In the midst of an election featuring two of, arguably, the most disliked presidential candidates in recent history, many voters are turning to libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. While I am sympathetic to many of Johnson’s policy positions, I believe his radical positions on deregulation and his lack of foreign policy knowledge make him an unfit candidate for president. Johnson—a two-term former governor of New Mexico—is in his second bout for the presidency after gaining nearly 1 percent of the popular vote in 2012. He has gained a much larger following in 2016, now consistently polled at 6-10 percent. His voting base appears to be largely made up of moderate republicans and liberal democrats who are dissatisfied with their respective party’s candidates. Johnson supporters also admire his hands-off approach to government and his belief that the government causes more problems than it fixes.
Young, liberal voters are perhaps most intrigued by Johnson, as he believes in many liberal policies, such as ending mass incarceration and defending a woman’s right to have an abortion. Beyond a few positions, however, I don’t see the broad appeal for Johnson.
His hands-off approach to government also includes abolishing the minimum wage, opposing any gun control legislation and continuing to allow corporations and political action committees to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. In regard to the environment, Johnson opposes any government action on climate change; his party’s platform states, “Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection.”
Johnson’s small government approach may be attractive on some issues, but his desire to deregulate the economy and environmental regulation would be a disaster. He would happily abolish the Internal Revenue Service and other regulatory agencies—the last safeguards against corruption and monopolization in the economy. The Johnson administration’s economy would find corruption, greed and pollution running rampant.
He also seems to be lacking in foreign policy experience or knowledge. Aside from his multiple on-air television gaffes, Johnson appears to misunderstand the role of America in the world. He argues that the United States military is too interventionist and that our role in global affairs should be diminished. This is an important conversation to be had, but he goes too far when he suggests that America should not intervene when preventable atrocities are being committed in a foreign land.
It’s also worth noting that Johnson is in fact a serious moderate in the libertarian party. Their party platform calls for not only the abolishment of the IRS, but also “all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution.” Those programs include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.
Johnson is not as extreme as some members of his own party, but he is certainly not the candidate that we need to move our country forward. Johnson supporters should not be misled to believe that he is a typical moderate or a champion of liberal policies.