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Don’t You Dare Vote for Gary Johnson! (Unless Your Other Choice is Donald Trump…)

Dear Bernie Supporters,

So, you’re upset that Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton, one of the most reviled Presidential candidates in modern US history (second only to her chief competitor Donald J. Trump). I feel your pain, a pain that is magnified by the recent Wikileaks revelation of just how biased the DNC was towards Clinton, with high-level staffers of disgraced, now former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz suggesting, among other things, that they try to get the media to use Bernie’s “religion” (or supposed lack thereof) against him in key states where he was winning. The Democratic Party is not only corrupt in the sense that the rules themselves are status quo-oriented, but also in regard to the rampant violation of the neutrality rule the DNC is supposed to follow during the primary. I feel your pain, I really do.

The question is where to take your pain. Where should you take your passion for an anti-establishment politics where corporations cannot buy or influence elections or directly shape policy (and even actually write legislation in some cases)? Where should you take your passionate opposition to war? Where should you take your disgust at the horribly oppressive and racist system of mass incarceration, exacerbated by the phony “war on drugs”? Where should you take your belief in genuine democracy?

The first thing I can tell you is something I wish didn’t need to be said: Donald Trump is not the answer. Unless the question is who is the most racist, hateful, sexist, and authoritarian of the candidates. There is no question to which Donald Trump is a good answer in American politics. Let’s make one more thing clear here: Trump is not going to make America great again. Not that I really have any idea during which time period America was so much better than it is today (which is not to say it is great today for most people), but Trump is simply playing on a mythologized nostalgia for a time when things were easier for straight, white men. There’s no going back to those days — not that we have really fully left them behind. There is also no reason to believe that Trump has any legitimate, legally viable strategy for significantly increasing long-term employment in the US. As for “bringing US manufacturing jobs back,” unless US workers want to make $1/hour I doubt that will happen either. Recent scholarship from Paul Mason (Postcapitalism, 2015), Martin Ford (Rise of the Robots, 2015), and Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams (Inventing the Future, 2015) highlights the problem of rapidly increasing automation across traditional high-employment sectors like industrial manufacturing and service with respect to job creation. They all more or less agree that as we move into the future, fewer and fewer workers will be needed to achieve exponentially higher degrees of economic productivity. There will very simply be fewer and fewer jobs to “bring back.” Trump is nothing but a demagogue for the white male working class in the US. Hailed by his son as a “blue-collar billionaire,” his campaign platform is about as inconsistent, incoherent, and incomprehensible as that label. I feel your pain, but seriously, stay away from Trump.

I don’t think Clinton is the answer either, unless the question is: who is the slightly less blatantly offensive, racist, sexist, and hateful of the two major candidates. As I have argued elsewhere, Clinton’s policies would likely entail a rightward shift in foreign policy and either a slight leftward shift in domestic policy, or a maintenance of the neoliberal Obama status quo (predictions are tough at this point mainly because it is unclear which aspects of Clinton’s platform are there for campaign purposes and which represent her genuine positions). Many people, taking Trump’s most egregious statements as his true beliefs (a practice I find problematic), seem to have good cause to vote for the lesser evil embodied by Clinton. Now, if Trump does intend, and is somehow able to, implement even half of his xenophobic, regressive program, Hillary Clinton would indeed represent a clear lesser evil. But that is unlikely. And given her support for the occupation of Palestine, the illegal drone program, coups against democratically elected leaders, and regime change, it is hard for me to balance those facts against Trump’s proclivity for taking all sides of every issue. So again, Bernie supporters, I feel your pain, but I’m not sure there are good answers here either. I understand if you disagree though — especially if you live in a swing-state. Trump is scary, there is no doubt. I just also think Hillary Clinton is a lot scarier than most people on the center-left tend to admit. In the end, if you believe the worst of Trump’s rhetoric, strategic lesser-evil voting in a swing-state makes sense, though there is no reason to think you need to or should restrict your political activity to simply voting. If you are with me and many others who believe that Clinton is too “evil” to be reasonably considered a lesser evil, there are other options.

There are the third party candidates. It may be improbable that any of them will win the general election, but that isn’t enough to say we shouldn’t support one of them — and I literally mean one of them.

