Gary Johnson Supporters: The Pragmatists That Weren’t

By Clayton Hunt

The main thrust of the moderate wing of the Libertarian Party is to claim that they are the pragmatic and realistic purveyors of realpolitik clear headedness. This group is primarily all out for the Johnson/Weld campaign, and highly hostile to anyone that raises criticism, even if it is warranted.

But are they really as pragmatic as they claim? To be pragmatic one must be realistic and accepting of small victories that advance a long term goal, yet among the alleged pragmatists, you will find the repeated claims of how Gary Johnson can win this election.

They believe that if Johnson can win at least a single electoral vote, the election will be forced to go to the House, which will then suddenly realize the error of their ways and denounce all ties to their parties and the establishment and decide to vote Johnson. The scenario of Johnson even winning an electoral vote is given less than a 1% chance of happening by FiveThirtyEight (0.9% to be exact), and the chances of no candidate receiving an electoral majority is given 0.4% chance of happening. The idea of Johnson getting an electoral vote, there being no electoral majority, and the House choosing Johnson seems a bit too fanciful for them to have published a percentage chance of it happening.

Could it happen? Sure. Could I win the lottery and suddenly find out that Mia Khalifa has had a crush on me because she’s a huge fan of my writing and Rothbard? Sure, but those selling either scenario as having a good chance of happening are as pie-in-the-sky unrealistic as those idealistic purists that the so called pragmatists denounce with such bile.

The unrealistic situation of Johnson is not the cause of the dirty purists, by Darryl W. Perry, or by Liberty Hangout just not falling in line (though no doubt, come November 9th those will be some of the scapegoats). It is the fault that the party is not structurally to the point that we have the capability to run a successful presidential campaign.

That is not to say that we should give up, but that we should pursue a principled message with a pragmatic strategy, a truly pragmatic strategy. We should focus on the state and local races, both partisan races, and non-partisan. We should embrace the libertarian label and ideology, and build a set of victories that we can take back to those who ask what the Libertarian Party has done. We shouldn’t be led by the nose to devote large amounts of time and resources to unrealistic races.

Does that mean we shouldn’t run candidates for unattainable offices? No, but we should put up candidates who can articulate the principles, and focus the attention on the down-ballot races where we have better shots at winning. These small victories in pursuit of establishing the party as a competitive presidential party will make the job that much easier. It is tough; the presidential candidate receives the majority of attention, but if we can single out principled libertarians to run down ticket, and build their local levels up, they will lay the foundation upon which a viable presidential campaign can be built on.

Too many times the argument levied against the real pragmatists of the party is that they don’t want to win, and want to keep the party a debate club. Well, let us turn that charge around, because those that insist that we waste time, resources, and energy on an unrealistic presidential campaign are wanting that time, resources, and energy to be led away from candidates that actually stand a shot of winning. And if the party is truly only about winning elections, then insisting that local activists dump money and time into a campaign to nowhere is a replication of the pork barrel spending that the party is supposed to stand against.