Even in the puzzling 2016 election, watching libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s platform attract former Bernie Sanders supporters has been befuddling, to say the least.
As the phrase “anti-establishment” has become the most coveted way for a candidate to be described, third-party libertarian Gary has managed to carve out the most impressive poll numbers of any such outlier candidate in recent history. Specifically, he’s been able to attract a few Bernie Sanders voters, who, presumably, had no real vested interests in Sanders’ views based on their bizarre swap to Johnson. One former Berner, Natalie Wilcox, told The Guardian that moving along to the libertarian candidate just made sense.
“I plan to vote for Gary Johnson because he is pro-choice, pro-civil liberties, pro-criminal justice reform, pro-legalization of marijuana, pro-immigration, pro-marriage equality, and he was the successful two-term governor of New Mexico. He was voted #1 by the ACLU (even above Obama) as the politician that’s most concerned with civil liberties and personal freedom.”
Sure, Gary supports legalized marijuana, abortion, and LGBT rights. Johnson is even against foreign intervention — just like Bernie! It’s a huge step to the left from the archaic views of the Republican party, a group the candidate was willing to associate with until five years ago.
But as usual, the phrase “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” is extremely dishonest: You can’t shy away from policies that attack inequality and call yourself progressive, and even if you could, there’s still plenty of other off-putting things that Gary did while he served as New Mexico’s governor from 1995 to 2003. Many of which were the direct results of Johnson’s more than 700 vetoes.
He has repeatedly worked against the poor, and STILL failed to balance the budget.
You can be sure of one thing under a Gary presidency: Taxes will be slashed. Though that will largely be done on the backs of the poor. Johnson’s own website unabashedly outlines the way that he would shift taxes on big business and the wealthy toward a consumption tax of around 28 percent that equally affects everyone based on how much they spend. He would also do away with corporate tax altogether.
Again, Gary ignores basic economic realities with this proposal. The poor don’t have the option to just “decide not to consume,” unlike their more wealthy counterparts. A CNN analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the poor spent 180 percent of their income on basic survival, while the rich generally used about 60 percent of annual earnings — despite choosing more costly products.
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) October 6, 2016
It’s a misguided philosophy that’s also present in Johnson’s myriad line vetoes, the most horrifying of which was probably when he decided funding for children’s cancer treatment didn’t figure in the budget, mentioned in a takedown of his policies by left-wing publication Jacobin. That should come as no surprise considering he’s not only against the Affordable Care Act, but thinks that the free market should be the sole judge of health care costs. An odd position seeing as nearly across the board countries with a similar GDP to the United States offering socialized medicine boast better quality health care, reported The Commonwealth Fund.
As much as Gary loves to attack “crony capitalism,” this plan reveals one of the most gaping of divides between Sanders and his own worldview. Johnson believes that business is some kind of job-giving, auto-regulating entity that has the interests of the American people at heart — something that stands in direct contrast to the pillars of the Sanders campaign. It’s also clearly seen in his unwavering support of globalized trade, such as TPP, and deregulation, both issues viewed wearily by Bernie.
Despite that, Gary‘s reign as “Governor No” in New Mexico failed to even achieve his proposed fiscal solvency. The state’s debt ballooned from $1.8 billion to $4.6 billion during his time in office, a fact pointed out by conservative source National Review, in an article that tore the Libertarian apart as an unviable option for conservatives.
“During every year that Johnson, as he says, balanced the budget, he added to the debt.”
Gary Johnson pushed for private prisons — and still supports the idea.
Gary couldn’t have picked a worst time to be one of the most pro-private prison governors in history. The Justice Department recently announced they would no longer be doing business with pro-profit prisons, partially prompted by a Mother Jones investigative report that documented numerous human rights abuses taking place in such facilities. Contrasting with Johnson’s view, Sanders himself lauded the decision as “an important step in the right direction” and “exactly what I had campaigned on.”
Gary campaigned heavily to get as many prisons as possible under private contractors while he New Mexico’s governor, saying that there was no clear evidence that public prisons were better. Johnson is not entirely wrong about that; but when he was confronted when the specific failures of his own state’s prisons, he chose outright denial. In 2000, facing calls for reform after four inmates and a guard were killed in private facilities, he vetoed a bill meant to oversee such institutions — later insisting that New Mexico had the best prisons in the country and still saying that the amount of money he saved justified his actions, also reported Jacobin.
Furthermore, since Gary Johnson’s views on the topic made his state a guinea pig, there has been several other significant studies carried out that indicate such institutions may, at the very least, be less cost effective than their private counterparts. One such study analyzing eight years of Mississippi prison data found that inmates spent an average of 2 to 3 months longer in private prisons, attributable to the fact that privates were more likely to dole out lengthier sentences for infractions.
He thinks fighting climate change should be secondary to economic growth.
Sure, Donald Trump might think climate change is a conspiracy birthed by the Chinese, but Gary doesn’t seem to be too preoccupied about it even though it “probably” exists, in his words. In both 2011 and 2012, Johnson stated that because the sun was expanding, it would eventually envelop the earth in billions of years anyway.
Even if those sound bytes are too old for you, it’s pretty clear that Gary holds similar views on the urgency of addressing climate change today. He rejected the idea of a carbon fee in an interview with libertarian publication Reason as recently as August, where even the magazine itself noted that he had flip-flopped on the issue over the space of just a week. His reasoning for being against a carbon fee? Johnson is against any kind of tax, though before when it was presented to him using the word “fee” instead, he seemed open to the idea.
“I never raised one penny of tax as governor of New Mexico, not one cent in any area. Taxes to me are like a death plague.”
It’s the kind of tunnel vision view that lies beneath all of Gary’s proposals. Instead of looking at what policies would best address climate change, the Johnson view can be clearly defined as “never taxes” — not surprising for someone out-of-touch enough to bring up the fact that billions of years from now climate change won’t matter anyway. At least he did admit earlier this year that he’s not “smart enough” to comment on climate change.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 3, 2016
Some economists have also pointed out that Gary’s position isn’t really so much of a question of lack of government intervention, but more so a choice to side with business over individuals. It’s an undercurrent that characterizes most of Johnson’s views, noted Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and professor at George Washington University, in an interview with The Street.
“If I’ve got a coal-fired power plant and the government wants me to not spew pollutants into the atmosphere, I then say, ‘Oh, this is horrible big government, they’re imposing this on me.’ But getting rid of that is essentially saying that nobody has the ability to assert their rights to clean air. The government isn’t out of the picture, the government is just changing whose side it’s on.”
He supports Citizens United. Or does he?
One of Gary’s most commonly lambasted views is his support of Citizens United, but it’s not exactly clear where he currently stands on the issue. In a recent Politico article, Johnson told the magazine that he “doesn’t believe that corporations are people,” suggesting that he no longer supports the ruling. However, as recently as March of this year, he told on-the-issue site I Side With that any restriction on campaign spending goes against the First Amendment.
Fitting in with his view that unrestricted market forces are the best way to manage an economy, it would be unsurprising that Gary views political spending the same way — especially considering that Johnson’s first campaign was financed with $400,000 out of his own pocket.
While his supporters claim “Aleppo” and “name a foreign leader you respect” moments are examples of media manipulation, the Gary Johnson views expressed on his own time are just as at odds with the Bernie Sanders campaign. “Smaller government at any cost” is the Libertarian candidate’s underlying principle, even when he’s faced with clear evidence that it doesn’t improve the lives of his constituents. Swapping the spitfire senator for the bumbling governor reveals a deeper interest in political symbolism than actual policy.
[Featured Image by Scott Morgan/AP Images]