If you were Feeling the Bern and now plan to vote for Gary Johnson, here are a few things you should be aware of about Johnson and the Libertarian Party platform.
Johnson does not oppose Citizens United, one of Bernie’s biggest targets in the fight against corporate power. In fact, he strongly supports it. “I think it comes under the First Amendment, that they should be able to contribute as much money as they want.”
Johnson wants to radically transform the tax code, instituting a sales tax that would replace corporate and personal income taxes, estate and gift taxes, employment and self-employment taxes. Sales for business, investment, and export purposes would be eligible for exemptions. Basically, we’re talking about a personal-consumption tax. Taken together, these changes would bring major tax relief to corporations and the wealthy, and would place even more tax burden on the middle class. In one breath, Johnson wants to grant corporations First Amendment rights, and in the next he declares they should be exempt from taxation ― which, by the way, would allow for corporations to funnel income directly into political contributions, tax-free, where actual people would still have to pay their taxes first.
Johnson opposes many of the regulations Bernie has fought for, generally preferring a hands-off approach. This reflects a deep faith that businesses will do the right thing, and that government just gets in the way. And it ignores the fact that corporations have an explicit mandate to make as much money as they can for their shareholders, within the bounds of legality. When you remove regulation, you expand the bounds of legality, and corporations are obliged by their own mission to take advantage of that, in order to remain competitive.
Bernie fought hard to convince Hillary’s campaign to oppose TPP. It was arguably one of the biggest points of impact he made on the Democratic platform. If you think Johnson opposes TPP, you’d be wrong.
Regarding climate change, Johnson acknowledges that it’s a reality, and that it’s man-made. But if you expect a libertarian to support strong government action to curb the output of greenhouse gases, you need to read up on the concept of libertarianism. Without government oversight, it’s clear that corporations will continue to pursue short-term, short-sighted gains until the crisis is having a clear impact on their bottom line. And then you have a game of chicken: whoever is last to adopt expensive environmental controls makes the most money.
The Libertarian Platform seeks to “phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system,” where Bernie fought hard to get expansion of Social Security onto the Democratic platform. While Johnson’s own plans for Social Security differ from his party’s platform, it’s clear that he is philosophically at odds with Bernie’s desire to expand government programs designed to promote social welfare.
Free college tuition? The Libertarian Party wants go in exactly the opposite direction. They want to gut publicly funded education: eliminate the Department of Education; eliminate government support for college students; eliminate public schools.
You know that $15 minimum wage Bernie thinks is such a good idea? You can throw that out the window. Johnson wants to repeal the current federal minimum wage, and allow corporations, in all their wisdom, to reduce pay below the current minimum of $7.25/hour.
Bernie has a remarkably consistent record of fighting for “the little guy” and opposing corporate power. Johnson believes it isn’t his job to protect the little guy. He believes government should step aside and let the business world determine the future of our country and its people.
If I had to summarize Bernie’s political philosophy in one word, it would be “compassion”.
If I had to summarize the libertarian political philosophy in one word, it would be “abdication”. If there’s a job someone outside the government could do, step aside and let them do it, with little to no government oversight ― which undermines the power of democracy and elevates the influence of capitalism. Bernie sees the rise in corporate power that’s occurred since the Eisenhower years, and he wants to turn the tide. Johnson sees it and wants to open the flood gates.
According to a September Quinnipiac poll, 7% of Democrats plan to vote for Johnson. That same poll indicates that fully 29% of voters aged 18-34 plan to vote for Johnson (vs. 26% for Trump and 31% for Clinton). That’s the same age group where Bernie was strongest. Statistically, it’s very likely that a large number of Bernie supporters have switched to Johnson — which is consistent with some of the comments I’ve seen on social media, in forums, etc. Why is this happening?
I suspect Johnson is a leading choice for voters who can’t stand Trump but are having a hard time bringing themselves to vote for Hillary, despite Bernie’s having given her his full support. As a side benefit, they hope their protest vote will help legitimize a third party — and they don’t view the Green Party as an option this time around, because... well, Jill Stein.
If you want to help defeat Trump, you have only one tactically sound option. Reluctant to place your trust in Hillary Clinton? As Bernie said, “We’re not here to trust. It is the very opposite of what I am saying — to say, ‘Oh, sit back, elect Clinton, and then trust.’ No. Mobilize. Educate. Fight.”
This process doesn’t end with your vote for president. Democracy isn’t something you do once every four years. If you support Bernie Sanders, please don’t legitimize a third party that is in most respects the ideological opposite of what he stands for. When you get into that voting booth, and it’s just you and the ballot, ask yourself, in all seriousness: what would Bernie do? And then, if Hillary Clinton wins, join him in holding her to the Democratic Party Platform he fought so hard to influence.