The Problem with Voting “Other” Whether Libertarian or 3rd Party



Gary Johnson - Libertarian Party Candidate for President

Gary Johnson
Libertarian Party Presidential Nominee

I have a lot of respect for my Libertarian friends, and they are frequently the first people I’d like to have a discussion with about a new policy or political controversy. I find most of them to be intelligent, thoughtful, well-read people. I also find that in large part Independents (including the Tea Party) often have much in common with the right when it comes to the issues of this particular election–economics and the over-reach of the Federal government.

But I do think that to actually vote for a 3rd party candidate in a tight general election (as this one) is to actually harm the chances of someone whose views are probably most similar to your own. A vote for a 3rd party actually makes a TWO point difference in terms of real numbers, from +1 to a -1 vote that could have been received by one of the main candidates. Let’s get practical—in a close election, a few thousand votes can make or break the entire Electoral College contribution of a state, which in turn can determine the winner of the election.

A recent Des Moines Register poll showed only a 1-point difference between Romney and Obama here in Iowa. And in both 2004 and 2008, “other” votes in Iowa made up…. 1 percent.

So by all means, make your case to anyone who will listen in the off-years and primary season! In fact, the last 2 election cycles, I’ve supported someone other than the eventual candidate at caucus time. But once the primaries are over, I think we do need to figure out which of the remaining candidates is closest in ideology to our own views.

As to Gary Johnson himself, I find myself agreeing with many–if not most–of his positions. I want education back at the local level. I absolutely believe that the 2nd Amendment has implications for the rest of the Bill of Rights. And he was right on when he reportedly said, “My next door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration.”

My main personal concerns about any Libertarian candidate are the tendencies for fast change and the hesitancy to deploy the military. I frequently wonder if the drastic “fix-it-now” approaches of the Libertarian movement are the best approach. There are so many entrenched government programs and expenditures in place today that practically speaking, it’s going to take some time for states and individuals to adjust. My second concern is that a Libertarian president may put ideology ahead of national defense. In my opinion, there ARE times when we need to engage in combat, and I want a President who won’t hesitate to do that if it becomes necessary.

Even so, I can certainly respect the 3rd party vote—or even abstention—of someone who has deeply considered the issues and clearly done their homework.

But this election is not an apples-to-apples choice, but truly an apples-to-oranges choice between two very different ideologies. So I think those who chose to actually vote for Gary Johnson this particular election will actually be harming the chances of another candidate who isn’t as far off from their views as they might think.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Meier/100000470109305 Stephen Meier

    Nonsense. First only 6 or 7 states are in play. The rest are a sure thing for one evil or the other. If you were just referring to voters in the states in play it would be one thing. The reality is some one pitching this argument to voters in the other 43 states is doing so because they fear a growth of the pro-freedom movement.

    The supporters of Gary Johnson or of Ron Paul are in favor of increasing individual freedom by scaling back the abuse of government power.

    You of course are well aware that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryon are backers of the patriot act, the indefinite detention of the NDAA and the warrant-less wire tapping of people in the US.

    You of course are well aware that Barack Obama signed the re-authorization of the Patriot Act and the NDAA as well as back legislation that provided immunity to the telcom companies when they helped the government spy without warrants.

    To suggest either of these two evils is close to the pro-liberty position of the Libertarians is insulting.

    Vote to grow the pro-liberty movement by voting against the two evils.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      One of the primary problems I have with Libertarian Party is that for many of its adherents liberty is equal to licentiousness. I’m right with you on economic issues, but on moral issues – I think the Founders would disagree.

      • Springdale

        Shane, your observation that: “One of the primary problems I have with Libertarian Party is that for many of its adherents liberty is equal to licentiousness.” sums up one of the major concerns that I have long had with the Libertarian movement.

