarian axiom, and then he basically says “yes,” without hardly a qualification (and then one usually appealing to emotion), and changes the subject to his stance on the current wars, which are winding down and unpopular anyways, and therefore happens to be the same stance as 70% of the American public, who, and I hate to sound like an elitist, are some of the most vacuous and bloodthirsty people on the planet, I am forced to choose between two options in terms of what I can think of him: He is either weak willed (worse yet, a coward) or he is a complete ignoramus. And let me tell you, I am not sure which one scares me more: Is he afraid of alienating the average Libertarian Party member who is a bleeding-heart socially liberal utilitarian minarchist (nothing necessarily wrong with any ONE of those things, or even a mixture of two or three, but I am not the biggest fan of the overall combination), or does he really know less about basic libertarianism, noninterventionism, and economics than some kids I know who aren’t even old enough to vote?
There have been times when I listen to him speak and after a while I am just cringing in dreadful anticipation of what answer he is going to give next. Don’t get me wrong, the man is a great orator when he gets a softball interview, which is just about all of them these last two months because his handlers won’t let him talk about the real details of the real issues with real people anymore. They already milked that cow and she’s bone dry.
Or maybe I shouldn’t blame it all on his handlers, maybe I should blame it on the fact that because Ron Paul is out of the picture and this is an exciting election, the media, even its libertarian wing, has chosen to fawn rather than vet.
Anyways, lets delve into those particulars again:
1. Does his pro-choice stance mean he would uphold the Tenth Amendment or ignore it and further erode it?
Gary has stated that he thinks each state should decide. This is a stance I can live with and may even be the best of all possible political alternatives. Except…
Johnson is really in no position to alienate the pro-life vote, so it would stand to reason that he would bring up the states’ rights argument, that he says he adheres to in this case, just a tad more often. Unfortunately for him, he usually just says that he PERSONALLY BELIEVES in a woman’s “right” to choose up until the fetus is “viable.” He needs 15% polling nationwide to get in the debates with Obama and Romney, something I would have hoped for even if I was not going to vote for him, just to get some of his alternative views in the public square (his opposition, though at times mild, to things like the Federal Reserve, suspension of habeas corpus, the income tax, ObamaCare, executive orders, undeclared wars, budget deficits, entitlements, welfare, eminent domain, the UN, bailouts, gun control, etc.). I suspect after alienating a good portion of his potential base, the Ron Paul supporters, he will not get into the debates, let alone win the presidency. We basically have three pro-choice guys running. One is Planned Parenthood’s bosom buddy. Another has ties to abortion mill disposal companies and has had every conceivable stance on the issue (except this one). And the other, while opposing public funding of abortions, and possibly in favor of states’ rights on the issue (thereby appointing judges who might overturn Roe v. Wade), still would not make life a priority in any way, shape, or form because a) he personally is pro-choice and b) he is against states’ rights on the marriage question and who knows what else.
Here is one article I read that says it is okay to vote for a personally pro-choice candidate because the president, not even through the courts, has absolutely no effect on policies regarding abortion: Abortion, Religion, and the Presidency by Laurence M. Vance. Mr. Vance is essentially arguing that you can vote for the lesser of two evils if the evil in question has no policy consequence. I would buy that argument if I knew for certain that that same candidate would reduce abortions through some indirect mechanism (states’ rights), if given the opportunity to do so, even if he is unwilling or unable to use more direct mechanisms (executive order, signing a law banning abortion, advocating an amendment banning abortion, or appointing judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade).
There are three ways to implement a states’ rights solution to abortion. One is to overturn Roe v. Wade by appointing pro-life or pro-states’ rights justices. Another is to pass a law taking jurisdiction over abortion away from the courts, thus invalidating Roe v. Wade and any other federal court’s decision in the past or future that overturn state laws against abortion. Both of these ways are direct. The third way is simply by refusing to prosecute or punish the states that choose to ban abortion, even if Roe v. Wade is technically still in effect. The President can direct his Attorney General, Justice Department, and other relevant officers to not go after states that nullify federal law or court decisions. Johnson has not clearly stated that would do any of these things. And until he does, no pro-lifer should even consider him. I hope he clarifies whether he would do these things or not. There are so many issues that he has made unclear or conflicting statements on.
