Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gary Johnson's Seventy-Five Percent

This is the summer of Gary Johnson. The former New Mexico governor who has been steadily drifting left over his career is now doing his best to make Hillary Clinton into President Hillary Clinton.

Back in 1999, Johnson rejected overtures from the Libertarian Party for a presidential run. “I'm a Republican, and I'm not going to run for President.'”

Both parts of that statement proved to be lies.

Libertarian and non-libertarian supporters see a principled politician in Gary Johnson. But Johnson has always been a political chameleon, shifting his colors to win elections.

Gary Johnson is now desperately courting Bernie Sanders voters. Johnson told CNN that, “We think that about 75% of what we’ve got to say really ties with Bernie Sanders supporters.” At CNN’s Town Hall, he claimed it was 70 percent. On C-SPAN, he claimed it was 73 percent. How many Socialists are there in the Libertarian Party? Apparently it’s all in the numbers.

Whatever the number is though, it’s probably true because Gary Johnson excels at reinventing the percentages of his principles to fit the political needs of the moment.

Johnson is best known for his support for pot legalization, but few people remember that it came after he won a second term by vowing to be tougher on crime than anyone else. The libertarian hero was originally in favor trying 13-year olds as adults. But the modern Gary Johnson is against three strikes laws and backs Black Lives Matter. It’s a long way from running as the guy who would try 13-year olds as adults and make sure that every convict would serve “every lousy second” of his sentence to endorsing a racist hate group that protests “mass incarceration” and “police genocide.”

But Gary Johnson has always been evolving with an eye on the next phase of his career. His “evolution” was most obvious during his lame duck second term. It really picked up as he began working on a national career. His pathetic attempt to dress up as Bernie Sanders is the final phase of that career.

Johnson explains his leftward tilt by claiming stupidity. His eyes are now “open” to racial discrimination. As governor of New Mexico, he was “naïve” and didn’t think the government made mistakes with the death penalty. Johnson is always discovering new things, like discrimination or mistaken convictions, with childlike enthusiasm to explain why he abandoned his prior politics.

But the truth is that Gary Johnson panders. He has always pandered. He’s pandered on abortion, on crime and on education spending.

The libertarian hero touts a track record of cutting spending. But Johnson didn’t become popular by cutting spending, but by making a show of appearing to. Under him, state budgets rose from $4.3 billion to $7.2 billion. New Mexico went from a debt of $1.8 billion to a debt of $4.6 billion.

Those aren’t quite Obama numbers, but they certainly aren’t libertarian numbers.

While Gary Johnson made a show of vetoing bills, the actual money went on flowing. This is a familiar tactic practiced by certain Republicans who claim to be fiscal conservatives, throwing loud tantrums for public consumption while the money train keeps on running. And that’s what Johnson was doing.

Johnson’s pandering is often erratic. He was for NAFTA and then was briefly against it. He signaled opposition to TPP before coming out for it. After rejecting conservative ideas, Johnson is still stuck with the contradictions between libertarianism and the Bernie Sanders supporters whom he is trying to court.

And he’s discovering that he can’t truly court both at the same time. Johnson is pandering to too many different demographics. And when in doubt he panders to the left rather than to libertarians.

It’s why Gary Johnson actually went to the left of Obama on gay marriage. Johnson complained that Obama wasn’t doing enough to force all states to assent to gay marriage.

"Instead of insisting on equality as a US Constitutional guarantee, the President has thrown this question back to the states. When the smoke clears, Gay Americans will realize the President's words have gained them nothing today and that millions of Americans in most states will continue to be denied true marriage equality. I guess the President is still more worried about losing Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia than he is in doing the right thing,” Johnson bleated.

It said something about Gary Johnson’s libertarian credentials that he felt that Obama wasn’t violating the rights of states, not to mention freedom of religion, hard enough.

Asked about the difference between gay marriage and polygamy, Gary Johnson could not give a coherent answer. But that’s because Johnson has no principles, only populist gimmicks.

He isn’t a libertarian. He has no notion of ideas. He just happens to excel at getting attention with publicity stunts.

Meanwhile William Weld, Johnson’s VP, seemed on board mainly to make his number one appear libertarian by comparison. Weld believes that, “The problem with handguns is probably even worse than the problem of the AR-15”.

Responding to a question about Black Lives Matter, Weld said that, “We have to get them in to education and just concentrate the power of the government, trying to make sure that there are jobs available for them. It's a national emergency and when there's a national emergency, the government has to respond. Libertarian or no libertarian.”

No libertarian is the correct answer. Weld is neither a Republican nor a libertarian. He’s a liberal who isn’t left-wing enough for actual liberals. The same is true of Gary Johnson.

Gary Johnson isn’t a third party alternative. Instead he’s latching on to dissatisfaction in both parties while clumsily trying to pretend that he has some sort of consistent principles.

And those kinds of tactics are not new.

There are independent politicians who genuinely offer an alternative viewpoint. There are others who are just opportunists. One of the better recent examples is Lincoln Chafee.

What Gary Johnson wants most of all is to seem cool. It’s his Achilles heel. It’s why he backed legal pot, gay marriage and now Black Lives Matter.

