by Ian Tartt
Many people are happy with the performance of the Johnson/Weld ticket and what that means for the Libertarian Party going forward. This article presents the case, along with some tough love, as to why the ticket has been bad both for the party and for liberty.
1. Some Libertarians violated their conscience by voting for Gary Johnson
A common criticism Libertarians have of most voters is that they vote for the “lesser of two evils”. Instead of voting for someone with whom they agree more than they disagree or who they consider to be a good candidate, they look at the Republican and Democratic nominee and vote for the one they believe will be less harmful. When it comes to Gary Johnson, some voters, Libertarian or otherwise, voted for him because they either believed he would make a good president or because they had more points of agreement than disagreement with him. In that case, they’ve done what they encourage others to do: vote their conscience. The problem is those voters, especially the Libertarians, who voted for Johnson not because they liked him, because they disliked him less than they disliked Trump and Clinton. Essentially, they did a version of what they criticize others for doing by voting for the “least of three evils”. This contradiction between their words and their actions at the voting booth, as well as the fact that most voters are committed to a political party instead of an ideology, means that Libertarians who violated their conscience by voting for Johnson have made a greater move against their views than the average voter who did the same.
Similarly, there is the concept of voting for a candidate simply because he’s in the same party as the voter who supports him. This is another criticism Libertarians have of those who always vote Republican or who always vote Democrat. But voting based on party affiliation is exactly what many Johnson supporters did. Had Johnson been in any other party this year, he would not have gotten the support of many people who voted for him. So how then can Libertarians who always vote for the Libertarian Party candidate criticize Republicans who always vote for the Republican candidate, or Democrats who always vote for the Democratic candidate? Clearly, there is a lack of self-reflection involved here. And, from a strategic standpoint, if the average voter sees Libertarians doing the very thing they criticize others for doing, how will Libertarians be taken seriously?
A common idea used during this election to justify voting for Johnson despite disliking him was “vote for the party”. The idea is that rather than voting for Johnson, they’re voting for increased ballot access in several states, the chance of getting federal matching funds, increased media exposure, and an greater chance of someday electing a Libertarian president (whom many hope will be a candidate that more Libertarians will find appealing). There is still the problem of voting for a candidate despite disliking that candidate. Also, suppose voting for Johnson did accomplish all of those things. What would be the effect of this on the future of the LP? If a candidate whom many members of the party dislike or say isn’t libertarian enough brings great benefits to the party through increased voter turnout, isn’t that more likely to make future delegates choose a candidate similar to Johnson? Because of this, those who voted for Johnson “for the party” may very well have done more harm than good.