By Ben Brockman
Come this November, the American people — or at least the 54% of eligible voters who turn out — will head to polling stations all over the country to choose the next president. Whoever is selected will inherit not just a nice white estate in D.C., but also the title “leader of the free world” and all the duties and responsibilities that come with it. Unfortunately, the people that make up the electorate in the United States are often ignorant of, or at the very least confused about, the decision that is in front of them. Their experience with and education about American politics lead them to believe we operate in a strict two-party system, in which none of the other candidates should be taken seriously. This antiquated, though common, view of presidential politics may lead voters to ignore a candidate who truly speaks for them. Former New Mexico governor, and Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson, believes he is that candidate, and I would be hard pressed not to agree.
For years, since most of those casting ballots were mere children, the choice in presidential elections has been between the little red R and the little blue D. We have been conditioned to believe that these two extremely well endowed organizations, corrupted by decades of special interest exposure and money politics, represent the duality of political thought in the United States. This unconsciously fosters a dangerous mentality in many voters: an us-versus-them mentality. Your parents may have always voted for the candidates whose names were followed by a little red R, maybe they cast their ballot for the name preceding a little blue D, but the message was always the same: this letter, this party, represents who we are. To borrow a metaphor from Star Wars, your party is like the Jedi, the intergalactic force for good, fighting the Sith, an evil group hell-bent on destroying America. Both parties are highly incentivized, through money and power, to foster the polar view that has dominated American politics for over a century — and in 2000 a certain billionaire businessman even went so far as to recognize this fact.
The truth, however, is that America was never meant to have a two-party system. The first man to win an American election, George Washington, left us some advice to that effect in his Farewell Address, saying that, when it comes to popular government, parties are “truly their worst enemy.” These two parties are currently failing us, for the first time in history bringing us two candidates with favorability ratings below 50%. Hillary Clinton, the supposed “most qualified candidate ever”, was just chastised by the director of the FBI for being “extremely careless” with top secret national security information, which was “almost certainly” accessed by Russian agents. Her term as Secretary of State was also marred by the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the subsequent reaction by the State Department. Donald Trump continues and create racial animus in a country and a time that is high-strung with racial tension.
And yet, despite all of this, when I tell someone that I plan on voting for Gary Johnson they are shocked. They tell me that I will be “wasting my vote,” as if voting for the candidate who you believe would do the best job as president constitutes a waste in a true democracy. They continue to justify the “lesser of two evils” approach as the mature way to choose the next leader of a world superpower. They act like it is even much of a choice at all, when in fact, much of what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would do if they are put in the Oval Office is very similar.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in favor of increasing the size and scope of government, taking for granted that more government is the solution instead of part of the problem. People don’t like Obamacare? That’s okay, President Clinton will expand it. Student loans and tuition too high? President Clinton will have the taxpayers pick up the tab (even if they themselves didn’t go to college) and essentially nationalize all student loans, which will likely cause the price of tuition to soar. Hard for you to find a job? President Trump will spend billions of taxpayer money on new immigration enforcement agents and a wall to get rid of immigrants, who probably aren’t taking your jobs anyway.
The history of the United States is littered with examples of government solutions to the nation’s problems creating new issues, often not even thought of by the legislators. For example, the prohibition of alcohol in 1920 in response to widespread consumption led to a number of unforeseen negative consequences, not the least of which being an increase in organized crime. The Libertarian party, Gov. Johnson and Gov. Weld present a different viewpoint, in which big government is part of the problem, and smart government is the solution.
In response to the recent shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, all the candidates expressed sympathies and proposed half-measures which treat the symptoms instead of attempting to identify the cause of the greater problem. Gov. Johnson immediately acknowledged the problem and explained why he believes that the War on Drugs is mostly to blame for the militarization of the police and the racial bias in law enforcement. He believes that the overall poor relationship between police and minority populations is the result of the aggressive policing of drug-related crimes. Blacks are far more likely to be arrested for possession or distribution than their white counterparts, despite the fact that both groups use and sell at proportionally similar rates. One-third of black men will spend time in the federal correction system, five times the rate of white males. The leading cause of this high incarceration rate are drug charges. This likely causes law enforcement officials to be more suspicious of African Americans and at the same time fosters animosity toward the police among the black community, who feel as though the law is not applied evenly to them.
The Libertarian ticket is not backing down from the big issues, those issues which threaten the future and which young voters truly should be concerned about. The national debt, which is already over $19.5 trillion (yes, that’s a real number), is on an incredibly unsustainable course, which could soon see a huge part of the federal debt eaten up by interest payments on the debt alone. This is the case because we have only balanced the budget five times in the last fifty years — and not once since 2001. Gov. Johnson not only promises to balance the budget if he is elected, but he has done it as the governor of New Mexico. His vice presidential nominee, Gov. Bill Weld, also balanced the budget of Massachusetts.
Interest on the national debt is not the only thing soon to eat up a large chunk of our budget either; as the Baby Boomer generation retires, Social Security and Medicare payments are set to soar in coming years. Long considered the “third rail of politics” — meaning the one you can’t touch unless you wish to commit political suicide — Social Security and Medicare are in danger. If they are not reformed, like Gov. Johnson has a plan to do, the taxes you pay may soon have to go through the roof or we will see America go bankrupt.
Johnson presents a true foreign policy alternative to the failed Bush and Obama era approaches to the turmoil in the Middle East. Gov. Johnson believes that we should not be involved in foreign conflicts which do not directly concern or threaten the United States. Our involvement in these wars, none of which have been declared by Congress, only serves to weaken our national security through “blowback”, the idea that terrorism is a result of United States invasion and state-building attempts in the Middle East over the last two decades, the start of which precedes Islamic terrorism in the United States. Extensive research suggests that 95% of suicide terrorism comes in response to a foreign occupation. A Time article, published in 2014, predicted the coming ISIS-inspired attacks in the United States, claiming they would occur as blowback for our air strikes against their forces. Wars like these make the average US citizen less, not more, safe.
Although Hillary has developed a reputation as the “experienced” candidate, a similar argument could be made for the Libertarian ticket. According to a Gallup poll, the American people see being the governor of a state as the most valuable position to have held for a potential president. Both Johnson and Weld served as Republican governors of traditionally blue states, both managing to win reelection. They present Americans with an alternative that is both fiscally responsible and socially open-minded, offering a long-term approach in a profession in which they are incentivized not to think past the next election cycle.
Change can only begin when we recognize that there is a problem. The parties of our parents are not written into the Constitution, nothing about them is critical to our system of government, and — in this election cycle — they have failed us. If this failure is rewarded with votes and power, it will only incentivize more half-measures, more debt, higher taxes, and more short-term thinking. A vote for Governors Johnson and Weld is not just a vote for the most qualified ticket, it is a message to the political establishment that our generation is not satisfied with the status quo, that if the Republicans and Democrats cannot shepherd our country into the future as continued world leaders, then we will not hesitate to elect someone who will. So, as Johnson said in his first campaign spot, “if after four years you decide you don’t like peace, prosperity and freedom, you can always vote a Trump or a Hillary back into office. What do you say America, you in?”