Americans are the most instinctively libertarian people on the planet. Around the world the United States is regarded, above all else, as standing for freedom. This concept is the central tenet of the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
— Gov. Gary Johnson (@GovGaryJohnson) October 28, 2016
But it also runs deep into the American psyche. It is what Herbert Hoover called “rugged individualism”. Ronald Reagan once quoted a letter he received which said: “You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk. But anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.”
The extraordinary courtroom speech by Gary Cooper in Ayn Rand’s 1949 film The Fountainhead – championing true capitalist values – would not strike such a chord in any other nation.
So, naturally enough, in 1972 a Libertarian Party was started in the USA. Its slogan was “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” – taken from Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.
However it was also understandable that most freedom loving Americans felt their values sufficiently mainstream that they did not need to support a fringe party. In particular, Reagan was a powerful champion for their cause both at home and abroad.
This year is different. The choice offered between the Republican and Democratic nominees is dire beyond any historical parallel. So if I had a vote I would cast if for the Libertarian Party’s Presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
— Gov. Gary Johnson (@GovGaryJohnson) November 4, 2016
There has been much talk of Donald Trump being an anti-establishment, straight talking figure. The truth is he has spent years schmoozing with the powerful for special favours – including his opponent Hilary Clinton.
A more effective challenge to the established order would be a vote to challenge the political duopoly. What have the two main parties done lately to deserve its continuation? Johnson is aiming to get over five per cent of the vote. The polls suggest he may well do so. If he does then the arrogant dominance of the two main parties would be, if not quite broken, then seriously cracked.
Johnson is a decent and honest man with the right motives. In the 2016 Presidential race that is much to be thankful for. But those supporting him are not all doing so as a negative vote. Democrats are attracted by the Libertarians’ support for social freedom – such as legalisation of cannabis – and their pro-immigration stance. Republicans are more likely to be enthused by the economic policies – the radical
demands for smaller Government and lower tax.
— Gov. Gary Johnson (@GovGaryJohnson) November 3, 2016
This is not to say that Johnson is perfect. He is weak on foreign policy both in terms of his knowledge – “What is Aleppo?” he asked prompting deserved derision. But also – and more seriously – his views, which are broadly isolationist, leaving Russia to get on with it. Then there is abortion – where like most of his Party he confuses liberty with the killing of unborn children.
These are serious reservations. But a solid basis for choosing which candidate to support is to consider their record. The appalling offerings from Clinton and Trump in this regard are all too well known.
Johnson was Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. This was not easy territory for him but he was tenacious in vetoing spending demands from the state legislature. He cut the budget deficit. Also he was pioneering in advocating school vouchers. When there was the terrible Cerro Grande forest fire he showed great leadership – in communicating to the media where the fire was heading, in tackling
bureaucratic delays and even helping put out fires with his own feet.
His running mate – Bill Weld, standing for Vice President – also has a record that shows his willingness to apply his beliefs in practice. As Governor of Massachusetts he cut spending, tax and regulation – which resulted in lower unemployment and greater prosperity. As with Johnson he was battling against Democrats in his state constantly pushing for increases.
So in this most depressing of all election campaigns there is a chance for silver lining. If millions of Americans ignore the cynicism of being told they only have a choice of two candidates then something can be salvaged from the wreckage. For all his faults a vote for Gary Johnson would be an honourable choice – one of conscience and conviction. The more support he gets, the greater the hope that America is still the land of the free.