Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is Gary Johnson a Threat to the Two-Party System?

Theo Anderson, writing at In These Times, makes a good case for Gary Johnson's impact on the Presidential Race as a third-party candidate running as a Libertarian.

First, he points out that Gary Johnson holds a lot of the same positions that Obama supported during the 2008 election cycle, but which he has failed to deliver on.
Gary Johnson is, in some important ways, the candidate that the Left once hoped Barack Obama would be. He vocally opposes the death penalty, the use of torture by the U.S. military, and the indefinite detention of people charged with a crime–even suspects charged with terrorism.

He’s pro-choice. He calls for deep cuts in the defense budget and an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and from many of our military bases around the world. He unequivocally supports marriage rights for gays and believes that legalizing marijuana–rather than building a wall–is the key to solving illegal immigration. He also favors a two-year grace period for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, so that they can obtain work visas and continue living and working here.
He goes on to point out that the threat isn't so much that Democrats might abandon Obama, but that Johnson's message has great appeal to independent voters, those in the middle who, in the final analysis, will choose the President in the 2012 election.
The danger for Democrats isn’t that Johnson will win a significant percentage of the Left’s vote. The danger is that he’ll peel away a sizable share of the much-prized independent voters, who tend to be fiscal conservatives and social liberals, and who might feel, understandably, that Obama hasn’t played it straight with them. He backed away from his early-career support for gay marriage rights, for example, and endorsed civil unions when he became president. His position is now reported to be “evolving.” Does anyone know where it has evolved to, or when he might come to a definite conclusion? Or where he’s at on immigration reform? Or on the drug war?
It's also worth noting that Johnson received the best grade of all Presidential candidates, including Barack Obama and Ron Paul, on the ACLU's report card. As for the Second Amendment, an area where the ACLU is generally lax when it comes to the Bill of Rights, he says "I don't believe there should be any restrictions when it comes to firearms. None." He also calls for a balanced budget, is a strong supporter of small business, and believes that cost-benefit analysis is an important part of governing. He vetoed 750 bills from both sides of the aisle during his two terms as New Mexico Governor, more than half the bills that crossed his desk.

If Gary Johnson increases his support to the 15% it takes to get into the Presidential debates, does the author have a point? It would certainly make the debates more interesting, at least.

Independents are now the largest "political party" in the country at approximately 40% of the population, according to a number of surveys, including this one from Gallup. Democrats, at 31%, and Republicans, at 27%, trail significantly behind.

Ron Paul polls ahead of the other Republican candidates and President Obama with independents, even given his socially conservative positions on critical issues like abortion, which don't normally play well with Independents. Gary Johnson will have no such problem. While Johnson's one-third name recognition factor plays heavily against him in current polls, visibility on the national stage would take care of that in short order.

Voter enthusiasm is another area where Johnson could be expected to outperform both the Republicans and the Democrats. Ron Paul's similar small-government message has generated tremendous enthusiasm, bringing out both first-time voters and those who have not been politically engaged, as well as a significant youth vote. It's worthy of note that only 62% of voting-eligible citizens cast a vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Would you like to see a three-way debate with those issues on the table? Would you consider a vote for a third-party candidate if he was already polling 15% or better and a serious contender? Are you a homeless voter who Gary Johnson could convince to return to the polls?

Personally, I think the more voices on the national stage, the better.

...and that's all I have to say about that.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm. The media outlets kept changing the rules for getting into the Republican debates by just enough to exclude Johnson, and even blew him off when he met them a time or two... What's that say about the likelihood of seeing him in the national debates as a Libertarian? The only way I see him getting in is if Ron Paul gets the Republican nomination and the media wants to split the votes between Paul and Johnson to get Obama re-elected.

    I sincerely hope I'm wrong and if he gets into the general election debates, since Paul won't likely win the Republican nomination (another thing I hope I'm wrong about), Johnson has my vote.