There was quite a bit of noise last Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Boos and jeers from Sanders supporters marked the day’s proceedings. As Bernie Sanders has now officially endorsed the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and conceded his defeat in the democratic primary, some supporters of his campaign are feeling betrayed. They are the “Bernie-or-Bust” contingent and they are made up of about 30 percent of Sanders primary campaign supporters according to a CNN/ORC poll. They now believe that Sanders has forsaken the very political revolution he has fought so hard to inspire. Increasingly frustrated by a choice between what they see as a bad candidate and an incredibly bad candidate, they are turning to third-party candidates. Both Jill Stein and Gary Johnson seem to be reaping the benefits of the so-called “Bernie-or-Bust” movement.
Since Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton, Johnson has gained considerably from former Sanders supporters. Recent rumblings in the world of data journalism have revealed shocking new statistics on the rise of third-party candidates this election season. While it is clear that third-party candidates are pulling from both Clinton and Trump, Johnson seems to be harming Clinton more than her real-estate mogul adversary. Johnson, who used some choice words to describe Trump, may very-well help him edge out Clinton in the event of a tight election. FiveThirtyEight cited a Pew Research Center poll in which 17 percent of Sanders supporters would back Gary Johnson. Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, represents the very antithesis of the policies that form the core of Bernie Sanders’ worldview. Sure, they both want money out of politics. However, for Sanders that means enacting stringent campaign finance reform legislation. For Johnson, that means defunding many of the federal institutions that Sanders as a self-professed democratic-socialist believes should help pave the road toward a more egalitarian America.
Universal healthcare, tuition-free public universities, and a federal minimum wage, all policies that formed the backbone of the Sanders’ campaign are light years away from the hands-off governance advocated by Johnson. Sanders supporters are rashly sacrificing the values they wanted their candidate to champion and are now jumping ship, destroying any semblance of political revolution.
Die-hard Sanders supporters are familiar with the Vermont Senator’s rejections of trickle-down economic policies. Sanders favors a more equitable progressive taxation in which the wealthiest Americans pay based on their greater ability to do so. Gary Johnson, by contrast, supports so-called FairTax policies. The FairTax reforms intend to simplify the tax-code by calling for a virtual elimination of corporate and personal income taxes in favor of a comprehensive consumption taxes. These taxes on consumption are often considered regressive because they disproportionately harm low-income consumers. Johnson believes these taxes are needed to create jobs. Sanders rejects this narrative, believing that the super-rich must pay a greater share in order to reduce rampant inequality. One thing is clear, Gary Johnson’s regressive tax proposals are a far cry from Sanders’ proposals for a more economically equal America.
The Johnson and Sanders worldviews differ on much more than ideology. Their differences on gun control highlight their incredibly disparate policies for ending gun violence in America. Early on in the primary campaign, Senator Sanders took flak for supporting the Brady Bill. Forced to backtrack because of this blemish on his voting record, Sanders moderated his tone to align with the vast majority of Democratic voters on gun control. Indeed, after the Orlando shooting, public support for the Democrat’s gun control proposals rose to about 90 percent in a CNN/ORC poll. By comparison, the Libertarian Party platform actively opposes any gun control at all. Period. After the tragedy in Orlando, Gary Johnson called for the loosening of regulations on the sale of guns. According to him, gun-free zones are the problem. A gun in every hand is perhaps his spin on Hoover’s “a chicken in every pot.”
Hillary Clinton is by no means the perfect candidate for former Sanders supporters, but neither is Gary Johnson. Some Sanders supporters are feeling betrayed by his endorsement of Clinton, but these same supporters are betraying the values which Bernie fought so hard to promote.