Saturday, April 2, 2016

Gary Johnson Is Wrong On Discrimination, And I Don't Care

Photo: alibertarianfuture.com
This has been building for a while now, and now that the cat’s out of the bag, someone has to say it: Libertarians that have a problem with Gary Johnson’s position on anti-discrimination need to get over themselves. Seriously.

Radicals in the Libertarian Party are responding to Gary Johnson's stance on anti-discrimination laws - a stance they've always known he had - like the fainting damsel in distress at the sight of the bad guy. 

"Woe unto us Libertarians! Heaven's no! Wherefore art thou Liberty?"

Don't do that. 

We're talking about Gary Johnson. Lest you forget, here is a guy that managed to get elected as a Republican in a state that was 2 to 1 Democrat, and manage to ACTUALLY cut spending. Does that compute, you “principled” Libertarians? He actually DID it. He also vetoed hundreds of terrible bills, and still managed to get re-elected. 

You can comb through his record and probably find a few things that are not so Libertarian, but that is why you need to read this carefully. 

STOP THAT!

What is wrong with you? Do I have to agree with everything the man says? Can’t I just support him because he’s actually effective at minimizing government? Can’t he be imperfect? 

“No!” some of you say. 

Ok. 

Walk me through this then.

“He failed basic Libertarianism. Freedom of association is Liberty 101.”

He didn't fail. 

If you are not already familiar with Johnson’s position on anti-discrimination laws, I’ll sum it up: he wouldn’t change them. That's pretty much it. 

He supports the Civil Rights Act, which makes it unlawful for private businesses to discriminate against people on the basis of religion, sex, race, etc. In the recent debate on Fox, he defended this, even if it meant forcing a Jew to bake a cake for a Nazi. 

That does sound pretty horrible, until you realize that is exactly how it is now. Right now, a neo-Nazi could sue a Jewish baker for refusing him service. That’s kind of been the source of a lot of humor among Libertarians lately, in light of the incidents with Christian bakers and photographers. 

The point here is not to say this is just or Libertarian in any way. It’s not. 

My point is: So what?

Sometimes the Libertarian position is not always the practical position, which pretty much sums up Gary Johnson’s campaign. He’s not a sellout, because I’m sure he believes this. But does that mean he can’t be a Libertarian?

Dude, if Gary Johnson can’t be a Libertarian, then we are ALL screwed.

If you actually listen to the way he defended this position, it reveals a couple of things. While the end result may still be incorrect from a Libertarian standpoint, he demonstrates an understanding of what governing is really like. He says things like “people will get hurt,” after painting a picture of a town with only one baker. The fact that the free market will theoretically be there to supply any underserved customers is besides the point. 

In his scenario, racial and ethnic discrimination can take on a mob-like nature that the state may not be able to manage, even if it wanted to. We’ve already seen how governments fail to respond to riots (even if we Libertarians like to wax poetic about the times in which the government is all TOO good at it).

So I don’t think Gary Johnson is thinking about this issue in an abstract, philosophical way. He just simply can’t believe that getting rid of these laws at this point in time would be a good idea. There are some places in this country where, if the laws were repealed tomorrow, people probably would get hurt. 

It’s an argument worth pursuing, and if all the Libertinos would just stop shouting for two seconds, maybe we can learn something. 

But it’s safe to say this is NOT Liberty 101. Like many issues, it’s complex when translated to reality.

But maybe you still disagree. Fine. Libertarians are stubborn, myself included. I get it. But you should at least be able to see why this is a smaller issue than you realize. 

Think of it this way. Any time a politician eliminates a tax, unjust law, or government program, it is a plus 1 for liberty. Every time a politician does the opposite, it is a negative 1. If a politician says he won’t change an unjust law, that is disappointing, but not a negative. 

You can say that we shouldn’t be keeping score, but why not? Is that what we do in a way when we decide who to vote for? This candidate has more stars in the “pro” column, and that candidate has more stars in the “con” column? If you take into account his experience, his relatively good manner of speaking about issues and his ability to suggest actual solutions instead of just rhetoric… I mean, c’mon. 

All of his pluses CLEARLY outweigh the negatives. 

I mean seriously, he’s not talking about closing up the borders and shipping out the illegals. His lists of government programs are lists of programs he wants to GET RID OF, not create. Stop acting like he's the next LBJ.

