Gary Johnson: The libertarian alternative

With Obama and Romney running neck-and-neck, could Johnson decide who our next president is?

“Spoiler Alert!” said Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson may still be only “a blip in the polls” heading into next week’s election, but with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney running neck-and-neck, that blip could well decide who’s our next president. In the always-pivotal state of Florida, for instance, Johnson is polling at about 1 percent—a margin far greater than the 537 votes that gave the 2000 election to George W. Bush. He’s also likely to win significant votes in the independent-minded battleground states of New Hampshire, Colorado, and Nevada, and in New Mexico, where Johnson was a two-term governor, some polls show him at 5 percent.

As a small-government former Republican, Johnson is most likely to siphon votes away from Romney, said Mike Rosen in The Denver Post. Any freedom-loving libertarians tempted to “make a statement” by voting for Johnson need to ask themselves whether it’s worth four more years of reckless spending and government expansion under Barack Obama. Johnson could hurt Obama too, said Sean Sullivan in Washington Post.com. He’s an anti-war isolationist, wants to legalize marijuana, and has argued far more vigorously than our current president for the right of same-sex couples to marry. These socially liberal positions have earned him “passionate support” from some young voters who would most likely vote for Obama if Johnson weren’t in the race.

I’ve met Johnson, said Ezra Klein, also in WashingtonPost.com, and unlike his fellow libertarian, the oddball Ron Paul, he comes across as a “nice, sober, sensible guy.” But his policies would be no less extreme or destructive: He wants to peg the value of the dollar to the value of precious metals, and has proposed “massive, rapid spending cuts” of about $1.5 trillion—cuts so radical they could push the country into a deep, Greece-like depression. But for those of us who believe in human rights and civil liberties, said Conor Friedersdorf in TheAtlantic.com, who else are we supposed to vote for? If we go with Romney we’re voting for war with Iran and the reinstitution of torture. If we support Obama, we’re voting for the murder of civilians with illegal drone strikes and the indefinite detention of prisoners without trial. That leaves us no real choice but to vote for Gary Johnson—not because he’s going to win the election, but “because he ought to.”

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