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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Libertarian Gary Johnson Backs GOP Economic Agenda, Opposes Environmental Protection

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is trying to anchor his candidacy with appeals to two constituencies in particular: anti-Trump Republicans and young voters, who are attracted to Libertarian advocacy of personal freedoms like gay mnarriage and legalization of marijuana.

There is not much that can be done to dissuade Republicans who prefer Johnson to Clinton. But Democrats should try to better educate young voters, who may not be aware of Johnson’s often extreme “free market” views, and his opposition to environmental regulations, as well as his unbridled advocacy of corporate exemption from taxes and regulations.

In a normal political year, Libertarian candidates provide an inconsequential footnote and draw a little more from Republican candidates’ support than from Democrats. This year, however, the situation is a little different, mostly because of the GOP’s relentless hammering of Hillary Clinton, which has reduced her “trustworthy” numbers in polls. Never mind that their case for “distrust” of Clinton is extremeely thin; it’s the repetition that counts, and that’s their only hope.

Gary Johnson will likely be on the ballot in all 50 states, while Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s name will appear on ballots in less than half of the states. You would expect that Stein would draw more support from Democrats, but it’s unclear how much, since many of her supporters would probably not vote for the Democratic nominee in any circumstances.

At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver writes that “The majority of pollsters (12) have Clinton’s margin over Trump shrinking when at least one third-party candidate is included. The difference in margins, however, varies among pollsters, and a few, such as Ipsos, have Clinton’s lead rising by the tiniest of bits when at least Johnson is included. Overall, including third-party candidates takes about 1 percentage point away from Clinton’s margin, on average.”

Johnson’s average support in polls must be 15 percent in order for him to be admitted into the upcomming televised presidential debates, where he could conceivably increase his support figures.

But Tessa Stuart’s “Why You Shouldn’t Vote for Gary Johnson” at Rolling Stone unmasks the former Repubican’s economic and environmental agendas, and surprise, surprise, Johnson pretty much backs the same policies as the likes of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump on core bread & butter and environmental issues. Some examples from Stuart’s post:

Johnson has a poor fiscal track record, only the faintest fidelity to Libertarian ideals and a facile grip on issues both foreign and domestic – helping explain why 99.1 percent of the electorate decided he shouldn’t be president four years ago…

“I would not believe that colleges or universities should be free,” he [Johnson] told  ProCon.org in June. “They would be too expensive from a federal standpoint. If states want to do that of course, that’s their prerogative. But should they be free? No, they shouldn’t be free.”

Johnson says corporations should give as much money as they want, as often as they choose, to whomever they please. “I think it [Citizens United] comes under the First Amendment, that they should be able to contribute as much money as they want,” he told The New American in 2012. (He reiterated that sentiment this year.)

While Johnson admits fracking is an incredibly inefficient and environmentally destructive form of energy extraction, he thinks we ought to be doing more of it. “I have spoken to my former environmental secretary,” he tells ProCon.org, “and what he says regarding fracking is that it’s only 10% effective, that there are environmental concerns, and that he believes that more research needs to be done on fracking. Number one, it could become much more effective, meaning it could have a much higher yield. So it sounds very pragmatic to me, but that would be where I’m at.”

“My understanding is that it is more free trade than not…But I could not tell you what the specifics are…So I would be in support of TPP.” (All three of his rivals – Clinton, Trump and Jill Stein – are against the deal.)

Speaking of details, when Johnson last publicly discussed the Keystone XL, in 2012, he also didn’t have a firm grasp on those pertaining to the pipeline – a project later spiked by the Obama administration, and which Trump has vowed to revive. Nevertheless, he said he would support it. “I completely support the Keystone Pipeline if it’s not an issue of the government implementing eminent domain to procure right of ways… I really don’t understand where the regulatory hurdles are… I would certainly remove the regulatory hurdles,” he said.

“I accept the fact that there is global warming and I accept the fact that it’s man caused. That said, I am opposed to cap and trade. I’m a free market guy when it comes to the clean environment the number-one factor when it comes to the clean environment is a good economy.”

“Minimum wage, look, I think [everyone is] missing the boat. Why doesn’t he raise it to $75 an hour? Well, of course he can’t raise it to $75 an hour because then prices would go way up and nobody would be able to afford to hire anybody. ‘Oh, I see $75 is too high but $10.10 is just the right number?’ How do you arrive at that? Why not let the marketplace arrive at that? And I just think it’s much to do – minimum wage is much to do about nothing. I mean, nobody works for minimum wage [anyway]… [Just] showing up on time and wearing clean clothes gets you way above the minimum wage.”

“I would do everything I could to repeal President Obama’s health care plan. I think that very simply we can’t afford it,” Johnson said. “The long-term solution to health care is a free market approach to health care…Regarding paid medical and family leave, “I would be opposed to that,” Johnson told ProCon.org earlier this year.

Johnson says he’s a fiscal conservative, but, as the National Review points out, when he was elected governor of New Mexico, “Johnson inherited a debt of $1.8 billion and left a debt of $4.6 billion.”

In addition to his Republican views on economic and environmental policies, Johnson still supports zero gun safety measures, despite all of the horrific massacres of innocent people, including children, in recent years. “I don’t believe there should be any restrictions when it comes to firearms. None,” he said to Slate in 2011.

Libertarians have gotten pretty skilled in crafting their pitch to young voters with vague noises about “freedom” as a general social goal. But they try to avoid too much conversation about their economic and environmental views when selling their candidates to young voters because they know that their views on these issues are nearly identical to those of GOP candidates.

As one friend puts it, “A Libertarian is just a Republican who believes you should be able to kiss whoever you like and smoke whatever you want.”

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