Why Are There Any Liberals Supporting Gary Johnson?

<a href="http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Campaign-2016-Johnson/58794124fcdb4e6393a78f9b9fc28e7c/1/0">Scott Morgan</a>/AP

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According to the latest New York Times poll, Gary Johnson is supported by 26 percent of young voters.1 Of these Johnson supporters, how many are liberal former supporters of Bernie Sanders who would normally be expected to switch to Hillary Clinton? No one seems to have explicitly polled about this, but various pieces of evidence suggest that it’s around half. If you make some reasonable assumptions and do a bit of arithmetic, this suggests that somewhere around a fifth of young liberal voters are casting their lot with Johnson.

In one sense, this is easy to understand. Johnson favors legalization of marijuana. He’s good on civil liberties and wants to cut way back on overseas military interventions. He’s moderate on immigration. He’s pro-choice and supports gay rights. There are plenty of things for Bernie supporters to like about him.

On the other hand, Johnson is a libertarian. Here’s a smattering of what else he believes:

  • He supports TPP.
  • He supports fracking.
  • He opposes any federal policies that would make college more affordable or reduce student debt. In fact, he wants to abolish student loans entirely.
  • He thinks Citizens United is great.
  • He doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage. At all.
  • He favors a balanced-budget amendment and has previously suggested that he would slash federal spending 43 percent in order to balance the budget. This would require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and social welfare programs of all kinds.
  • He opposes net neutrality.
  • He wants to increase the Social Security retirement age to 75 and he’s open to privatization.
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare.
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control.
  • He opposes any kind of paid maternity or medical leave.
  • He supported the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • He opposes any government action to address climate change.
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero.
  • He appears to believe that we should reduce financial regulation. All we need to do is allow big banks to fail and everything will be OK.
  • He wants to remove the Fed’s mandate to maximize employment and has spoken favorably of returning to the gold standard.
  • He wants to block-grant Medicare and turn it over to the states.
  • He wants to repeal the 16th Amendment and eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent FairTax that exempts the poor. This is equivalent to a 39 percent sales tax, and it would almost certainly represent a large tax cut for the rich.

Some of her weirder beliefs aside, it’s easy to see why former Bernie supporters might turn to Jill Stein. But Gary Johnson? He makes Hillary Clinton look like the second coming of FDR. Unless you’re basically a single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force, it’s hard to see why any lefty of any stripe would even think of supporting Johnson. What’s the deal here?

1Oddly enough, the story that originally reported this has been silently purged of this statistic, but let’s go with it anyway.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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