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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tomasky: Dems Must Question Policies of Johnson and Stein

Some polls show that Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson may be losing some support in the wake of his “Where is Aleppo?” and other gaffes. But what matters most for Democrats is how much support he and Green Party nominee Jill Stein draw from potential Clinton supporters in key swing states, like FL or NC. There have been some good articles revealing Johnson’s right-wing positions on environmental and economic issues recently (see here, here and here, for example).

Michael Tomasky adds to the critique of third party candidacies in his recent Dail Beast post, “Why No One Should Vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein,” in which he observes:

Libertarianism in recent years has developed a kind of hipster cred. It seems to be against the man. Libertarians are anti-war, usually (the cred narrative started with Ron Paul’s scathing attacks on the Bush/Cheney crowd). They support abortion rights and gay rights. Live and let live. And most of all, libertarians want to legalize pot. I think that’s the big one, for young people especially. I readily concede it would have seemed pretty appealing to the me of 30 years ago.

But here’s the catch. The libertarian live-and-let-live credo doesn’t apply just to young people who’d like to blow a doob in a public park (that’s how we put it back in my day, sonny, and I’m not going to make any phony attempt to be hip). It applies to polluting corporations. It applies to corporations and individuals who want to make unlimited dark money contributions to political campaigns. It applies to the forces pushing free trade. It applies to employers who don’t want to be nickel-and-dimed over paying their workers a minimum wage. It applies to gun manufacturers, and to the National Rifle Association. Still hip?

…He supports the Citizens United decision and thinks donors should be able to spend “as much money as they want.” He backs the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which I would think most young people oppose strongly, after listening to Bernie Sanders inveigh against it for a year. Speaking of Bernie, Johnson opposes tuition-free college. He’s against a federal minimum wage—that’s right, any federal minimum wage (although sometimes his answers are so wandering and circumlocutory that it can be hard to tell). And as for guns, he told Slate in 2011: “I don’t believe there should be any restrictions when it comes to firearms. None.”

On Green party candidate Jill Stein, Tomasky adds:

..The weirdest thing about Stein is her apparent affinity for Vladimir Putin. You read that right. She went to Moscow and met with Putin, and was even seated at his table. Russian Green Party activists rebuked her for not even mentioning human rights and LGBT rights when she met with Putin.

I don’t know Stein, so I can’t say why, but I can tell you that in general terms, there is within the far left of Stein’s generation (she’s 66) an idea inherited from the Cold War that holds that to be too critical of Russia is on some level to endorse the presumptions and priorities of the American war machine. It’s for reasons related to this that you see a fair amount of quasi-apologetics for Putin on the American far left. Her own website boasts—actually boasts—that after Putin listened to her speech in Moscow, he responded: “What I would like to say, something really unexpected, when I was watching this material. When I was listening to your comments, politicians from other countries, you know what I caught myself thinking about? I agree with them, on many issues.”

Imagine the oily smile that lit across her face as Putin spoke these words, and please give some thought to the question of this being your progressive alternative.

You can read more about Stein’s Putin-coddling right here. But I would worry more About Johnson drawing potential voters from Democrats, since he is polling a lot better than Stein.

It’s quite possible that Johnson and Stein will take very few votes away from Clinton when all of the results are tallied. But Democrats would be guilty of political negligence, if they didn’t alert voters to the largely hidden agendas of these two third party candidates.

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