I don’t think the people who try to bash Gary Johnson dissidents as being “single issue voters” (even though there are dozens of issues, not just cakes) understand the concept of deal breakers. Some single issues are more heavily weighted than others. For instance, what separated Ted Cruz from being a libertarian was his hawkish foreign policy. That was just one issue, yet no one’s going to call him libertarian even though he is aligned with us on virtually every other matter.
If a candidate were in favor of ending the War on Drugs, ending foreign interventions, and wanted to restore our civil liberties, yet at the same time wanted to give the state more monopoly power and supported the forced redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor, this would be a disqualifier, and we would label this person socialist, not libertarian. This is why we would never in a million years consider candidates such as Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein to be libertarian.
Donald Trump is moderately non-interventionist, wants to lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15, wants to repeal Obamacare and Common Core, and wants to abolish the Department of Education and EPA. He would also consider leaving the United Nations and NATO. Yet all one has to do is take a look at his horrid economics to agree that he is no libertarian, seeing as he’s a protectionist and is in favor of raising the minimum wage. He also wants to spend egregious amounts of money once in office, and is no friend of the Bill of Rights.
We as libertarians judge candidates by a harsh standard, and rightfully so. We are supposed to be the principled voters. Because of this, we must be cognizant of the nature of the state, and understand that a candidate’s support for issues such as gun control, war, violating private property rights, etc. are not simply minor policy differences, but are instead a line in the sand which determines if the candidate is an ally or an enemy.
If this is the metric by which we judge candidates in the two major political parties, then to remain consistent, we should judge Libertarian Party candidates by the same standard. If we refuse to do this, we are no better than the Republicans and Democrats we spend our time frivolously bickering about.
On the surface, Gary Johnson doesn’t seem that bad. He talks about making spending cuts and drawing back big government the same way any establishment Republican does in order to get elected. But him and his running mate Bill Weld, who dubs himself Gary’s “co-president,” are running on a ticket that supports the United Nations, NATO, TPP, gun control, eminent domain, Obamacare, the EPA, drone striking Yemen, humanitarian wars, “superior air and sea power projected around the world,” forced association, and believing that Hillary Clinton is a “wonderful public servant.”
Any one of these single issues alone would disqualify a Republican or Democrat from being considered libertarian, so why are we more lenient towards Johnson and Weld just because they have (L) next to their names?
I am often told that although Johnson and Weld support these big government policies, they are still “more libertarian” than the other two candidates. But this is flawed thinking, and is by no means a viable metric for determining if someone is a libertarian. Donald Trump is not a libertarian because he is for less government than Hillary Clinton. The word “libertarian” has a distinct meaning, and should not be loosely thrown around to describe someone that is a little less statist than someone else. This line of thinking can be used to call literally anyone “libertarian.”
A libertarian is someone who respects life and liberty first and foremost. A libertarian believes in natural law and the right of self-ownership and private property. A libertarian believes that economies cannot be centrally planned, and that an economy can only prosper when individuals are free to make their own economic decisions. A libertarian recognizes the state as an evil, and believes it is an anathema to our liberty.
For a politician to be considered libertarian, his proposed policies must match these principles, and he cannot cross the line in the sand. Once a politician grants legitimacy to the state’s monopoly on violence and seeks to either grow its powers or neglect to reduce them, he becomes an enemy of liberty. Sometimes it takes just one issue to break the deal.
Our deal breakers should be consistent across the board, and based upon principle, and not party. These are the issues that separate statists from libertarians, and anyone that is going to excuse this type of blatant disregard for libertarian philosophy may as well go back to identifying as either a Republican or Democrat.