Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson made an appearance yesterday on “Meet the Press,” and viewers frankly might be forgiven for thinking that the spacey Johnson was high on some of the very marijuana from which he has previously profited. Nonetheless, in the aftermath of last night’s revelation that constitutional lawyer and National Review columnist David French will not be accepting Bill Kristol’s plea to seek the presidency, Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld will probably get a second look from many avowed #NeverTrump-ers.
Johnson, like most people I bump into at the local grocery store—and probably also like that proverbial flaming bag of dog feces—indeed almost certainly represents a superior vote to either of the brutally corrupt, positively immoral jokesters that the two major political parties are set to nominate. But to cast a vote—and especially a more symbolic vote for a third-party option whose path to success would depend on sending the election to the U.S. House of Representatives, pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment, for the first time since 1824—is to cast a moral judgment, and as an ex-Cruz supporting #NeverTrump constitutional conservative, I will not be voting for Gary Johnson this November. There are at least four reasons why.
1. Gary Johnson’s Foreign Policy is Clueless and/or Terrifying – In deciding where to focus for purposes of casting a presidential vote, there is probably nothing I value more than having a clear set of principles for maintaining the U.S.’s post-World War II position as the nonpareil military hegemon atop the global order, keeping the homeland safe, and destroying the jihad. The reason for this is quite simple, actually: Article II of the U.S. Constitution unambiguously makes the Commander-in-Chief prerogative the exclusive aegis of the presidency, and alongside administrative and judicial nominations, there is nothing that the president more directly controls besides the amorphous bully pulpit and the concomitant ability to set the tone for the nation’s civic discourse. Only the presidency has the requisite “secrecy” and “dispatch” to lead the nation’s foreign affairs, as Alexander Hamilton famously argued in The Federalist No. 70—a view largely upheld over two-plus centuries’ worth of U.S. Supreme Court caselaw.
So where does Johnson stand on foreign policy and keeping the homeland safe? Well, it isn’t fully clear, from his campaign website. In public interviews, Johnson has generally been willing to defend the use of force when the U.S. is actually attacked—thus placing him squarely in line with literally every U.S. congressman and senator not named Barbara Lee—but has been woefully silent on confronting the jihadi threat. His website (rightly) questions moralistic nation-building and classical neoconservative interventionism, but he also explicitly condemns “dropping more bombs” and has otherwise criticized the drone war. Indeed, a vote for Gary Johnson might be the best thing that either the Ayatollah Khomenei or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi could ever hope for.
Perhaps most stunningly, during the recent Libertarian Party presidential debate at the party’s convention, Gary Johnson was unable to definitively defend the morality of U.S. involvement in World War II.
Q: Was it moral for the US to have intervened in WWI and WWII?
Johnson: "I don't know."
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 29, 2016
Yes, it was a compound question. No, it does not matter. U.S. involvement in World War I represents a classic historical debate that is by now old hat in the academy: interventionists and globalists are more likely to posthumously ratify Woodrow Wilson’s decision to entangle ourselves in Europe, whereas “Fortress America” and Old Right types are not. For what it is worth, I would argue that the “moral[ity]” of U.S. involvement in World War I is beyond doubt and that the only relevant debate is strategic merit, but that is almost besides the point. The broader point here is that Gary Johnson was either unable or, perhaps even worse, unwilling to delineate between the more controversial World War I and the decidedly uncontroversial, objectively justly fought World War II. Here is Steven Hayward, at the Power Line Blog:
[On World War I,] Johnson could have made a great critique of liberal internationalism with direct relevance for today. As for not entering World War II after Pearl Harbor? ‘I don’t know’ is pretty lame, unless you wish to develop the critique that we provoked Japan and/or pursued the imprudent war aim of unconditional surrender. That case is not very persuasive, but it isn’t frivolous.
But Johnson did not bother to do that. Some on the Right are downplaying his terrible response, but they should not do so. If you cannot definitively and unapologetically defend the morality of U.S. involvement in World War II—where the U.S. was directly attacked at Pearl Harbor, and where genocidal fascist regimes in Europe and the Far East were seeking the systematic annihilation of millions upon millions of innocent civilians—then you lack the moral fortitude to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. Period.
Finally, there is also the reality that Gary Johnson’s immigration platform is essentially one of fully open borders. He also supports Barack Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesties. More on this below, but it cannot be overemphasized how important a firm commitment to border security is to the broader goal of national security. Johnson’s utter fecklessness on the border does not inspire confidence that he would be devoted to protecting the homeland, to put it mildly.
2. Johnson and Weld are Socially Liberal Republicans, not Principled Libertarians – Like most Millennials, I regularly encounter scores of people my age who describe their beliefs as “libertarian.” What I have noticed is that these folks tend to break down into two separate categories: (1) actual, Hayek/von Mises-reading, radically anarcho-capitalist/minarchist, oftentimes Ayn Rand-sycophanting principled libertarians; (2) those who self-describe as “socially liberal” but “economically conservative,” and who are actually usually better described as being just the sort of David Brooks-reading, Rush Limbaugh-disparaging Republicans who would be accepted by the “tolerant” progressives at a cocktail party in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. (I sometimes like to call this latter group, “liberstablishmentarian.”)
