In a NYT op-ed, the libertarian candidate conveys a sense of personal oppression which he hopes you share. Woe is Gary Johnson, for this third-party candidate sees that "our two-party political system" is keeping us all down. Our concomitant, dug-in encumbrance of "hyper-partisanship may be entertaining," he writes, "but it’s a terrible way to try to run a country." We are in reality a nation united by common visions, he continues, which transcend the tawdriness of "red versus blue." In a striking passage of unprecedented courage, Johnson urges that we "find common ground." Rather tragically, however, he then proposes his ticket's principles, which visit upon us nothing but more red versus blue — much of it fraught with little but crackpot ideas.
A Johnson administration "would begin the conversation about the size of government by submitting a real balanced budget." That, my oppressed friends, is the Holy Grail of crackpotted fiscal conservatism. There's not a policy conjurer outside the walls of Bedlam who would propose the fiscally unhinged idea of crashing the nation's economy via an arbitrarily imposed balanced budget. This is the shallowest, reddest, most demagogic and most fiscally unconservative overture in all of Policy Crackpotteddom. Hence crackpots such as Rep. Louie Gohmert habitually propose it.
Johnson goes on: "Cuts of up to 20 percent or more would be on the table for all programs, including military spending. Changes to Social Security and Medicare must also be considered." Changes — a gentle euphemism for libertarianism's cruel obliteration. Johnson would take the nation's most effective anti-poverty programs for the elderly and throw both to the wolves, thereby reimposing draconian financial burdens on the children and grandchildren of the older poor — more youthful money otherwise spent in, say, the housing or automobile industry, which goes to employ millions of others. Obliterating Social Security and Medicare: yet another deep crimson and deeply divisive proposal, the very type of which Johnson promises to free us. Meanwhile, though slashing military spending by one-fifth or more would make the bluest of Progressive Caucusers' day, those in congressional districts with military contractors — which is just about all of them — would merely laugh President Johnson's proposal out of both houses.
The libertarian writes that he wishes to reform "our criminal justice and sentencing systems." Who doesn't these days? Just how is his libertarian view unique? Here, the chasm betwixt red and blue has already been overcome. He also writes that "In the difficult case of abortion, I support a woman’s right to choose." Ah, now we're back to blue versus red. Johnson seems to believe that in calling his support of abortion rights "libertarian" rather than Democratic, the dividing line between blue and red is somehow erased. This, of course, is folly. Johnson is taking a partisan as well as philosophical stand, as any Democrat or Republican would.
He also reminds us that he has "long supported civil liberties, including marriage equality and freedom from mass surveillance." Blue versus red, although there is considerable purple on mass surveillance. He laments the two-party system's failure to "fix the dysfunctional immigration system." Again, blue versus red, and again, Johnson sides with the blue. He is particularly distressed that "President George W. Bush nearly doubled our national debt, to $10 trillion from $5.7 trillion," while "President Obama is on track to double it again." Here is perhaps the most chronic division between red and blue — the former's madcap insistence that gutting federal revenue will somehow replenish government's coffers. And here, Johnson lands decisively across the red line.
He would "limit military intervention to when our nation is attacked." On the other hand "We would honor all treaty obligations," which would unlimit the prospect of military interventions. Johnson would also "pursue strategic alliances that made our country safer," which is the fundamental principle of liberal internationalism.
All of which, says Johnson, presents him as leader of the "party that can break the partisan gridlock which for too long has kept real solutions out of reach." This is a worthy aspiration. And yet in his rhetorically unifying effulgence, Johnson lacks any plan to achieve it. On examination what he offers is merely more red versus blue — indeed an even more divisive brand of red versus blue — which he attempts to conceal merely by disowning either partisan label within the two-party system. It's a shell game.