I will be voting for Gary Johnson. In this election, even more so than in other elections, the two establishment candidates could not be more alike on crucial issues. Yet, the refrain from conservative pundits such as Limbaugh, Beck, Boortz, and others is that votes for Libertarian Party candidate and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson will effectively seal the reelection of Barack Obama, their chief opponent, while Romney, the man they all support and intend to vote for, is similar in many aspects. When listeners call into these shows and talk of how they intend to vote for Johnson, they are attacked and oftentimes, given no time to respond, instead given a lecture about how they need to vote to save the country.
The hosts, many of whom had choice words to say about Romney before it was clear he had clinched the nomination, view anything other than a vote for Romney, even if for a third party candidate like Johnson, as tantamount to high treason in an election they believe will decide the fate of the American Republic when in reality it does not matter what party ultimately wins; the American people will ultimately lose in that neither establishment candidates are discussing the real issues, but slinging amusing one liners to entertain their base. This question whether my vote for Gary Johnson will have an effect on the election requires some consideration and reflection.
If you take into account that the vast majority of those who supported Texas congressman Ron Paul, myself included, will be voting for Gary Johnson this November (while a negligible amount will be writing him in), the polls clearly indicate that Johnson may be taking votes from both candidates. According to the results of Iowa Caucus and many polls, Paul was able to attract many independents and those under 30 years of age, as well as Democrats, liberals, moderates, and low income voters, as Wes Messamore noted in his January piece on Paul’s electability.
What the American public, most notably those in talk radio need to realize is that these constituencies are critical both to Romney and Obama. Independents and the youth can be swung either way, towards Romney or Obama, but if they too come to the realization that Romney and Obama are merely different wings of the same bird, they may be inclined to vote for Johnson, just as the antiwar left may be inclined to vote for Johnson because of how hawkish Obama has been in his first term, or those in the lower income brackets that have awoken to the realization that neither party’s current policies are going to lift them out of their situation, improve the job market, or remove the barriers to entry to start small businesses of their own.
Other constituencies that matter are those in the Tea Party, whom Romney is counting on, and those in the Occupy movement, whom Obama is counting on. Those in the Tea Party movement may see Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan, who voted for TARP and the GM bailouts, as a betrayal of the tenets of the Tea Party– fiscally responsible governance and an opposition to the socializing of private losses. They may also find irony in that Romney basically pioneered in Massachusetts what would become the basis of the Affordable Care Act. Those in the Occupy movement may see the fact that Goldman Sachs, one of the banks that received a bailout under TARP, is one of Obama’s top contributors, as antithesis to a man who claims to be of the middle class and claims to have faced the same issues they have in his life. These two influential groups cannot be assumed to automatically vote the way that people expect them to. There are still those in the movements with some principle whom will realize that neither of these men truly represent them in a way they see fit.
If the Libertarian Party can market Johnson effectively and perhaps get him a decent amount of media exposure, the Libertarian Party may have the best showing since 1980, when Ed Clark and David Koch ran on the ticket and garnered 1.06 percent of the vote; it is quite likely he could have the best showing in the history of the party, according to a recent poll that put him at 5.3% nationwide. Besides the constituencies mentioned earlier, there will also be those who supported Paul who will turn out for Johnson. In 2008, the small percentage (0.40%) was likely a result of the Libertarian Party nominating Bob Barr (who endorsed Gingrich during the primaries) and Wayne Allyn Root (who has endorsed Romney), two men very uncharacteristic of mainstream libertarian thought and poor standard bearers of the movement.
It remains to be seen how Johnson will effect the 2012 presidential election, but he will certainly pull votes from both candidates this time around and may be the deciding factor, if for no other reason than the general disdain voters and certain constituencies are beginning to have for the nominees of both parties.