Gary Johnson and, especially, his Boston Brahmin running mate Bill Weld, are decidedly the latter. Forget that libertarianism, properly construed, prizes private property rights sanctity, freedom of conscience, and freedom of association alike—Johnson and Weld don’t give a damn, and would just as soon force a Christian baker to bake a cake for a same-sex nuptials ceremony as they would force a Jewish baker to bake a cake for a neo-Nazi (or maybe “alt-right,” these days) party. The duo’s fire-breathing pro-abortion “bona fides” and general hostility towards religious people and social conservatives, moreover (and more on that below), seems intended to appeal directly to that proverbial Upper East Side cocktail party crowd. As David Harsanyi has argued at The Federalist:
In many ways, the culture of contemporary Libertarianism already feels inhospitable to conservative Americans—and I mean ‘conservative’ in its purest form. Contemporary Libertarianism often has an urban and secular sensibility that radiates disdain for religious Americans and traditionalists. Johnson, in fact, embraces non-libertarian ideas just to appeal to people who share this disdain…
As I’ve argued before, one day evangelicals will have to come to terms with public policy that allows others to engage in activities they find morally disagreeable. But asking them to support a party whose candidate advocates forcing them to do things they find morally disagreeable is another thing entirely. By doing exactly that, Johnson and Weld…have made it impossible for many social conservatives to consider their party. It’s needlessly antagonistic—or, more likely, purposefully adversarial.
Many social conservatives could have easily met a principled libertarianism halfway. But with the current battlefront in the culture war primarily on the terrain of religious liberty and conscience protection, Johnson and Weld eschew a principled leave-me-alone libertarianism and side with “You Will be Made to Care” progressivism. It is an unprincipled and deeply discomfiting capitulation to Leftist totalitarianism—and is all the more frustrating for a ticket led by a guy whose gubernatorial record in New Mexico wasn’t even that fiscally conservative, anyway.
3. The Right to Life Issue – Gary Johnson has proffered a jurisprudential belief in the legal wrongness of Roe v. Wade, but he and Bill Weld are still themselves vehement pro-choicers. The Libertarian Party had a chance to nominate (nominally) pro-life candidate Austin Petersen, but they went instead with Johnson, who touts the modern Democratic Party’s usual “pro-choice up until viability” party line.
I’m frankly not sure what it is about eschewing the harm principle for an entire class of human beings that makes these pro-choice libertarians think they are in the right and virtually every notable elected libertarian of the past few decades—from pro-lifers Ron and Rand Paul to Justin Amash to Thomas Massie—in the wrong, but so be it. Combined with the occasional rhetorical emphasis Johnson and Weld have sometimes used to defend their stances on “choice,” it is hardly unsurprising that pro-lifers would find it anathema to hold their noses and vote for the Libertarian Party this cycle. As a pro-life friend told me just this morning, “I just don’t care about anyone’s political positions whatsoever, as long as they are in favor of child murder.” Tough to blame him.
4. Complete Tone-Deafness on Illegal Immigration – Despite being avowedly #NeverTrump, I am very much a border hawk. I am also, furthermore, very much a Jew. So imagine my disgust when I saw that Bill Weld had analogized “deport ’em all,” anti-amnesty border hawkishness to the practices of…Nazi Germany. And to make matters worse, Gary Johnson defended him.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said Monday he ‘absolutely’ stands by his preferred running mate’s comment comparing Donald Trump’s immigration plan to Nazi Germany…
‘I can hear the glass crunching on Kristallnacht in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vienna when I hear (Trump’s plan), honest,’ Weld told the [New York] Times.
The 1938 pogrom against European Jewry occurred when anti-semitic mobs burned synagogues, destroyed Jewish-owned stores and killed scores of Jews, but not in Warsaw, as stated by Weld…
‘It reminds me of Anne Frank hiding in her attic waiting for the Nazi sirens to pass by and evokes the memory—not the memory, I was not alive, but the notion of Kristallnacht,’ [Weld] said.
As much as I hate to even come close to defending Donald Trump on pretty much anything, this is really vile stuff. I wonder what other aspects of codified United States law—and what other aspects of solidifying national security and ensuring United States sovereignty—Bill Weld views as akin to Third Reich practices. This is such terrible tone-deafness so as to amount to sheer idiocy, and this Jewish border hawk wants no part.
So, yeah—I’m out on the Libertarian Party. As of now, without a post-David French #NeverTrump candidate, I’d say I am 90% planning to write in Ted Cruz’s name, and 10% planning to vote for the Constitution Party.