According to recent CNN polling of Bernie Sanders supporters, 55% plan to vote for Hillary Clinton, and (basically within the margin of error), 5% plan to vote for Donald Trump. 23% have said that they are going to vote for Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and Libertarian Party candidate for President. A mere 12% have said they plan to vote for Jill Stein. What is most surprising about these numbers is not that Clinton has only 55% or that Trump has as much as 5%. What is most surprising is that Gary Johnson has nearly twice as much support as Jill Stein. Policy-wise this is completely absurd. The core of Sanders’ message was to significantly increase regulation and taxation, to address income and wealth inequality. As a libertarian, Johnson believes that deregulated, untaxed, free market capitalism is the answer — regardless of what the question is.

Gary Johnson is a likable candidate in some ways. After all, he is anti-war. He supports a woman’s right to choose. He supports marriage equality. He supports criminal justice reform (especially when it comes to eliminating mandatory minimums on drug possession). What he doesn’t support is any increase in government spending related to any of these issues. He supports massive tax cuts across the board, including for millionaires and billionaires, which would severely limit funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood and other groups fighting against LGBTQIA discrimination (he doesn’t oppose the idea of funding these entities in principle, just in practice). He supports massive cuts to social programs like SNAP (food stamps) which barely keep some of our poorest children from going hungry. He supports deregulating corporations, which would bring us rapidly closer to another 2007/2008-like collapse. While Johnson supports opening up our electoral system beyond two-party dominance, as well as removing corporate influence in elections and government, he opposes public financing of elections, which would be the only way to prevent private and corporate influence. After all, nearly every politician who runs for the highest office in the US, at least from the two major parties, has been in the top 1% of income earners. Instead of buying candidates, Goldman Sachs-types could simply put up their own candidates (à la Mitt Romney).

Contrary to Johnson, who wants to cut federal funding for regulation, social programs, and investment in green energy solutions, Jill Stein represents the best of Bernie’s platform, plus a stronger anti-war, anti-Palestinian occupation (pro-BDS) stance. She represents a true progressive agenda that responds to the very real dangers and crises our world faces. And don’t worry, like Bernie and Gary, Jill supports legalization of marijuana!

One of Stein’s major drawbacks, though, is her lack of national name recognition, as well as being slightly behind Johnson in getting on the ballot in all 50 states. This is why she needs our support, and you can do this even if you live in a swing state and plan to vote for Hillary Clinton in November. There is no conflict in organizing for the Left choice now and making a lesser-evil vote later. In fact, this might be the strategic path for our near and long-term future.

While I won’t excoriate you for making the lesser-evil vote if you decide to go with Clinton, both Johnson and Trump are simply unacceptable. While it may seem superficially reasonable to support Johnson in the face of Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness and ties to Wall Street, you simply cannot seriously care about economic and social justice and vote for Gary Johnson (or, of course, Donald Trump). Bernie supporters, I feel your pain, I really do, but going from supporting Bernie Sanders to supporting Gary Johnson (or Trump) is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Bryant William Sculos

  • JerseyCowboy

    But there’s one very important thing to take into account. The president doesn’t have the power to do all of the things you don’t want Gary to do, and unlike the other candidates, he will not completely bypass Congress and govern by fiat to get what he wants. He respects checks and balances. That is perhaps the most important factor in this election. Trump wouldn’t be so scary if Bush and Obama hadn’t set a precedent of grossly abusing executive power. We need somebody to work with Congress and help unite the divide in this country simply by being calm and reasonable, because the House will definitely still be Red, and the Senate will most likely be blue. Jill Stein is not that person. She is a radical conspiracy theorist and her VP thinks Bernie is a white supremacist and he has a penchant for calling Obama an Uncle Tom. This is not a time for a radical.

    • Bryant W. Sculos

      Thanks for the comments. You make some very good points. Trump is certainly more dangerous due to the expansion of executive power under W. Bush and Obama. As I indicate in the piece, I’m not a big fan of Clinton by any means. A power the President does have, where I think Johnson represents a major threat (which I don’t get into in this piece) is with executive agencies. As we are seeing in Flint, MI and other places, it is exceptionally difficult to hold executive agencies accountable for failing to live up to their responsibilities–whether those failures are intentional or not. Johnson could, relatively easily, undermine the enforcement of economic and environmental regulations (to say nothing for signing more regressive economic policies into law if passed by Congress). Johnson would also be a lot less susceptible to pressure from progressives on these same issues. Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and hawkish foreign policy outlook are deplorable, but she has shown a high degree of malleability to public pressure–a classic politician. In these respects, I think Clinton would likely be less dangerous, at least domestically, than Johnson. With all that said, I find Jill Stein to be the least dangerous candidate of the four and the best opportunity to organize on the Left before and after November.