2. Does “humanitarian intervention” mean things such as Letters of Marque and Reprisal and Spanish Civil War-type volunteerism (which is illegal these days) or does it mean more undeclared or unjust wars, unilateral or otherwise?
He still has never gone into detail on this, besides, just recently, specifically as it pertains to Kony. I mean, are we just supposed to make the assumption that he’s alright just because of the L that comes after his name? I thought that sort of thinking was what gave us the two-party duopoly! My gut instinct is that Gary really would send in taxpayer-funded US troops. He would probably go to Congress and get a Declaration of War first, and would probably define the mission, engage the enemy, win, and then pull out. Probably. This would therefore be a “legal” war, but by no means a “just” war. Ron Paul (yes, I know, he is not running anymore, but that has nothing to do with the point I am making) on the other hand would only go to Congress if we were attacked first, and then presumably in an even handed way. And if Congress on its own, with no prompting from the Commander-in-Chief, was to unjustly, but legally Declare War, Ron Paul as Commander-in-Chief would probably weigh the two following options: Resign or carry it out as quickly and painlessly as possible. Gary, so far as I can tell would weigh these two options: Carry it out because there is a humanitarian reason to do so or don’t carry it out because there is no humanitarian reason to do so. And need I remind you that George W. Bush campaigned on a humble foreign policy and gave us two quagmires and a world ready to explode. How much more should we be wary of someone who has stated they would go gallivanting across the globe in search of monsters to destroy (or am I wrong in thinking that is the corollary of using trained killers in a humanitarian fashion)? All other things being equal of course.
Gary Johnson did say, and I think this is only a recent thing as a result of pressure put on him by the Ron Paul vote, that he “think[s] Kony could have been more effectively dealt with by letters of marque and reprisal.” And while I could go on about why Letters of Marque and Reprisal are preferable to sending in the troops, the reality is that volunteers acting on their own, expecting no aid from the US government, whether their mission succeeds or fails, would be even better, especially in a situation that has nothing to do with US national security. Letters of Marque and Reprisal would have been the perfect thing to go after Osama bin Laden with, but in the case of Kony, this would be no different than the president having private mercenaries doing his bidding, taking out whomever he deems unfit to continue living. That kind of power in the hands of Johnson would probably not be of too much concern, but to establish that precedent would be unwise, especially in light of the fact that assassinating United States citizens, no charges, no trial, is the accepted prerogative of the executive office these days.
3. When he says, “end the war on drugs,” does he mean, “decriminalize all substances” on the federal level and let the states and individuals decide for themselves, or simply, “legalize marijuana, which we can then tax and regulate like we do alcohol and tobacco,” well?
He means the second one, which I am fundamentally in disagreement with. I don’t think the Federal government should even be regulating alcohol and tobacco.
4. Is his love for liberty rooted, at least partially, in a hatred for injustice and tyranny, or is it more from a utilitarian, the-greatest-benefit-to-the-greatest-number philosophy?
I already know the answer to this. And as with most other questions, it is the second answer.
5. Should the federal government only prosecute and punish crimes actually listed in the Constitution, or just about any crime that may be a real or perceived problem?
You know, counterfeiting, piracy on the high seas, treason, and international crimes? Gary has never even touched on this issue, one way or the other, to my knowledge. This is a much bigger deal than most people give credit for, and though it is related to the drug issue, is a lot broader than that.
6. Will states be allowed to ignore laws they deem unjust or should the federal government take measures to prevent this, whether through the courts, the legislature, or the executive branch?
Gary has spoken about nullification, but this seems inconsistent with his view of marriage. He wants a nation-wide law providing for one, all-inclusive definition of marriage, all the while maintaining separation of church and state, but why bother with such laws (which, like provisions of the Civil Rights Act, are in clear violation of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, as well as the Fourteenth, which is often misinterpreted in the same way that the Thirteenth is to give the children of illegal immigrants automatic citizenship, that is to superficially uphold the letter of the text through modern interpretation while completely ignoring the spirit of the text through original intent) on the one hand, when you support nullification on the other? It makes no sense!