      • http://profiles.google.com/junegenis June Genis

        Saying that someone has a right to choose a behavior or lifestyle that you disapprove of is not the same thing as saying that you approve of their choice.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jazzwitherspoon Champion Cooper

        When you say this, do you mean you have actually met libertarians that feel this way, or that you are attributing this to libertarians because of some warped Puritanical mindset you have yourself?

      • J Smallman

        Nobody has the right to impose their personal interpretation of morality on another. As long as nobody is being hurt, and nobody’s civil liberty is being violated, it is a non-issue.
        If the USA was a house, I would say we need to stop worrying about the wallpaper in the nursery, becasue the foundation is crumbling, the roof is falling in, we are living off of loans from our neighbors while we put in a heated indoor pool, and we are skipping our kids’ visits to the doctor and taking PBS out of our cable subscription to stay solvent.

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.landis1 James Landis

      The suggestion that the two parties are evil whereas your own is not is the height of hubris.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Howe/207300327 Joseph Howe

        Both parties advocate perpetual war, sounds pretty evil to me.

  • Sam

    Hear hear Stephen. Thank you. Vote for who and what you believe in. Keep it simple b/c it is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/slygrinz Alex Langlois

    Great Article and all, but we should all vote for what we believe in and not the popular alternative. A libertarian would argue that a vote for Either Democrat or Republican is a WASTED VOTE. I am a very strong believer in that philosophy.

    What good is it to vote for a Political Ideology that you do not wish to pursue? I would argue that every single Libertarian vote counts for 10x the amount of votes that a Republican or Democrat would receive.

    I argue that because the Libertarian movement is gaining a LOT of momentum and will gain more and more as we go.. because lets all face facts. Libertarianism is America how it should have been all along and how it was originally designed. Add in the modern “problems” of the day and a political platform that has gone from “wingnuts” 40 years ago, to a more mainstream platform than even the Dems and Reps are pushing today… and I think it is inevitable.

    The Dems and Reps have run this country completely into the dirt and near buried us… when the Inflation comes due too the economic policies of both parties, when the 2nd Great Depression hits… and there is NO healthcare, food for the poor, no on is making a decent living, and there are riots and revolting in our streets…. That message will be about as loud as a foghorn blasting two inches away from everyone’s eardrum……

    The Answer to America’s problems is quite simple.. Get Libertarians in the local offices and don’t forget about the man running for President of the United States of American and on all the Ballots… Gary Johnson.. quite honesty.. In my several decades of following politics… he is the single greatest Candidate for the Presidency I have ever seen in my life…. Not because of who is is as a person as much as his political ideology is completely Libertarian… and he is the flag bearer for us right now and a DAMN good one at that…

    Personally, I am penciling in any Libertarian I see on my State Ballot and if there as an Independent choice, I will vote for anyone I have researched that is “close” in that respect. But any uncontested or just Dem or Rep position on my state ballot.. I am leaving those blank….. because it will give them a “-1″ vote they could have had…

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      “Libertarianism is America how it should have been all along and how it was originally designed.”

      Some aspects perhaps, especially economic issues, but not in its entirety.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jazzwitherspoon Champion Cooper

        Libertarianism is far more in line with the Constitution and what the founders intended than the authoritarian ruling parties of today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jazzwitherspoon Champion Cooper

    “My main personal concerns about any Libertarian candidate are the tendencies for fast change and the hesitancy to deploy the military. I frequently wonder if the drastic “fix-it-now” approaches of the Libertarian movement are the best approach. There are so many entrenched government programs and expenditures in place today that practically speaking, it’s going to take some time for states and individuals to adjust. My second concern is that a Libertarian president may put ideology ahead of national defense. In my opinion, there ARE times when we need to engage in combat, and I want a President who won’t hesitate to do that if it becomes necessary.”

    Neither of these concerns are applicable to Gary Johnson.

    He wants to cut entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid, but he does not want to get rid of them immediately, specifically for the reason you stated – that these programs are entrenched and people depend on them currently.

