I have officially decided to endorse Gary Johnson for President!
Gary who? Not surprised anyone would ask. Gary Johnson is the former two-term Republican Governor of New Mexico and was actually the first GOP candidate to officially announce, but he has been completely ignored by the media and excluded from almost all debates. They say it is because he does not poll well enough to merit recognition, but Santorum, Huntsman and Bachmann regularly poll in the low single digits and still get press coverage. Not so for Johnson (or Buddy Roemer, who I’ll bet you’ve never heard of either).
Johnson fits perfectly with all the major libertarian talking points without obsessing over the crackpot ones. He was a spending hawk who wants to drastically cut federal spending. He also favors legalizing marijuana, allowing gay marriage, opening the borders to whomever wants to come to the US, and ending stupid wars that are not based on our true national security. And although he is economically libertarian/conservative, you won’t hear him making wacko speeches about the Fed or the gold standard.
Of course Governor Johnson will never win the GOP nomination. But now that California apparently has open primaries, I hope he stays in the race long enough to allow me to vote for him. I have also heard he might pursue the Libertarian Party nomination, giving me a chance to vote for him in November as well.
If I am endorsing Gary Johnson, I suppose I must clarify again why I will not support Ron Paul. I find Doctor Paul very endearing and hope he pulls an upset in the Iowa Caucus, not because I think he’d really make a good President, but because it would throw liberals and conservatives alike into a major tizzy! But I take issue with him in a few areas.
I consider myself a “libertarian” in the tradition of 18th Century liberalism, favoring individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and the rule of reason. I consider “liberty” to be the first principle and base my opinions on all issues on how individual liberty is affected. Ron Paul should more correctly be termed a “constitutionalist,” since he views adherence to Constitutional principles as more fundamentally important than liberty in the abstract.
Most of the time, libertarianism and constitutionalism get along quite well together. But we should not fetishize the Constitution of 1787 as if it were a perfect, immutable document. We all know that the document is not and was not perfect. It allowed slavery to continue until a civil war almost destroyed the republic. And there are some modern issues that were simply not foreseen at the time the Constitution was written that require more modern approaches.
One of the hallmarks of constitutionalism is states’ rights. People like Ron Paul posit a tripartite structure of the federal government, the state governments, and the people, among which power is shared and balanced, which theoretically allows more liberty than if there were simply one central government. And while this is often true, there are two problems with this approach. First, the existence of the states as separate sovereigns is merely an ad hoc construction; while the original colonies may have had attributes of sovereign states, it is simply not reasonable to treat the states as such today. Second, the states are still governments that can oppress people just as much as the feds can.
States’ rights theory allowed the continuation of racial segregation through Jim Crow laws for a century after the Civil War. States’ rights theory also allows people like Ron Paul to oppose the Supreme Court’s Texas v. Lawrence
ruling and support the power of states to criminalize homosexuality, even while stating that anti-sodomy laws are ridiculous.
Unfortunately, this sacrifices individual liberty at the altar of states’ rights. A demonstrator being attacked by Bull Connor’s dogs and water hoses was not any less oppressed because it was Alabama doing it instead of the federal government. Lawrence should not have felt happy about being thrown in jail for having sex by Texas rather than by the federal government.
Strict constitutionalism and states’ rights theory also has led to some downright bizarre positions by Ron Paul and other libertarian and Tea Party supporters, such as the desire to repeal the 17th Amendment, which allows for popular election of Senators. The idea is that going back to letting state legislatures appoint Senators would allow the interests of the states (as that mythical third power center) to be better represented in the national government (since the “people” are represented in the House and the “federal government” is embodied in the President). This argument would be laughable if people didn’t actually take it seriously. Repealing the 17th Amendment would actually result in the people being disenfranchised, and in political hacks appointing fellow political hacks to the Senate for purely political purposes.
Unless guided first and foremost by a commitment to individual liberty, constitutionalism is insufficient to create the kind of nation that I would like to live in. And unfortunately, Ron Paul comes up lacking on several issues when it comes to individual liberty. While he advocates a live-and-let-live policy for the most part, his personal distaste for homosexuality and abortion leads me to fear that, given a conflict between my liberty and his constitutionalism, he would opt for the latter. (Still, this is not to say that he isn’t FAR better than the other Republican candidates except for Johnson).
At some point I will also explain why I do not plan on voting for President Obama again. I voted for him in 2008 to the surprise of many of my friends. But even though most of the Republican candidates make me retch, I won't be casting a lesser-of-two-evils vote for Obama this time around.
It speaks volumes to Gary Johnson’s difficulties that even in a blog endorsing him, I’ve written more than twice as many words about Ron Paul. Still, if anyone is reading this and wants a libertarian choice that he can feel more comfortable with, look up Gary Johnson’s positions and seriously consider his candidacy.