Even on the best of days no one would mistake him for an intellectual. But on most days, he wants the popularity that came easily to Bernie Sanders once he was embraced by the left. And so Johnson emphasizes how much he in common he has with Sanders hoping that the mindless flocks of Bernie supporters will stream to his campaign.

They won’t.

The only possible successful outcome of a Johnson campaign is President Hillary Clinton. Johnson is clearly comfortable with that. If he has 70 or 73 or 75 percent in common with Bernie Sanders, how much does he have in common with Hillary Clinton?


Infidel said...

If that 70 or 73 or 75 percent is serious, it is a good example of trying to be more precise than the data allows. There are a whole range of situations where it doesn't make sense to try and be overly precise.

Infidel said...

Though I suppose that 70 or 73 or 75 percent is just used for rhetorical purposes.

Anonymous said...

For 40 years, I've hoped to live in a libertarian Society. Small, honest government, live and work free of high and complex tax, free of oppressive regulation. It would be wonderful to live safe from foreign and domestic threat of violence. I would be rewarded for creativity and production. I could spend my rewards unashamed of the success achieved. My private life remains private.

Election after election, I've been disappointed. Libertarianism always attracts the issues of drugs, perversity, naive pacifism. Libertarian articulation of the minimal State always comes off wonkish and vulnerable to clever sophistry from both Left and Right.

Johnson acts and apparently expects to be treated as a clown. The noble ideas of Mises, Hayek, Bastiat, Jefferson, Rand, Friedman deserve so much better.


Anonymous said...

DIAMAT (dialectical marxism) for the rank and file SJW, translates into do evil, call it something respectable in front of TV cameras and ta-dah! mission accomplished; however, as college kids, they have the brains but lack the ability to perform so they enroll petty criminals and turn them into militants with a lofty goal (BLM is born), the kids pretend to be tough the thugs pretend to be moral. e.g. shooting men in blue and burning the town become acts of peace and love, beating disobedient wives becomes protecting women rights (moderate muslims know the trick too). In essence, immorality and criminality are justified and there is a bonus too, thugs can easily deal drugs to have a bit of fun, you know the narrative, a wealth transfer from rich kids to dispossessed inner city dwellers…

Empress Trudy said...

Talking to millenials you're struck by the almost austistic attraction they have for citations and 'fact'. It doesn't matter what you believe if you can find a URL that supports your view, even if its your own blog, then that is a 'fact'. They simply have no ability to think in context or with an historical perspective. They listen and absorb what you say and then when they hear a key word that they're interested in, positive or negative, they stop listening and they start screaming at you about that keyword. A good example in the media is the endless rows CNN's Don Lemmon gets into with people where he blathers on for 5 minutes making up his own reality and his only question to the person he's talking to is "Yes? Or No?" The guest is not permitted to answer in any other way.

So when Gary Johnson says he's whatever % with Hillary he's playing that game. Tomorrow someone commenting on an article on The Hill or whatnot will say "He's 73% Hillary and Trump is 67% Hillary so Trump is Hitlersatan".

As an aside you also note that speaking with millenials is often creepy. Flat out strange. They talk like they tweet - in a flat un-punctuated monotone somewhere around 275-300 wpm.

Eric Johnson said...

Love your articles

kevin said...

Very good analysis, thank you. The Libertarian Party Defense Caucus declined to endorse him (or anybody) this presidential election cycle. There are no libertarians in the race.

Personally, I recommend Trump. He has some good points, like charging allies for US military protection. He has some bad aspects, but net, is far better than Hillary. Which is why I endorse the Facebook page, Libertarians for Trump.

Japheth said...

Well said

Edward Cline said...

Libertarians have always been morally and philosophically rudderless ("we don't need no stinkin' philosophy, to hell with Rand!"), mouthing off in a philosophical vacuum to no effect.That's why I'd never vote for Libertarians. They want to be something to everyone. The legalization of pot or condoms is not a crucial issue, but they seem to think it is.

Alex in Montana said...


1) Thanks for pointing out Johnson has moved left. I agree with you about 98.9% of the time but not here. See point #2.

2) You are mistaken in your political analysis of the election. Both Johnson and Jill Stein are stealing (5) Hillary votes for every (one) Trump loses to these two alternative candidates. The latest polling proves this 100%;

The candidacies of Johnson and Stein means that Trump will crush Hillary.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

We all know America would be a better country if more people smoked more pot more of the time. Isn't that what the Libertarian Party is all about?


I wish Johnson would very lost. I hope they don't let him in the debates.

America learned a tough lesson in 1992, voting for Perot and getting Clinton elected.

Anonymous said...

Johnson is Libertine not Libertarian

Anonymous said...

Thank for another superb column Mr. Greenfield. Happy to pass this one onto the NeverTrump lunatics who plan to vote for Johnson, the same ones who claim to be Christian conservatives. With the exception of some fiscal policy, what is there about libertarianism, really progressivism, that has anything in common with Christians and conservatives. Nothing. Just like someone posted, "libertarians are progressives who do not have the balls to admit it."

justthinkin said...

Responding to a question about Black Lives Matter, Weld said that, “We have to get them in to education and just concentrate the power of the government, trying to make sure that there are jobs available for them...." And how does he propose to get them in to education? You can lead a horse to water, and all that...

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