    Gary Johnson has also stated that he would deploy the military if the proper channel was used (i.e. Congress voting to go to war) and assuming there was a justification for war. He has stated that something like WWII is certainly a sufficient reason to deploy the military.

    These arguments are pretty much exactly the same as Ron Paul’s stances on both of these issues, which is why it is so confusing to me where people come up with these arguments as excuses for not voting for libertarians.

    One, the excuses are not valid, as the recent libertarian-leaning candidates have never voiced any support for the positions you are attributing to them.

    Two, these false assumptions about libertarian candidates are used as the rationale for people to continue to vote for the EXTREMELY authoritarian front-runners, which makes absolutely zero sense. If you don’t want entitlements to disappear overnight, then some manner of reining in the entitlements will be necessary, or there will come a time when OPEC and China no longer place any value on the dollar, and the United States will just crumble under the weight of its massive empire. And, just because you want a president who is willing to use military force when necessary, should not mean that you are willing to support a president or his opponent, both of whom support four (going on five) unending wars, with going to war with Iran almost certainly going to bring us into conflict with a bigger enemy, such as Russia or China. How is any of that in the US’s best interest?

  • http://www.facebook.com/anita.morrill.9 Anita Morrill

    Some of my Libertarian friends have expressed their opinion that if Obama wins again, another crash leading the 2nd Great Depression will come sooner, forcing the changes we need, and therefore they hope he does win. Thoughts on this?

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      Hoping for an economic crash to advance your ideology seems pretty sadistic.

    • SJ

      It’s rather presumptuous–and sort of like playing God. How do they know what could happen, and what the end result would be? Then again, maybe God doesn’t factor into their reasoning.

      I don’t know what God’s will is for this election. But while I disagree with those who would vote libertarian, I do agree with their overall philosophy of boycotting the two major parties in favor of a candidate who represents one’s beliefs.

      In the end, a wasted vote is not one for a dark horse–it’s one that doesn’t even come close to representing your true beliefs.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Howe/207300327 Joseph Howe

      Peter Schiff has an analogy about the US economy being a car with no breaks, headed down a steep hill and it matters not who is in the driver’s seat at this point, the problem is neither potential driver has the courage to admit the car is out of control and that it would be better to swing it into a ditch and take the hit now and recover than drag out this middling recovery. So yes, in a way a crash and correction could lead to a economic recession, but perhaps evade the 2nd great depression if done now than after more borrowing and monetized debt is accumulated.

  • s v

    We must unite to replace Obama’s govt-growing agenda with Romney’s govt-growing agenda.

  • http://www.facebook.com/raging.paradoxidation Chris Whitehead

    I think that to NOT vote 3rd party in a time like this [no matter who the vote is for] is to show the existing 2 party establishment that they will just continue to call the shots on our behalf.

    History shows that political change is painful.

    I always tell people who say that not unifying behind a candidate that is the lesser of two evils is just casting another vote IN FAVOR of the worse evil- tell that to our founding fathers who gave their lives in physical battle against the establishment that was calling the shots on their behalf. Without the 3rd party movements throughout the history of America, we would never have seen the development of the 2 major parties that we have today.

    Change is painful and it does not come through just one or even 2 election cycles. But change will NEVER come if unhappy Democrats or Republicans continue to vote along the same party lines that they have come to be at such odds with.

    • SJ

      Well said.

  • J Smallman

    The author is one of the reasons this country is going down the tubes. We NEED more political parties in the race. We NEED a real choice, not the usual Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. They whittled down all our choices to 2. That is not a choice. Not when there are dozens of political parties and most people have never heard of them.
    There is NO BASIC DIFFERENCE between Republicans and Democrats. We have the illusion of a two party system but under the surface both parties want the same thing….centralized power, destruction of civil liberty, and a world dominated by the US military.

    If people would support other parties, we might have a real choice on election day. But we limit ourselves and it hurts the country. I fear it is too far gone now, our democracy has been a sham for almost 50 yrs now and I fear the only way to recover it is to start all over again, much like the founders of our nation had to do.