7. Is getting rid of the income tax and replacing it with the Fair Tax part of a broader plan to eliminate all taxes unnecessary to the legitimate constitutional functions of government, or is it an end in itself?
I’m serious. Taxation is theft. Period. But I have further questions: Does getting rid of the income tax mean abolishing just the IRS and the tax code, or does it include abolishing the Sixteenth Amendment? This question has not even been asked, let alone answered. Given that fact, I would say it is because Gary does not want to waste time on politically inexpedient policy issues that bear no immediate fruit when all he has to do is say something popular. When most people hear abolish the income tax, they just assume you mean permanently. And perhaps in your heart of hearts you do, but that doesn’t cut it. Johnson has basically said (and here is the link) that he would push for the Fair Tax whether the 16th Amendment was gotten rid of or not, which to me is plain stupid. If you are not for completely abolishing one tyranny before you “replace” it with another, how can you guarantee that further down the road there won’t be both at once? You can’t. Especially not as the Government’s need for revenue increases, exponentially no less, with each passing year, thanks to our national debt and unfunded liabilities and the high interest rates that are inevitable in the future. In my book, bad things should not be replaced with slightly less worse things. Once you have gotten rid of the bad thing, that should be the end of it. If that is an impossibility, it should still be the stated goal. Why compromise before you are even asked to? As H.L. Richardson wrote in Confrontational Politics, ”When the liberals step dialectically backward, the conservative attack must be intensified, not diminished.” This means don’t stop pushing just because you have gained some ground. It applies equally to all corners of the political compass, not just “liberals” and “conservatives.”
And those are my concerns and observations, and they are subject to revision. In any case, I do not think Gary Johnson will win, so as I have said before, the only reasons for someone who otherwise is not enthused to vote for him, are, to help him get matching funds, which in my opinion is not a worthy goal unless you plan on handing them back directly to the Treasury or better yet the taxpayer; or to send a message. Sending a message is a great idea. Unless of course, it is the wrong message. And what message would I be sending by voting for Gary Johnson?
I would be sending a message to the Libertarian Party that they can go ahead and keep sending in watered down libertarians and I will loyally support them because I don’t mind watered down libertarians and enjoy sending messages that are about how much I like sending messages rather than actually getting a real point across.
I would be sending the Republican Party a message that says I would vote for whoever they nominate as long as he has more in common with Gary Johnson than he does Barack Obama, which, though that hypothetical person would absolutely be better than Romney or Obama, is absolutely not true and therefore not a message I want to send.
I would be sending the Democratic Party a message that says I would vote for whoever they nominate as long as he has more in common with Gary Johnson than he does Mitt Romney, which, though that hypothetical person would absolutely be better than Obama or Romney, is absolutely not true and therefore not a message I want to send.
I am neither willing nor able to send any of these messages, all of which would emanate from a vote for Gary Johnson. This obviously does not apply to those who would be voting for Johnson for other reasons (like agreeing with his positions) or who think that sending messages that they may not entirely agree with is their civic duty or a dire necessity.
And what weight does winning (whether you define that as winning the election, changing the game, or simply as sending a message) have against violating one’s conscience? If I were slightly more of a compromiser, and if I thought Gary Johnson could win, something I did briefly think was possible, perhaps that would be heavy enough of a thing, for me to consider going against my conscience and making that expedient choice. But so long as there is no likely reward (a win), why would I, hypothetically more of a compromiser, even bother sticking my neck out? It would be pointless.
That is only a hypothetical; I like to think that I would not compromise like that, even with a chance at success. So if I find out on November 7th that Gary Johnson could have been a game changer or even a winner had he just one more vote, I will still not regret the decision I made to write-in Ronald Ernest Paul, M.D.
And in case you don’t believe me, here are some links that went into my decision: