I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, but in the likely event that the Democrats don’t nominate him, I will most likely cast my vote for Hillary Clinton.
That said, I have my reservations.
Foremost among them is Clinton’s long trail of scandals, which lead me to worry that she might not make it through her first term without being impeached. Aside from that, though, I’d prefer a president who would radically transform our nation – curb the unseemly influence of lobbyists, end the war on drugs, protect the rights of women and the LGBTQ community, and roll back America’s military adventurism overseas.
Do you know who would do these things, though? The Libertarian candidate for president, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Normally a vote for Johnson would be a vote thrown away, but considering that Johnson polls at ten percent right now (an astonishingly high number for a third-party candidate right out of the gate) and both Clinton and Donald Trump are more unpopular than any major party nominees in recorded history, it is quite possible that Johnson will emerge a viable candidate in his own right.
That said, like most liberals, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Johnson for one reason – namely, his stances on economic issues. Like most libertarians, Johnson believes that the government shouldn’t get involved in economic matters – even though, by remaining neutral, it gives advantage to the strong (big business, the wealthy in general) and disadvantages the weak (working class Americans everywhere). From a libertarian point-of-view, unnecessary taxes of any kind inherently limit human freedom. From a left-wing perspective, however, taxes that provide social welfare to the poor, create jobs, protect labor unions, and build infrastructure are necessary.
After all, freedom isn’t only political in nature, as Franklin D. Roosevelt famously pointed out in his Economic Bill of Rights:
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
This isn’t to say that Johnson could never win my support, mind you. He has made it clear that he hopes to win over disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters like myself, and once he that demonstrates a vote for him won’t help elect Trump, I am open to considering that option. That said, he cannot win my support without acknowledging Roosevelt’s economic bill of rights because, until those rights are assured, all the talk of political freedom means nothing to Sanders supporters like myself.
How can Johnson do this? First, he needs to do something that neither Clinton nor Trump have excelled at – he needs to listen. Johnson must listen to the inner-city minority who is being targeted by the police and feels stigmatized in the job market. He must listen to the single mother who works at a breakneck pace in order to support herself and her children. He must listen to the college student with high hopes who is willing to work hard but is saddled with debt. He must listen to what ails these individuals, and countless others who find themselves on the wrong side of America’s economic dream, and come up with policy solutions that they find convincing.
This brings me to the second part of what Johnson must do, and that is find a creative approach to governing. He cannot answer the questions posed by those who have been denied their economic bill of rights by prattling on about the free market and claiming that unfettered capitalism will solve their woes. If you’ll notice, the first thing that FDR pointed to after listing our economic rights was the importance of “security.” For Johnson to convince us that he cares about our economic interests, we must feel secure in the knowledge that his policies will provide jobs to those who are willing to work, and an income capable of supporting individuals or families at a decent standard of living. We need facts, not theories, and if Johnson can’t provide the former, he will come across as no more hopeful than Trump on economic matters – and my vote, along with those of many (though by no means all) Sanders supporters, will go to Clinton.
There isn’t much else to say right now. Johnson’s candidacy is young, and this election has barely started. As I’ve explained before, I don’t think Clinton is far enough removed from Sanders to justify electing Trump as an alternative, so Johnson will need to at least start placing a strong second for me to feel comfortable risking my vote on him. Should he do that, however, I will keep an open mind… assuming, of course, that he does likewise.