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Could Gary Johnson swing the election?

The Atlantic publishes an article on Libertarian Presidential nominee Gary Johnson, the third party candidates in the past, and how they can effect an election.

Having since left the GOP for the Libertarian Party—that loose, 40-year-old coalition of perpetually quarreling anti-statists and isolationists, Ayn Randians and Hayekians, goldbugs and black-helicopter­-fixated privacy fanatics—Johnson hopes to fashion a new voting bloc. He is more socially liberal than Obama, more fiscally conservative than Mitt Romney, and less interventionist than either on foreign affairs. He believes that combination leaves him well-positioned to unite liberals disappointed with Obama, conservatives distrustful of Romney, and the eccentric youth movement galvanized by Ron Paul. (Johnson agrees with Paul on most issues, but he is pro-choice whereas Paul is pro-life, and he lacks Paul’s obsession with the Fed. Unlike Paul, he doesn’t come across as an old-school John Bircher in an ill-fitting suit.) Johnson has adopted the slogan “You Are Libertarian,” based on his contention that millions of Americans are already libertarians at heart, even if they don’t vote that way. The vaguely accusatory phrasing also suggests that he is urging people on a journey of self-discovery: you are libertarian, deep down, whether you admit it or not.

Johnson’s belief in his quixotic project has precedent: his experience backing drug legalization. He has been a vocal advocate since 1999, when, early in his second term as governor, he declared the drug war an expensive failure. Though New Mexico was by then accustomed to his unorthodox leadership style—he vetoed hundreds of spending bills and periodically left town to participate in grueling Ironman triathlons—his announcement came as a shock, and his approval rating quickly plummeted 30 points. By the time he left office in 2003, though, it had largely rebounded. His old supporters hadn’t come around; rather, he’d gained different ones—young people and liberals who had come to see him in a newly progressive light.


At 59, Johnson is still young by presidential standards, and he doesn’t rule out running again in four years if this campaign doesn’t take him to the White House. For now, more plausible than a win is a scenario in which he acts as a spoiler. Polls over the summer showed Johnson doing particularly well in libertarian-­friendly swing states such as Colorado (7 percent), Arizona (9 percent), and New Mexico (13 percent). Third-party candidates tend to fare better in polls than they do on Election Day, but if Johnson can win even a sliver of these votes, it could be enough to tip the outcome.

Johnson dismisses such talk. He points to polling that has him siphoning roughly equal numbers of votes from Obama and Romney. He also maintains that it is a myth that Ralph Nader spoiled 2000 for Al Gore and Ross Perot spoiled 1992 for George H. W. Bush. “That’s just been so accepted, but it’s not true,” Johnson said. “Perot took from both sides, and then he took from a group in the middle that wouldn’t have ordinarily voted.”

Read the whole article at the Atlantic: Pipe Dreamer

About Post Author

Austin Battenberg

Austin Battenberg was born and raised as a Californian. After living for several years in Virginia, Austin now lives in El Dorado, California with his wife and son. A strong believer in individual rights and the non-aggression principle.


  1. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi September 30, 2012

    Is The Atlantic a progressive, lefty magazine? I dunno. Some of its writers seem pretty L or L-sympathetic to me.

    As for the stereotypes, is it unfair in this case? My sense it’s a bit over-the-top, but certainly the LP has historically had “perpetual quarrels” between Randians and Hayekians (and Rothbardians), and conspiracy theorists and goldbugs.

    It’d be “nice” if the writer just said the LP is the third largest party with a few elective-office wins at the local and state level, but would that make for interesting reading?

  2. Brian Miller Brian Miller September 29, 2012

    It seems that “progressive” lefty magazines are incapable of writing about anybody who is different from them without lacing their writing with dismissive stereotypes.

    Of course, if another article wrote an article about “the Atlantic, the perpetually smug socialist periodical penned by a motley crew of stinky ex-hippies, 20th century academics and reformed Communist Party members,” they’d scream bloody murder.

  3. NewFederalist NewFederalist September 29, 2012

    The election would have to be close in many states for Johnson to “swing” it. It is not close where it counts… the Electoral College.

  4. Jared King Jared King September 29, 2012

    Hmm…don’t care for the tone of this article.

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