The national convention for the Libertarian Party (LP) is wrapping up in Las Vegas. The LP has nominated Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor, as its presidential nominee. Johnson won on the first ballot easily with about 70% of the vote. The only other person who had any kind of a chance was Lee Wrights, who received about 25% of the vote. Jim Gray was chosen as the vice-presidential nominee.
It is a little disappointing for me. It is a disappointment to see the LP continue in this direction, it is disappointing for the country, and it is disappointing for the cause of freedom. I don't think it is a major setback for liberty, but I think having Wrights as the nominee would have been much more positive in the short run. I wrote a piece on this back in late March, basically saying that Wrights should be the nominee.
I have nothing personal against Gary Johnson. He seems like a decent guy. I just don't believe he is a principled enough libertarian. Of course, he is leaps and bounds better than Romney or Obama, but that is not saying much.
There is a reason that Gary Johnson could not even get 1% support in most polls in the Republican race. Meanwhile, Ron Paul was (or is) polling in double digits in many of the same polls. If someone is going to put themselves out there as being completely different (in other words, libertarian), then why would they choose someone like Johnson? He parses his words. He said that he wants to end the war on drugs at the LP convention, but he was preaching to the choir. During the time he was running on the Republican ticket, he would just say that he wants to decriminalize marijuana.
Taxes are another good example. Ron Paul and Lee Wrights both want to end the income tax and replace it with nothing. Gary Johnson wants the "Fair Tax", which would be a massive national sales tax. If you are going to promote such a bold idea as getting rid of the federal income tax, why would you advocate replacing it with a massive sales tax? That position is not going to be attractive to that many people. The Fair Tax is seen as too radical by many people. If you are going to get labeled as "too radical", then it should at least be for something significant that would progress us towards liberty.
Foreign policy is another example. Paul and Wrights are anti-war and are not afraid to make it known. Johnson, while again much better than Romney or Obama, parses his words. If Johnson were to become president (which he won't), we can't be sure if he would bring the troops home right away.
Even Johnson's time as governor of New Mexico is highly questionable for libertarians. While he vetoed a huge number of bills, state spending still went up on his watch. He even brags about having kept public education spending up so that he could push for school vouchers. Again, this is not much of a libertarian position.
I think Johnson is more honest and principled than Bob Barr, who was the LP nominee in 2008, but that isn't saying much again. Barr was a total disaster for the LP, and apparently many people did not learn that lesson.
My guess is that there are about 2 million enthusiastic Ron Paul supporters in the country right now. Assuming Paul doesn't get the Republican nomination, where will they go? Lee Wrights would have been an easy choice. Gary Johnson is a more difficult pill to swallow.
I hope that the LP can get back to nominating principled candidates like Harry Browne and Ron Paul. The 25% who voted for Lee Wrights are the highly principled libertarians. If just a tiny percentage of the Ron Paul crowd switched over to the LP, it might tip the scales back to the Libertarian Party nominating highly principled candidates once again.