      • Bjorn Flanagan

        Johnson has stated that he believes the EPA is a necessary function of government. He believes that the government is there to protect its citizens from harm including environmental. As governor of New Mexico he went to the EPA to force a polluting corporation to clean up their mess. He is not the anarcho-Libertarian that the party is painted as, he is pragmatic in his approach and believes the government has important functions to fulfill. He just wants to see it be more efficient and is skeptical of it in middleman roles.

        • Bryant W. Sculos

          Thanks for the comments. It is impossible for Johnson to support all of the things he has claimed to support AND support a balanced budget. A balanced budget in this global economy would amount to either a massive increase in taxes on the top 1-10% income earners (which Johnson opposes) or a massive cut in entitlement benefits, which would disproportionately harm the poor (or some combination of the two). Put more directly with respect to your comment, he may support the idea of the EPA (as you are correct, he is not a anarcho-capitalist), but his budget policies make it unlikely that the EPA would have the funding it needed to do its job effectively.

          • christina

            He won’t get everything he wants … Period , full stop but his trying is not gonna hurt us as much as those 2 trying to sceme themselves into a few more a million of pocket money . I for one would love his tax code ( and I buy a lot so I’ll be taxed a lot ) but those that can only afford food and bathroom basics won’t be taxed a lot ….. No they won’t get a refund but you have not ever been poor if you think that getting that refund is a good thing . I’ve watched plenty of my friends back in my poorer days buy a bunch of stuff every tax season …. Needless crap that never helped them a bit …. Cars was big , buy a car in February , have it break down by summer with no money to fix it , struggle till febuary , wash , rinse , repeat . Trust me they would have been better off just not paying as much during the rest of the year when they couldn’t even afford diapers for their kid after buying the lowest denominator in food and housing .I was born poor , grew up poor , raised my brothers poor , than fought my way out after having my own daughter and let me tell you it’s not easy and those programs hurt as much as they help … Example me and my child’s father as we struggled to make ends meet once realized that if he started work he would make less than we got from the government in ” help” and would immediately qualify for no ” help” thank goodness we seen the hamster wheel we was on , leaped and ran 0 insurance for years , a much greater budget ….after daycare for the kid and list of food stamps we literally list 500 a month with him working ….I’m talking only fried potatoes for days and days …..we came out the other side but only after casting aside that help …. Trust me I don’t want kids to starve but those programs as they are structured 100 percent do not encourage or help in any way people get out of that cycle of poverty …. They just don’t , I lived it .

            There simply has to be a better way .

      • ciethrenn stevens

        johnson has said he does not know everything and is open to being wrong that flat out regardless of all else makes him the most qualified

        • christina

          Lol , it’s sad where we are , huh ? But yes being able to listen to other people , admit you are wrong and correct the issue is a 100 percent excellent character trait …its just sad that’s a actually qualifier , along with won’t start a nuclear war or any other kind of war , is not insane , a pathological lier ,and a host of other things our 2 major parties can’t begin to claim .

      • christina

        At least domestically ? And we what , throw the rest of the world under the bus as she schemes outside public eye to throw other countries economy’s and countries into upheaval and war ? I actually agree that the damage she does here will be less than trumps and the bad will taker longer to impact the USA although I have no doubt she will harm us ,just in sneaky slowly felt ways . Hillary will give people a chance to go back asleep lulled into a false sense of security by feel good policy’s but when we awake we will find its too late to stop what she has started . Johnston will at the least have good intentions , I’ll take a honest mistake over being stabbed in the back any day of the week

  • christina

    None of them have the power to do all that they would like to do ….. Except start more wars . It seems we are getting real good at letting our presidents start wars which I have complete faith Gary Johnson won’t do . He may veto any new spending bills but that will be in both sides of the aisle, he won’t pass any more laws letting the government intrude on our rights rather those be from either side of that same aisle ( and shoot we may even be able to roll back some of intrusions we have ) , he may cut government spending on things I care about but he will also cut it on things other things that neither candidate has the nerve or even desire to do .

    Stein is non starter for many reasons but the most clear one of them all is she simply stands no chance of winning , if democrats was greens we wouldn’t have those 2 party’s and no republican in the world is voting for her . With Gary we stand a chance to band together those in the democrat party that don’t believe in electing a evil corrupt woman as a reward for basically stealing a nomination through whatever means necessary with those in the Republican Party that see they have allowed a evil , crazed phycopath to be their nominee and if he wins will not only destroy their party but also their country …… In short we have one very very slim chance to elect a non-evil , sane person and I for one see no other option but to take that very slim possibility , hope there are enough sane Americans left and jump full in .

