There is a schism in the liberty movement right now. For various reasons (some good, many ridiculous), it has broken into factions that seem to become more and more cults of personality around each of the frontrunners of the Libertarian Party primary in Gary Johnson, Austin Petersen, and John McAfee. Thus far in this race, my own writings have ended up focusing primarily on Petersen – not out of any particular allegiance or favoritism to Petersen in particular, but because I saw what I considered to be an unusually high amount of negativity being leveled at him from within the party. But this got me thinking, why not do my fair share of defense for Gary Johnson, as well? Aside from Petersen, Johnson is the one who seems to be getting the most amount of hate (mostly from Petersen fanboys) for not being a “real” libertarian.
Anyone who is even a little familiar with my political writings should already know all the reasons why I take issue with that accusation, but in Johnson’s case in particular, it’s patently absurd. While the armchair philosophers in the Petersen camp might be able to “prove” how the governor get’s some of the finer points of ideal libertarian rhetoric “wrong”(which is, of course, subjective in the first place), Johnson’s record as an actual executive speaks for itself. In the state he served during his time as governor, New Mexico, Johnson got re-elected as a Republican in a state that was majority Democrat. That should be seen as a very big deal, because it proves to Johnson’s strengths as a leader and his abilities to appeal to both sides of the political aisle – everything a party that is trying to grow should want, right?
And yet, no dice – the fact that Johnson even has to prove his worth to the very party that embraced and voted for him just four years ago is a disgrace to the coherency of the LP. The man is the only candidate in the top three for the nomination that has the record to prove that he is competent in a leadership role, and that he can be responsible with said role just as the United States Constitution mandates. Sure, we’re hearing accusations from tabloid-like hit pieces that Johnson is horrible with money because the campaign is apparently underfunded, but it doesn’t take a genius to be able to tell the difference between funding a campaign for an office from scratch and actually utilizing sound economics when managing a state or country’s money that is already available – Johnson did the latter with undeniable aplomb in New Mexico by vetoing more proposed bills in history and re-organizing the state’s then-present funding into a much more manageable, small government enterprise. The checkbook was balanced, and Johnson left that state in a surplus. The man knows what he’s doing, and it’s nothing but tabloid smearing and vacuous slander to claim otherwise with this sort of evidence staring us right in the face.
Now, none of this is to say that I therefore think Petersen and McAfee would be horrible for the job – I don’t. But I am trying to make the point very clear that the hate and aggression for Johnson at the hands of the other candidate’s minions is unwarranted and, in many cases, made of straw. Does any thinking person armed with all the information honestly think that Johnson is in favor of Nazis forcing Jewish bakers to make their cakes? Or that his current campaign’s fundraising state is somehow going to wash away all the concrete evidence he has behind him as a fantastic financial and budget manager? Or that he’s somehow less sincere in his libertarian views because he’s not been a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party itself for as long as Austin Petersen? As if being a member of the LP is the only way someone can claim himself of holding libertarian philosophy? Honestly? Ridiculous.
Most recently, Johnson named his pick for the LP vice presidential ticket, former governor of Massachusetts, William Weld. The choice made sense to me immediately – here was, like Johnson, another Republican governor who kept getting re-elected in a blue state, and who has had a very solid, consistent history of protecting all rights – even those of the more current, “hot-button” minority groups such as those found in the LGBT community. In a world where most self-ascribed libertarian politicians who are nationally visible almost always seem to obscure or dodge their positions that would plant them firmly in the “socially liberal” side of the platform (arguably because most of them are Republicans who are pressured to pander to the evangelical vote), Weld and Johnson are both refreshingly strong and bold on their social positions – and they are very liberal and in favor of full equal treatment under the law.
But of course, the Petersen camp, along with other equally delusional purists in the movement, took umbrage with the choice right away. “He’s anti-gun!!” Came the cries. “He’s not a true libertarian because he wants to take away our guns!”
Well… No. Not exactly. Weld’s history with gun laws is simply that of a moderate when it comes to that particular issue. He’s no extremist. He never ordered gun confiscation from the home. He never even explicitly said he was against the Second Amendment like many modern politicians do. What actually happened was this (taken from Weld’s publicly visible Facebook page):
In other words, Weld was wrong and has since owned up to that. But even then, the policies in question did not amount to the Nazism the naysayers have been making it all out to be. Were they “libertarian,” even in the looser sense? Perhaps, if once truly believes that gun violence being reduced through legal means is a viable way of defending Constitutional right to one’s own person. Most libertarians I would say agree that thinking laws are capable of stopping gun violence at all is a little silly, though. Nevertheless, Weld has addressed the issue and given very clear explanations for why he once felt the way he did in that regard. He also makes very clear his new reasons for changing that opinion, and the reasons are constitutionally sound. The man clearly understands why he was wrong before, which, when paired with his consistently strong record in other areas of policy, makes it very believable that he’s being sincere now.
But as always with the elitist, purist rhetoric, the perfect becomes the good’s worst enemy so that the two can fight themselves into oblivion, and the bad and the worst can come along after and squabble over who will ultimately take up and live off the scraps. Weld’s record outside of guns should be seen as impeccably inline with libertarian ideas – he has even testified against teachers unions and fought for school choice implementation during his political career. But please, let us keep abstaining from voting for the LP ticket at all if we can’t have the 100% perfect candidate in the seat. That will show everybody. But that’s a different article altogether.