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America, You Have A Third Option

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson

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When I came to school last week proudly sporting a t-shirt in support of the Libertarian presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, I was met mostly with incredulity.  I was told voting for Johnson would be a waste, or worse, that voting for him would only help either Republican nominee Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (depending on which of them you find more repugnant).  This type of response is the knee-jerk reaction of the American public to any attempt to intrude on the two-party system.  But why?  Why, when both Clinton and Trump have garnered historically high unfavorable ratings (both candidates were over 50% unfavorable in polls by CBS/New York Times, ABC, and Politico), are Americans so content to wallow in self-pity over having to choose between the lesser of two evils?

The answer to this quandary lies in the delightfully named phenomenon known as the Tinker Bell Effect.  The Tinker Bell Effect is applicable when a concept or idea is true only because enough people believe it to be true.  To illustrate, paper money has worth only because everyone agrees it has worth (if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing but dollar bills you would quickly discover paper money has very little intrinsic value, but I digress).  The same principle holds true when it comes to the lack of third party success.  Having lived their whole lives in a two-party culture, voters believe third parties are unable to win elections, so voters don’t support them, which causes third parties to be unable to win elections.  It is the belief in the hopelessness of third parties which entraps the electorate in the two-party duopoly, no matter how much the electorate supports the platform of a third-party, and no matter how appalling the candidates the duopoly puts forth.  Alternatively, if voters recognize that voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil, third parties can, and historically have been able to, receive the support they need to win (as even the Republican Party started out as a third party).  The Tinker Bell Effect, while not a reason in itself to vote the Libertarian ticket, is a reason to stay open minded as I lay out the reasons why Johnson would be a much better president than Trump or Clinton, and why he has a legitimate chance to win the 2016 presidential election.

To liberals, especially to those who supported Senator Bernie Sanders in the primary, I point out that Hillary Clinton is the embodiment of the very establishment you despise.  She is a career politician beholden to special interest groups and plagued by corruption, and is the benefactor of a coordinated campaign of favoritism by the Democratic National Committee.  Johnson, on the other hand, has stated he agrees with Sanders on about 75% of issues.  Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld have long pressed for a variety of socially liberal policies that Clinton either doesn’t support, supports only lukewarmly, or has not supported for very long, including term limits, abortion rights, marriage equality, withdrawal from Afghanistan and an end to useless interventionism, criminal justice reform, an end to the war on drugs and the decriminalization of marijuana, and more vigorous application of 4th amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Johnson also supports reasonable environmental regulations.

To conservatives, I point out that Donald Trump is not a conservative, not a Republican, and is a blemish on both.  Conservatism stands for promoting prosperity through limited government, peace through strength, reigning in out-of-control spending, encouraging the immigration of those who are motivated to achieve the American Dream, and promoting respect for all.  I ask, then, does Donald Trump stand for any of that?  No.  How is limited government defined by calling for large tariffs, as Trump has done?  How can peace through strength be achieved by a man who has been denounced by fifty former top Republican national security advisors, who warned he “would be the most reckless president in American history”?  How can Trump cut the budget while also proposing to gather and deport 11 million people and build a massive wall?  How will banning Muslim immigration encourage the American Dream?  And why should Republicans rally around a fear monger who routinely makes base and childish attacks?  The answers, respectively, are that it isn’t, it can’t, he can’t, it won’t, and they shouldn’t.  Additionally, Trump has been a liberal democrat for most of his life, and he made large campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential run, so conservatives shouldn’t be confident of his loyalty.

Unlike Trump, Gary Johnson, the former governor of a border state, wants to end illegal immigration by simplifying the legal immigration process, incentivizing prospective immigrants to come legally (by passing a background check and providing proof of employment) and pay taxes and allowing law enforcement to focus their efforts on the small portion of illegal immigrants who truly seek to do harm to American society.  Unlike Trump, Johnson knows consumers pay the price of tariffs.  And unlike Trump, who abused bankruptcy policies for personal gain, both Johnson and Weld have experience cutting taxes, cutting spending, reducing unemployment, and balancing the budget, and they would both bring this experience to Washington if elected.

When Johnson’s platform becomes more widely known, and it will, it will enjoy a vast amount of support.  The two main tenets of Libertarianism; fiscal responsibility and social tolerance, or, as Weld puts it, “I want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom,” are beliefs held by the majority of Americans.  Johnson is a better fiscal conservative than Trump and a better social liberal than Clinton.  If you feel dissatisfied with your current choices for president, or are just curious about the available alternatives, I heartily suggest you watch this two-minute video of Johnson and Weld;

or visit their website at

Even without extensive media coverage, Johnson has already shown that his platform is capable of attracting many voters from both sides of the aisle.  He is currently in the double digits according to CNN and Fox, and does even better among Millennials (among whom he polls ahead of Trump), Independents (among whom he polls ahead of Clinton), active duty military personnel (among whom he polls at 44%, ahead of both Trump and Clinton), and the 18-24 year old demographic (among whom he polls at 35%, again ahead of both Trump and Clinton).  After each of the two CNN-sponsored Libertarian town halls, Johnson has seen his poll numbers rise, and he is very close to meeting the 15% threshold necessary for an invitation to the presidential debates, set by the Presidential Debate Commission (PDC).  Frank Fahrenkopf, Co-Chairman of the PDC, has indicated he might invite Johnson to debate with Clinton and Trump even if he falls short of the 15% threshold, and the PDC has directed debate venues to plan for three podiums.  Add to this that newspapers as prestigious as the Chicago Tribune have called for Johnson to be allowed to debate, that Johnson has just secured his first endorsement by a US Congressman (Republican Representative Scott Rigell of Virginia), and that a petition to allow Gary Johnson to debate has reached 350,000 signatures, and it is very likely Johnson and Weld will have the opportunity to debate Clinton and Trump.  The first presidential debate is projected to have more viewership than the Super Bowl, and given that a recent study by Pew Research Center showed 40% of Americans believe neither Clinton nor Trump would make a good president, it will be an excellent chance for Johnson to cut through the ever-constant blustering of Trump and Clinton and win over the American people.

Johnson is pulling voters away evenly from Trump and Clinton, according to polls conducted by CBS, the Huffington Post, and Bloomberg.  Ask a committed supporter of Trump or Clinton, and they will both tell you they fear Johnson is a spoiler, but they can’t agree on who he is a spoiler for.  Trump supporters say he will hand the election to Clinton, and Clinton supporters say he will hand the election to Trump.  This curious situation is simply evidence that Johnson is a decent man and decent politician who is a threat to both parties, as voters on both sides of the aisle realize Johnson is their best choice.

For disaffected Republicans and Democrats alike, the Libertarian ticket is appealing not just because of its platform, but also because it is the most qualified and experienced ticket any third party has offered for a very long time.  Johnson is a former governor of New Mexico, where he was elected and reelected as a Republican in a deeply blue state.  Weld, also a former Republican governor of a blue state, Massachusetts, was so popular that he was reelected by the widest margin ever for a Massachusetts governor.  Compared to the Green Party ticket of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, neither of whom have ever held any elected position (and the latter having literally zero name recognition), and even compared to Johnson’s 2012 running mate Jim Gray (a district court judge who also seriously lacked name recognition), the 2016 Libertarian ticket is the most likely to attract swing voters, most likely to perform well in debates, and, ultimately, most likely to win.

America, you have a third option.  So Live Free, Make America Sane Again, and #feelthejohnson.

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America, You Have A Third Option