One Day into 2016 Campaign, Johnson Switches Positions
On Wednesday, Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced that he would again seek the Presidency under the Libertarian Party banner. In doing so, he is attempting to become the first person since Harry Browne to win the Libertarian presidential nomination on multiple occasions. However, his campaign seems to have already encountered some stumbling blocks.
Not long after his announcement, Johnson interviewed with Nick Gillespie. The two discussed many topics, but no comment raised the eyebrows of libertarians as much as Johnson’s assertion that he would sign a bill banning the wearing of burqas in America.
One day later, Johnson has now changed his position, stating that he would not sign such legislation. “My mistake,” Johnson said. “But I still have concerns about sharia.”
Perhaps this odd turn of events would be less damaging to Johnson if he had not spent the past year criticizing Rand Paul for “selling out” to social conservatives and right-wing nationalists.
It is inexplicable that Johnson, someone who is the face of the Libertarian Party, could take such an un-libertarian position without more thorough consideration. Once again, if Paul had ever suggested such a policy, he would be (rightfully) lambasted by Johnson and most libertarians — and he’s not even running as a Libertarian (nor does he even identify as a libertarian).
What does this all mean for the liberty movement? Johnson’s misstep is only the most recent bout of confusion for what was considered to be the most up-and-coming group in American politics. This, combined with Paul’s seeming inability to catch fire in the Republican primary, as well as the strange attraction of some self-proclaimed libertarians to big-government advocates like Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, has many wondering what “liberty” even means to those supposedly decrying the excesses of government.
In short, perhaps it is necessary to begin some inspection as to what beliefs are make-or-break for those within libertarian circles. While it is always somewhat necessary to grow a “big tent” so that others feel welcome, it is just as important to maintain principles; otherwise, there is no movement.
There are certainly multiple ways to accomplish goals, whether it be through educational or political successes. What is most likely to be successful is some combination of both.
Until libertarians are able to overcome minor squabbles and unite in favor of a larger desire for individual liberty, victory on any front will be nearly impossible. However, this will take hard work. While it may be tempting to cave due to sometimes kind words toward liberty (as with Cruz), revolutionary tactics (like Sanders) or anger toward the system (Trump), the endgame will be all the more rewarding if progress is accomplished the correct way.
As for 2016, hope is not yet lost. After all, no votes have been cast. Perhaps more important than the vote tallies will be the ideas toward which people gravitate. Will voters be attracted to those principles which lead to an expansion of liberty, or will they instead cower to fear by sacrificing freedoms?
The past few years have provided positives and negatives for libertarians, all leading into this presidential election. The possibility still looms that there could be multiple liberty-oriented candidates on the November ballot, and that in itself is a victory for liberty and freedom.
On the same token, as Gary Johnson has shown, it is more about acting upon principles than merely expounding upon them. Rather than attacking others for not being libertarian enough, Johnson and others within the movement need to spend more time increasing the reach of libertarian ideals. This will pay dividends much more quickly than in-fighting.