Bernie Sanders Vs. Gary Johnson — Is The Libertarian A Good Alternative?

Dustin Murrell - Author

Jul. 30 2016, Updated 6:50 a.m. ET

At the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders himself pleaded with his followers to jump on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon. But not all of Bernie’s avid supporters are ready to say “I’m with her.” With Donald Trump passing Hillary in the polls after the most recent DNC leaks revealed a conspiracy to keep Sanders down, the Hillary campaign is struggling to win over some of the country’s most earnest young voters.

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While Green Party candidate Jill Stein is starting to pick up some momentum, many of the Bernie supporters who refuse to vote for Clinton are giving Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson a very serious consideration for their vote. In some ways, a transition from Sanders to Johnson makes a lot of sense. The passion and youth behind Senator Sanders’ movement was not unlike the support that Ron Paul received in 2008 when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination. With the Sanders campaign shut down, will the anti-establishment sentiment persuade former Bernie advocates to vote for the new face of the Libertarian Party?

Sanders And Johnson Compared

On the surface, especially when it comes to hot-topic social issues, Gary John and Bernie Sanders seem to be quite similar. They both claim to be advocates of freedom and the right to choose when it comes to women’s health, marriage equality, and whether or not people should be allowed to smoke marijuana in the comfort of their own homes. At the same time, they both claim that the federal government is way too aggressive with the military and believe that “crony capitalism” is ruining American politics.

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When it comes to abortion, Johnson appeals to conservatives by saying that he recognizes the sanctity of the unborn in his personal life, and by supporting legislation to prevent late-term abortions and to prevent tax dollars from being used to pay for abortions. As reported by Bustle, while he respects a woman’s right to choose as the “law of the land,” he certainly isn’t a champion of Planned Parenthood like Senator Sanders.

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Bernie was too liberal for some Democrats, while Johnson could be considered too conservative for some Republicans. So, of course, there are many issues on which Sanders and Johnson don’t see eye-to-eye. Sanders wants to raise taxes on the Wall Street to help reduce student loan debt — Johnson doesn’t believe the government should be providing student loans at all. Sanders supports higher corporate income tax — Johnson supports eliminating it altogether. Sanders wants to expand Medicare and believes health care is a human right — Johnson doesn’t believe the federal government should be involved in health care at all.

Despite these stark contrasts, as The Libertarian Republic noted, Johnson is successfully wooing Sanders supporters. What is it, then, about this third party candidate that appeals to the anti-establishment advocates that previously supported Sanders?

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Third Party And Anti-Establishment

Clearly, there are some very serious differences between Governor Gary Johnson and Senator Bernie Sanders. As far as issues are concerned, it seems like Bernie has much, much more in common with Clinton than he does with Johnson. But in an election cycle where voters are growing more and more tired of being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, a recognizable third party like the Libertarians are connecting with voters who are tired of the disappointing options provided by the two-party system.

Many Hillary supporters assumed that once Bernie Sanders and his campaign encouraged their supporters to convert to Clinton, that his legion of previously-obedient followers would fall in line. What the DNC is missing, however, is that many of Sanders’ supporters feel no obligation to the Democratic Party at all. In fact, the reason they so strongly supported the self-proclaimed democratic socialist is that he represented something fresh — he was anti-establishment. It just so happened that he was also anti-Trump. Bernie drew in a lot of Independents (and otherwise jaded constituents) who believed that he represented change.

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To those supporters, Clinton does not represent change. While very few Bernie supporters would have terrible things to say about the Obama administration, they certainly don’t think another four years is what their country needs. If Bernie Sanders were the face of the Democratic Party, many voters could believe that some serious change might come to one of the two major parties. Hillary is the polar opposite of the “new face” that those voters want.

For voters who feel they can no longer trust the two establishment parties of American politics, Governor Gary Johnson may offer a reasonable alternative to Clinton or Trump.


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Most Recent Polls

The most recent polling data from Real Clear Politics shows that Gary Johnson is currently at 8.2 percent against Donald Trump (40.0 percent) and Hillary Clinton (38.8 percent). Should Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party find their way into the presidential debates, there’s no reason to believe that Johnson won’t have the most successful Libertarian presidential campaign in American history.

Of course, when Green Party candidate Jill Stein is thrown into the mix, the numbers change only slightly — and only for Johnson. While Stein polls at 3.0 percent — and Trump and Clinton stay at 40.0 and 38.8 percent — Gary Johnson’s numbers drop to just 7.3 percent.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]


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