During the past month or so, several friends have asked my opinion of Gary Johnson, one of two Libertarian candidates who have entered the circus we are calling an election this year. I promised to take a closer look at Johnson, his views, and let them know my thoughts, but other business took precedence and Gary Johnson was quickly pushed back into the webby corners of my mind. Until this morning, that is, when I heard something on the news that nearly turned my blood to ice. Gary Johnson is hoping to rally Sanders supporters.
My concern is not that Johnson could actually win the election. He is a virtual unknown, no third-party candidate has ever won the election, etc., etc., etc. Initially my thoughts about him were that he would probably have some effect in terms of pulling votes from either Trump or Clinton, but at that time, a month or so ago, it was too early and there was not sufficient information to predict which it would be. But if he actively seeks votes from among the Sanders camp, it could end up being a game-changer and not in any good way.
The problem, as I see it, is that Trump supporters are going to vote for Trump, no matter what. They plan to vote for them no matter how many people he insults, how many lies he tells, and in spite of the fact that he is daily being proven to be a dishonest businessman. If none of that sways them, it is highly unlikely that a third-party candidate will sway them. They are committed … granted, they do not understand the ramifications of that commitment, but they are as committed to plunging off that cliff just as good lemmings must always be. Many Clinton supporters, unfortunately, are not pro-Clinton so much as they are anti-Trump. So, if a different alternative comes along, might they swing to a third-party candidate? My guess is some will. Then there are the Sanders supporters, a large portion of whom have already said they will not vote for Clinton. According to one poll, 18% of Sanders supporters say they will support Johnson.
So, how closely do Johnson’s views match those of Bernie Sanders? Let us take a closer look.
- Individual Rights: Bernie Sanders is far more liberal than Johnson. Johnson is considered moderate on this issue
- Abortion – both agree it is a woman’s right to choose, though Johnson with some restrictions
- Legally require hiring of women & minorities – both agree, Bernie more strongly
- Same-sex marriage – both strongly support
- Separation of church and state – Bernie agrees, Johnson disagrees
- EPA regulations too restrictive – Bernie disagrees, Johnson agrees
- Make voter registration easier – Bernie strongly agrees, Johnson disagrees
- Domestic Issues: Again Johnson weighs in as being far more conservative than Sanders and leans about mid-way between center and far right.
- Stricter punishment reduces crime – both disagree, Bernie more strongly so
- Absolute right to gun ownership – Bernie is against, Johnson strongly supports
- Expand ACA (Obamacare) – Bernie strongly supports, Johnson is strongly against
- School vouchers – Bernie is strongly against, Johnson is strongly in favour
- Prioritize green energy – Bernie strongly supports, Johnson strongly disagrees
- Economic Issues: Again, Bernie is about 70% liberal, while Johnson is about 30% conservative
- Stimulus better than market-led recovery – Sanders supports, while Johnson strongly opposes
- Pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants – Sanders agrees, Johnson strongly supports
- Higher taxes on wealthy – Sanders strongly agrees, Johnson strongly disagrees
- Privatize social security – Bernie strongly disagrees, while Johnson agrees
- Defense and International Issues: Here, Bernie is quite liberal, while Johnson is moderate
- Expand the military – both strongly disagree
- Support & expand free trade – Bernie strongly disagrees, Johnson strongly agrees
- Avoid foreign entanglements – both strongly agree
With a few exceptions, I do not see Sanders supporters flocking toward Johnson based on his views and ideology. However, if this election season has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that voters as a whole do not seem to understand or care about the platforms and ideologies of the candidates. As an early Sanders supporter, I can only offer my personal perspective, and while I like a few of Johnson’s ideas, such as on immigration and free trade, I would not vote for Johnson. What I most dislike are his views on guns, environmental issues, healthcare and economic issues. His support for a market-led recovery? Well, we’ve been playing that game for a long time and the market is led by greed. Reagan’s ‘trickle down’ economics did not work in the 1980s and it does not work today. That ‘market-led’ economy has done no more than increase the income gap between the 1% and the rest of us. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Another thing I find frightening in Johnson’s platform is his preference to co-mingle religion and government. Given today’s right-wing, radical evangelicals, no, I do not want to send ‘separation of church and state’ out the back door. Religion has no place in good governance.
Again, if voters were inclined to make informed decisions based on the candidates background, experience, and political views, I do not think we would need to worry about Sanders supporters heading out to the Johnson camp. In fact, I think it would be far more likely that some Trump supporters might prefer Johnson’s more moderate views than those of the ranting, rambling candidate who as yet has no specific views on the actual issues. My best guess is that he may end up with the support of some who were previously in the Sanders camp, and may quite possibly end up pulling some of Clinton’s less-strong supporters also. In the long run, what it may all boil down to is charisma. Or a lack of.