In light of the debate last night between America’s two dominant parties, I wanted to talk about the man who didn’t get to make it to the stage. Yes that’s right, there is still someone out there fighting.
The man is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate. The two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, a state that usually votes democratic, claims that most Americans are in fact libertarians but just don’t know it yet.
In his interview with Stephen Dubner, Johnson tells listeners his biggest problem, “Right now, 65 percent of Americans don’t even know that I exist”. But he is optimistic about how America would see his views had he made it to the presidential debates, he claims, “[had i made it] I would give myself a 33 percent chance of getting elected”.
What does it take to make it into a debate? The threshold, set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, dictates that one must reach 15 percent across five national polls but he’s only at around 8 percent now. The same loss of recognition has also happened with Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
The libertarian party, founded in 1971, marks itself as the third largest political party in the U.S., yet no one talks about it. In 2012 Johnson also ran for president, getting 1.2 million votes, but that amounted to only about one percent of the vote.
What are some of the things Gary Johnson believes in?
- He believes that the U.S. is heading toward an economic crisis similar to the 1998 Russian financial crisis, and believes it can be stopped only by balancing the federal budget.
- He believes the main remedy for unemployment is ending “uncertainty” for private business. He doesn’t think government can actually create jobs, rather that it can foster certainty in private business, which in turn will create jobs on its own.
- He favors building new coal-fired and nuclear power plants, and while he does endorse the private sector R&D of renewable energy- this should not be the government’s job.
- Most “libertarian” of him, he supports free markets and free-market capitalist economics. “Free markets and limited government are the foundation of prosperity”
- He supports free trade and is against tariffs.
- He believes that healthcare costs are out of control and a market-based approach should be at the forefront of any solution.
While you may agree or disagree with some of his beliefs, the attitude that many Americans are taking towards this election is trying to stop the other side at all costs, but Johnson argues that, “A wasted vote is voting for somebody you don’t believe in”.
Indeed. I think economics students should also look in to the write-in campaign of Laurence Kotlikoff out of Boston University. His policy approaches are a good exercise in principles economics.
Here’s a counterpoint on Quartz.com (http://qz.com/779147/whats-the-purpose-of-a-protest-vote/) today, in an article titled “What’s the purpose of a protest vote?” Here’s the punchline:
“In 2016, that system will offer 130 million or so voters just three options:
1. I prefer Donald Trump be president, rather than Hillary Clinton.
2. I prefer Hillary Clinton be president, rather than Donald Trump.
3.Whatever everybody else decides is OK with me.
That’s it. Those are the choices. All strategies other than a preference for Trump over Clinton or vice-versa reduce to Option 3.
People who believe in protest votes do so because they confuse sending a message with receiving one. You can send any message you like: “I think Jill Stein should be president,” or “I think David Duke should be president,” or “I think Park Eunsol should be president.”
Similarly, you can send any message you like by not voting. You can say you are sitting out the election because both parties are neo-liberal, or because an election without Lyndon LaRouche is a sham, or because 9/11 was an inside job. The story you tell yourself about your political commitments are yours to construct.
But it doesn’t matter what message you think you are sending, because no one will receive it. No one is listening. The system is set up so that every choice other than “Republican” or “Democrat” boils down to “I defer to the judgement of my fellow citizens.” It’s easy to argue that our system shouldn’t work like that. It’s impossible to argue it doesn’t work like that.”