    No Gary is far from perfect but looking at options he is the only sane choice and by far the safest , I’ll take 4 years under him with glee when compared the the alternatives….. So much so he will become the second candidate I ever donated to . Bernie was my best and I wasn’t even head over heals in love with his whole platform but I had the sense to know the more extreme edges of it wouldn’t be passed anyways ….. And again he WOULD HAVE STOPPED STARTING WARS ….. Wars that have not only a economic affect in us and the world but are paid for not only in the lives of American soldiers but with children being blown away in the middle of their streets in other countries …. It’s disgusting and it must stop !!!

    I am voting Gary , let the chips fall will they may …..

    Now as far as supporting the Green Party for future elections ,I am willing to help there but at this point with her standing no chance of winning the election I’m only willing to give funds to build the party not this election cycle so where else can I spend money ? Are their some local races I can contribute too , or maybe just a general pr fund ? Something else I can do after this election ? because like it or not barrack is leaving and one of those 3 are taking his place so my social is a bit tied up at the moment with doing my part to keep trump and Clinton out .

    • ciethrenn stevens

      well said i am with you 100% gary is the only sane choice

      • christina

        Thanks we need all the sane people we can get from either end of the aisle . I am pushing friends and family from both ends and seeing positive results …. Even the most stubborn set in their ways people are starting to look for a way off this sinking ship ….. It just getting them to believe the life boat is real , there is no mirage and no last minute dirty tricks. Conservatives are scared we are trolling for Hillary , democrats are scared we are trolling for trump …. Start with those closest to you as they naturally trust you and push back on these types of articles every chance you get ….. Time is running out … Oh and the money thing 8/15 is approaching fast ,I’m holding mine until that day and hoping for a big enough splash .

    • Bryant W. Sculos

      I appreciate your comments. I’m not sure there are many solutions to be found in moderation to the problems our country faces (that’s my view for which I have reasons that are somewhat implicit in the piece–climate change, etc.). With that said, reasonable people can disagree. I firmly believe the neither Johnson nor Stein will win, but Stein will very likely be on the ballot in 45-47 states, giving her a potential path to victory similar to Johnson. Lastly, I do strongly suggest supporting the Green Party and local candidates–especially if you have an interest in its future viability. Local candidacies are crucial to democracy and where many environmental policies that exceed the minimum EPA standards in certain areas are more likely to be successful. Sadly, I think Clinton will win, so I would also plan on keeping your protest suit pressed and your protest shoes shined.

      • christina

        I respectfully disagree with her path being in any way similar to Johnson . Jill can only draw from those very far left and those very far left not afraid of risking trump at that …. That’s a very small percentage . Gary on the other hand is grabbing up conservatives that are jumping ship in mass and people on the left that can’t stand voting for Hillary . Gary’s chance is slim for sure but it is far far better than steins . I agree that Hillary will most likely win but I’m not ready to fold ship and vote for stein . I do very much do not want trump or Hillary and am willing to cross to the middle and band with conservatives that really don’t want trump or Clinton …. Jill is nowhere near the center …..I wish it would have been different , I wish we had Bernie but we do not , I can concede that but I’m not ready to concede president Hillary Clinton .

        With all the hating from people I get certain I’m handing the election to trump by not voting for the annointed one I’m loathe to tell anyone else how they ” should vote” but I’m certainly going to push back on people who attempt to tell me how I should vote …

        Gary will hand the issues to the states and as you say where the best protections for the environment and more can be enacted so I find the best move to push for Gary for president and progressives at the state and local level …. It just seems the most feasible path given the choices laid out before me .

        If it fails than at least I can look at myself and more importantly my daughter and say knowing its 100 percent true that I did my very best, tried my very hardest , weighed all my choices and reacted as sanely as I could within the confines set out before me ….

        We are all gambling now and even you by voting for stein are gambling …. Gambling there will be a world left to save in 4 or 8 years under either of those 2 …… I hate to bring it to its most base point but one is evil and one is insane Gary is neither and therefore will do the less harm . There is no perfect choice …. I don’t know if there ever was one but voting fur Jill feels like giving up ….. But I will for sure see you on the other side of November after I’ve done my level best to keep those 2 out .

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