You almost have to feel sorry for Republicans. Almost. It was bad enough when their candidate was “merely” an ignorant blowhard, but now they’ve got a virtual chorus of women coming forward to speak about Donald Trump’s fondness for practicing Stop-and-Frisk backstage at beauty pageants and ogling 10-year-old girls.
So what’s the socially medieval and fiscally irresponsible party to do? Why, jump on the Libertarian bandwagon, of course! Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are this election cycle’s representatives from the Libertarian Party, and they’ve managed to convince a startling number of people that they’re White House material. With Johnson polling at — on average — 6.6 percent nationally, it’s time to take a closer look at this so-called “dark horse” candidate.
A Third-World Vision
First and perhaps most importantly, it’s critical to recognize the Libertarian Party for what it is. This party has always been the sneakier twin brother of the GOP, Trojan Horsing third-world fiscal policies inside a so-called “socially liberal” container. It’s true — Libertarians pat themselves on the back for being largely indifferent to marriage equality, and being able to recognize women and immigrants as human beings, but in every other respect, they are absolutely no different from their kin in the Republican Party.
Easily the most absurd of Johnson’s policy proposals is his pledge to cut federal spending by 43 percent. 43 percent. That’s not just “small government” — it’s non-existent government. It’s not merely impossible — it’s lunacy. It’s the sort of proposal that, if it were allowed to become reality, would cause untold suffering in this country.
Sound ridiculous? Think again. Proponents of “small government” have always argued that the best governments govern the least, and they’ve driven this vision forward by starving the federal government of funding for everything from routine highway maintenance to emergency services, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, agriculture subsidies, scientific and technological innovation, housing and outreach, veterans’ benefits and our education system. Pretty much anything and everything except the sacrosanct military.
Is that clear enough? Millions of Americans rely on the government programs listed above just to survive day-to-day. And with Gary Johnson in the White House, many of them will either die or see their quality of life slip to well within the third-world threshold.
The GOP has somehow successfully convinced Americans that government is their enemy. They do this by consistently defunding important programs and then proclaiming loudly and publically that things are broken. Things aren’t simply “broken” — you broke them. And Gary Johnson is no different.
But while we’re on the subject of national defense, it’s worth taking a moment to see how Johnson compares with the United States’ two major parties, both of which appear perfectly comfortable with the idea of perpetual warfare. Johnson is on record as generally opposing a larger United States military, including a proposed 20% cut in spending for military bases, both domestically and abroad. He also claims his 43% cut in federal spending wouldn’t touch veterans’ benefits.
Johnson is — brace yourself — correct about the need to scale back our military spending, but his pledge to “not cut” veteran’s benefits is pretty weak. The Department of Veterans Affairs is already overburdened and underfunded, not to mention crippled by a maze of red tape and legal hoops to jump through, and if he hopes to truly differentiate himself from the other two parties, Johnson will have to do a heck of a lot better than “I’m leaving you alone.” Nobody is asking Johnson to be okay with war, but we do have to be okay with taking care of those among us who actually have to pay its hefty price.
The “Aleppo Moment”
Johnson’s entire platform, and his vision for America — if you want to call it that — should be immediately disqualifying. He very obviously has no idea how the world works. But if you need further proof that this man has no business anywhere near the Oval Office, here are a couple more reminders.
In his time on the campaign trail, during which Johnson tried desperately, and failed, to come across as more level-headed than his rival Donald Trump, he consistently proved himself every bit as vapid and ignorant as the golden-haired would-be autocrat. In an interview on MSNBC, Johnson was asked what he’d do about Aleppo, which, if you’ve used the internet or turned on a television at any point in the last couple of years, you know is the current epicenter for the Syrian civil war, and a key point of contention between the U.S. and Russia.
Johnson’s response, coupled with a glassy stare, was “What is Aleppo?”
In a later interview, Johnson squirmed for a full two minutes when he was asked a pretty standard interview question: “Who’s your favorite world leader?” He couldn’t name a single one. Eventually, Bill Weld sort of came to his rescue by offering, “The former President of Mexico,” but neither of these two gentlemen seemed totally certain which former President they were referring to. An incredulous Chris Matthews prodded him fruitlessly: “But I’m giving you the whole world.”
In yet another interview, Johnson spoke with his tongue between his teeth in an preposterous attempt to prove that he could do just about anything and still come across as a better choice than Trump. It worked about as well as arguing that the Hamburglar would make a better Secretary of Education than Ronald McDonald.
One last thing before we go. A small but disquietingly vocal portion of Bernie Sanders supporters have signaled their support for Johnson, perhaps because they’re tired of being stuck between Hillary’s rock and Donald’s hard place. Let’s be clear: You could pile up the similarities between Bernie and Gary on the head of a pin and still have room for Donald Trump’s sense of propriety.
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