The strange thing is that Gary Johnson’s critics seem to acknowledge that he would probably be the most effective President of all the Libertarians running, but they would rather shoot him down than respectfully correct him and move on. 

“He just put the final nail in the coffin of his campaign!”

If you say so. That’s a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy. And you know what’s really ironic? The radicals who are shooting him down the most are the ones that like Austin Petersen even less, and he’s exactly the person they are going to hand the nomination to.

Austin was pretty much the runner-up to Gary, and he’s weathered the storm of Libertarian in-fighting just fine. He’s smart enough to get support from outside the party, and the radicals are ensuring his victory. 

Remember, this is the guy that goes on rants about secret Libertarian elite conspiracy theories, and has openly stated that he does not support our party’s Statement of Principles. He has done everything he can to alienate some of the most energized members of our party, and has made personal attacks against other candidates and activists. Perhaps more importantly, he has a lot going against him, like his lack of qualifications, no name recognition, young age, etc. 

The very same people who see that in Petersen are going to ensure his victory. And it reminds me of a story that I was told at the convention recently. 

Years ago, when the window of opportunity opened like it has now, the Libertarian Party was set to nominate a person that would have been fantastic for the party. People inside and outside the party knew who he was, and he was by most measures a compelling candidate. When it came time to give speeches, though, another candidate gave a very rousing speech and the delegation ended up nominating him instead. When it was too late, they found out that the guy had almost no money and no campaign staff. He ended up being a terrible candidate, but the delegates chose him anyway because he said all the nicey words that Libertarian radicals like. He passed the purity test, but a huge opportunity was squandered to do it.

This has to stop. IT HAS TO STOP.

I could not be more opposed to the Libertarian Radical Caucus at this point. I was starting to warm up to them, but that’s just because the idea of having principles is Romantic and sexy. But principles without pragmatism is suicide. We may as well go off and start a book club and learn to pick up snobbish dialects so that we can all sit around and navel-gaze.

We’ll be 100% correct and principled in our prison cells, while the country burns to the ground.

Gary Johnson is wrong on anti-discrimination laws, and I don’t care. 

You can spit in the face of the guy that is suing the debate commission to get into the debates. You can hate the most qualified person we have to actually be president. 

The more you talk about how Gary Johnson is not Libertarian enough, the more you turn Libertarianism into an exclusive club, populated by whackjobs. 

Cut him some slack, guys.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Would someone post a link supporting or elaborating on this claim?

"this is the guy that goes on rants about secret Libertarian elite conspiracy theories"

I'm doing pre-convention research on candidates ... didn't easily find a match with a Google search on these secret Libertarian elite conspiracy theories.

Pray tell, what/where are they?

Bema Self said...

Well said! I may not agree with the overall implications of saying ppl can't discriminate, but at the same time, the majority of ppl in our nation are not ready to be completely free. They've been caged so long, they wouldn't no what to do with themselves. We need someone like Johnson who is respectful, experienced and not going to try and totally deconstruct the system in one term. We need gradual steps that show ppl their lives will be improved by moving towards libertarianism. Though if the purists associated with our party, can't get over themselves and come together and be practical for the common good of everyone, then maybe we're not ready for freedom either. Rabble.

The Spoon said...

Anonymous: There are many if you scroll through AP's Facebook page. It won't let me post photos here, but this is the text of one of his more recent posts:

"Let's get one thing straight. Kerbel's endorsement of Gary today only does one thing: it proves that the sleaze is gravitating towards one corner of the room. Johnson is now attracting only the lowest of the low. The virtuous and just are joining us day by day, and are behind our candidacy. We're the lightbringers. We're separating the wheat from the chaff. Don't doubt that for one moment."

There are, of course, many others.

Thomas Knapp said...

"Dude, if Gary Johnson can’t be a Libertarian, then we are ALL screwed."

I didn't know there was any question about this. OF COURSE Gary Johnson can be a Libertarian. That's entirely up to him.

That doesn't mean the rest of us have to pretend he is one when he chooses not to be one, though.

Anonymous said...

AP rants constantly about secret "establishment" Libertarian cabals. The National Facebook page has an alleged conspiracy against him. Some unidentified Libertarian leaders are in bed with Wikipedia to conspire against him. State affiliates have "Party Bosses" that are out to get him. It is always someone who is out to get him.

Skinny Devil said...

