Originally published on the Star Tribune Blog.
Despite the repeated assertion that I’m just giving my vote away to either Hillary or Trump (depending on who I’m talking to), I’ll be voting for Gary Johnson in November.
“Why?” you ask, “He isn’t going to win.”
To which I respond, the point isn’t to win, and it isn’t a protest vote. I’m not handing Trump (or Clinton) the White House by not supporting a major party candidate. A vote for Gary Johnson isn’t thrown away. Rather, I believe it’s a vote to save American democracy.
At no other time in our history have we been so divided. Study after study confirms that we’ve become more and more partisan, unwilling to give credence to the “other side”. We’ve gone from “I disagree with you, but I respect you” and “I think my opinion is better” to “I’m right, you’re wrong” and “I’m educated, you’re ignorant”.
And our election has reflected this shift. Just look at the vitriol that’s been thrown around. Families and friends have been torn apart, and for what? Because one candidate is “crooked” and the other is a “psychopath”. Suddenly, political identity has become less about the opinion held by a person and more about the person themselves.
What’s worse, it’s not just the voters that have created this atmosphere. The candidates themselves lead the mudslinging charge. And that’s not just disappointing- it’s downright depressing. Diversity of opinion- an American value- is in peril at the hands of a divided electorate and candidates that would much rather yell than discuss.
When the state of affairs is as such, when the country seems to be tearing itself in half along Red and Blue lines, Gary Johnson emerges as a breath of fresh air.
As a Republican governor of New Mexico for two terms, he oversaw a state that was two-thirds blue, yet still managed to be one of the most popular governors of the 1990s and early 2000s. He cut taxes several times, yet still balanced the budget and even executed an infrastructure and education overhaul. Under his supervision, New Mexico saw some of the best economic growth in years.
What strikes me about Johnson isn’t so much his principles, but rather his pragmatism. As the Libertarian nominee, he certainly reflects some of the nation’s largest third party’s ideals. But at the same time, many libertarians see him as poorly representing their philosophy. He’s just not “libertarian” enough. Why?
Because Johnson doesn’t look for the Libertarian answer, the Democrat answer, or the Republican answer. Instead, as his record demonstrates, his solution is typically the effective answer: one that is both politically feasible and motivated by a common-sense approach to public service. And often, that solution isn’t mired in partisan ideology of either side.
That’s the secret to his success as governor, and why he’s been polling so strongly this election cycle. By some measures, he leads among military personnel and millennials. By most, he’s at about 10%- absolutely remarkable for a third party candidate. People are tired of the same old back-and-forth, where only one side is right and the other is wrong.
So why vote for Gary Johnson? Because he represents a shift away from the Left-versus-Right dichotomy that has plagued politicians and citizens alike. What’s important to him isn’t what’s best for a party, but what’s best for the people. Perhaps this approach to governance can heal the vast rifts of partisan bickering and breathe new life into American civil discourse by, instead of overpowering one another, engaging with each other.
Both parties agree, at least, that something is rotten in the state of the Union. What if, instead of blaming the other side, we try a candidate that values pragmatism over party?