Why Gary Johnson Doesn't Deserve Your Vote

I first began to notice a swell in support for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson shortly after Bernie Sanders threw his support to his presidential primary rival Hillary Clinton. At the time I viewed it as an understandable, albeit temporary reaction for those now feeling the Bern in a whole new way. In an election where the candidates put forth by both major political parties have reached a record-breaking level of unpopularity, Johnson's fun personality and candor can feel like a refreshing respite for those frustrated with the level of mud-slinging, arrogance, and dishonesty on display this year. But is Johnson really the answer to the prayers of Never-Trump-But-Never-Hillary-Too voters? A deeper look at the Libertarian nominee's policies and proposals makes it alarmingly clear Gary Johnson doesn't deserve your vote.

Although Johnson recently failed to garner enough support in national polls to earn himself a spot in the first presidential debate of the election cycle, he's polling noticeably higher now than he was in the 2012 election. While a poll from 2012 showed Johnson capturing just 3 percent of votes four months before the election, his current Real Clear Politics polling average is 8.8 percent. (In November 2012, Johnson would walk away with 0.99 percent of the popular vote) According to the polls, it's younger voters who Johnson has largely found favor with this election. However, any voter — young or old, liberal, conservative, or Libertarian leaning — who thinks Johnson is the best choice for president should take a deeper look at where he stands on some of this election's most pressing issues.


Perhaps my two biggest concerns with Johnson as a presidential candidate are how alarmingly unprepared and ill-informed he appears to be on important issues like foreign and economic policy and how in some of his positions he appears to be attempting to please both sides.

Apart from not knowing what or where Aleppo is during an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe earlier this month (it's a city in Syria taking the brunt of the damage caused by the country's civil war), Johnson also reportedly didn't know what the nuclear triad is when asked about it by the Washington Post in July (it's the three ways the United States is capable of firing a nuclear weapon).

While it's fine to argue that we're all human, and there are plenty of other folks in America who are totally clueless about Syria, both lapses in knowledge are disturbing given that Johnson is asking to be made commander in chief. These are things a president needs to know, and while I can appreciate anyone who fashions themselves as a quick learner ready to commit to "daily security briefings" as Johnson did following his Aleppo gaffe, I'm not so sure the presidency is a job where you can just learn as you go.

Although his recent rise in popularity has seen him take a larger share of support than he did in the previous election, it seems more related to voters' dissatisfaction with Trump and Clinton than a love for all that Johnson stands for.

When it comes to economic policy, Johnson again seems a little clueless as to what's happening. He thinks raising the federal minimum wage is a non-issue, but more worryingly expressed the belief that "nobody works for minimum wage" in a HuffPost Live interview. I guess Johnson just hasn't met any of the 1.3 million workers recorded as earning exactly the federal minimum wage in 2014 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or the 1.7 million found to be working for wages below the federal minimum wage.

It's no surprise then that Johnson also didn't know that 29 people had been injured in the Chelsea bombing on Sept. 17. Should we let someone so incredibly uninformed lead our nation?

In terms of pleasing both sides, Johnson's stance on abortion access is a prime example of how the Libertarian candidate attempts to straddle the fence on vital issues. While Johnson is often promoted as a pro-choice candidate, he makes it clear when outlining his stance on abortion on his official campaign website that "on a personal level" he "believes in the sanctity of the life of the unborn." He admits to having a "personal aversion to abortion" and touts his record of supporting restrictions on abortion access, which include arguing that public funds not be used for abortions and signing a law banning "late-term abortion" while serving as governor of New Mexico.

Further confusing matters, Johnson claims he "recognizes that the right of a woman to choose is the law of the land" and says he feels the "decision is best left to women and families, not the government." If the decision is best left to women, why did Johnson ban late-term abortions as governor? It's a head scratcher that makes it hard to see where Johnson really stands on the issue.

George Frey/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A lot of Johnson's supporters characterize the Libertarian nominee as the most honest candidate on the ballot. And while Johnson may have been open about his marijuana use, he grossly overexaggerated his similarities with Sanders in a sly scheme to scoop up the former Democratic candidates' supporters.

Because whereas Sanders' campaign sought to shift power away from corporations, Johnson supports multiple policies aimed at bolstering corporate power. He's a strong supporter of Citizens United and has said multiple times that he believes corporations and super PACs should be able to donate to political candidates without restriction. His proposals to abolish both corporate and income tax and replace them with a flat federal consumption tax would effectively be a huge tax cut for the country's wealthy and redistribute the tax burden onto the lower and middle classes. Lower class families would spend more of their income on taxes, while upper-class families spend less.

The differences between Sanders' campaign and Johnson's continue, making it extremely difficult to see just how or where Johnson thought he the former Democratic candidate were on the same page. Where Sanders was a staunch opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade Deal, Johnson has said he would "be in support [of] TPP." Where Sanders pushed for aggressive action to combat climate change, Johnson has said the government shouldn't act because "in billions of years, the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right? So global warming is in our future."

In fact, the Libertarian platform seeks to eliminate all forms of government regulation over the energy industry, including taxing carbon emissions and reportedly believes we should be fracking more, not less. While Sanders campaigned on a platform that included policies aimed at reducing student loan debt and making college tuition free, Johnson wants to eliminate the Department of Education and abolish guaranteed government student loans altogether, thereby placing the cost of a higher education wholly on the shoulders of students and their families. Where Sanders supported Medicare for all and a single-payer national health care program, Johnson does not support federal government involvement in healthcare and would repeal the Affordable Care Act if given the chance and slash Medicaid and Medicare by 43 percent.

There are more reasons why I find the idea of a Johnson presidency particularly frightening. He opposes paid medical and family leave. He's in favor of minimal gun control restrictions, evolving from his previous stance opposing all restrictions to buying and selling firearms to now favoring restrictions aimed only at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. (His idea? A hotline.) In 2010, Johnson supported Arizona's passage of SB 1070, a xenophobic immigration bill that encouraged racial profiling, even while acknowledging the bill would likely lead to violations of immigrants' rights.

Although his recent rise in popularity has seen him take a larger share of support than he did in the previous election, it seems more related to voters' dissatisfaction with Trump and Clinton than a love for all that Johnson stands for.

It's important to fully examine a candidate and their positions before we opt to throw them our vote. If you were a part of Sanders Revolution, you need to take a serious look at why you think Johnson is an adequate alternative to the Vermont senator. Because while Johnson may be the one presidential candidate you'd most like to chill with, he doesn't appear to be the one most qualified to step into the Oval Office and he certainly doesn't appear to share Sanders' ideals.