I like the gist of your article. However, I'm going to say I think you are mistaken in your line of reasoning, summed up by the lines "...Gary Johnson Is Wrong On Discrimination, And I Don't Care..." and "...The point here is not to say this is just or Libertarian in any way. It’s not.//" and finally, "...Sometimes the Libertarian position is not always the practical position...".

Your supporters and detractors in this case make the same mistake as you.

To wit: There is no such thing as THE Libertarian position on most issues.

There are many shades of Libertarianism, from the so-called "small 'L' libertarianism" (a.k.a. "libertarianism lite") to the damn-near-anarcho-capitalism Libertarianism, to the lesser known Geolibertarianism to the libertarian socialists and on and on.

Johnson doesn't fail any Libertarian test. He simply views support of anti-discrimination laws the least restrictive.

I tend to disagree with him, but it doesn;t make him - in any objective sense - wrong. In fact, he brought up several excellent points as to WHY he supports it that had not occurred to me (or many of us).

Libertarians need, forst and foremost, to stop pretending that there is a single definition (our personal definition) of the term and that any disagreement spells either sell-out of a fake.

That said, I'd like to conlcude that, again, I like tour article a LOT and support the ida that we need to stop demanding perfection and 100% agreement with those for whom we choose to vote. Because really, do any of us agree 100% with Petersen or McAfee?

Because if we do, we should vote for that guy instead and stop beating up on Johnson. Fact is, support of one candidate doesn't mean we need to bash another.

Shawn L. said...

" Fact is, support of one candidate doesn't mean we need to bash another. "

-AMEN!

gail lightfoot said...

Years ago, when the window of opportunity opened like it has now, the Libertarian Party was set to nominate a person that would have been fantastic for the party. People inside and outside the party knew who he was, and he was by most measures a compelling candidate. When it came time to give speeches, though, another candidate gave a very rousing speech and the delegation ended up nominating him instead. When it was too late, they found out that the guy had almost no money and no campaign staff. He ended up being a terrible candidate, but the delegates chose him anyway because he said all the nicey words that Libertarian radicals like. He passed the purity test, but a huge opportunity was squandered to do it.

WHO WAS THAT? WHEN?

ALso, it was Ayn Rand who said, If it increases freedom [even for a few], it is a good thing. If it reduces freedom [evcen for a few], it is a bad thing.

That was here advice on voting circa 1960s.

The Spoon said...

@gail lightfoot: Radio talk show host Gary Nolan was the good candidate. Badnarik was the bad candidate, who only survived the first round of balloting because Aaron Russo jumped in the race and split the vote. So there's that, too. It was the 2004 election.

Thomas Knapp said...

My first instinct was to think 2004 as well, but it just doesn't fit the facts.

For one thing, the closest thing to a "purist" candidate was Gary Nolan. His debate answers were LP platform right down the line. On the issues, Aaron Russo was just a completely unpredictable loose cannon and Michael Badnarik was an odd sort of constitutionalist with strong libertarian leanings.

Of course, there was some reason to believe that Nolan's answers were crafted to an LP audience rather than to a genuine conviction, given that whenever he flogged actual "political credentials" they were heavily Republican and not in an especially libertarian-leaning way, particularly on the #1 issue in that election, foreign policy. But he certainly put skin in the game, mortgaging his house to keep his campaign going there at the end. He might not have been a terrible nominee. What probably did the most to cost him the nomination was the perception that he was the "establishment" candidate of the Browne/Willis/Cloud circle in a year when that circle was no longer especially popular.

The LP was INCREDIBLY lucky to get Badnarik as its nominee, even though that happened because people just weren't paying attention (nothing was hidden from them -- as is usual with LP national convention delegates, they just followed whatever wowed them at the moment). He conformed himself to the party's expectations instead of trying to conform the party to his eccentricities, he busted his ass, he took good advice from experienced people and he ran a frugal and cost-effective campaign that didn't run up debt and that ended up paying less per vote than Gary Johnson paid/borrowed. In fact, he was the last LP presidential candidate to actually run what anyone could call a real campaign. With a straight face, anyway.

I suppose it's possible that Nolan might have knocked down a few more votes, but probably not substantially more. Russo would have been a crap shoot. He might have really done something or he might have just completely and embarrassingly tanked.

The Spoon said...

Those are all valid points, Tom. I had no reason to doubt the person who told me this story, but it sounds like it was indeed a very complex convention. Thank you for giving me your perspective!