In case you missed it, the first half of the Libertarian Party Presidential Debate aired on Stossel on April 1st (the second half will air on Friday, April 8, 2016). The three participants were 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, software developer John McAfee, and the founder of the blog The Libertarian Republic Austin Petersen.
After watching some of the GOP debates and the first Democrat debate, watching the Libertarians debate was refreshing. No name calling or commenting on the appearance of the other candidates. No scolding the debate moderator for asking questions the candidates didn’t like. To the extent that one candidate challenged or disagreed with another they were on the substance of the issue at hand (more on that in a moment). There seemed to be more areas of agreement than disagreement (and even a kiss on the cheek) among them. This debate was more about presenting to a national cable audience the case for Libertartian policy alternatives to those of the Republicrats.
Did any candidate “win” Part 1 of the debate or help/hurt his chances with the LP faithful or viewers who are open to supporting a third party candidate?
I can only answer for myself. I enthusiastically supported Gary Johnson in 2012 all the way back from when he was running for the GOP nomination to election day as the LP’s nominee. Of the three, he’s the only one I was all that familiar with. I took the Isidewith.com survey on the issues (mentioned in the debate) several weeks ago and found that I sided with Austin Petersen 97%, Gary Johnson 92%, and Ted Cruz 77%. I’m not sure why John McAfee wasn’t among those I sided with because I found myself in agreement with much of what he said in the debate. Due to these results, though Gov. Johnson is sort of my default favorite I watched with an open mind.
To my surprise, indeed I did find myself agreeing more with the thirty-five year old Austin Petersen than the other two. For libertarians looking for “purity” of libertarian principles, Petersen is your guy it seems (based solely on one half of one debate). When asked about whether a cake decorator should be forced to make a cake for someone based on personal or religious reasons, Johnson (to my profound disappointment) said they should while Petersen said the market should decide making the freedom of association argument (an argument every good libertarian should have down pat).
The second strike against Johnson and for Petersen was the question of the so-called gender pay gap. Johnson sounded like a progressive echoing the “equal pay for equal” work line but said he would be hesitant to sign any equal pay legislation because “the devil is in the details.” Petersen on the other hand skillfully explained why the gender pay gap is a progressive myth. McAfee, for his part argued that if a person doesn’t like how much they are being paid they are free to look elsewhere.
There’s certainly more in the debate that I didn’t get into here. My conclusion as far as my opinion goes: Petersen helped himself, Johnson hurt himself, and McAfee is intriguing. In a world where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are looking to be their party’s nominee any of the three would be hands down a better choice.
After doing some reflecting, I’ve come to the conclusion I have been wrong about Donald Trump. Yes, he’s a loud mouth and he insults people but maybe that’s what we need in a POTUS. And even though he’s against everything conservatives claim to stand for (i.e. property rights, free trade, limited government, free market healthcare etc.) maybe it’s time conservatives changed to suit him.
None of these things are important anymore. He’s taking a hard line against the M&Ms (Mexicans & Muslims) and all freedom loving American need to be united against Hillary Clinton in the fall.
And what if Trump doesn’t have the 1,237 delegates by the time the convention comes around? Let’s forget about the whole idea of requiring a majority to win the nomination, a plurality is good enough. Yeah, yeah, I know I’ve pointed out that this is against the rules that have been established since the very beginning of the GOP but screw tradition! We need a leader like Trump to “Make America Great Again” nobody’s got time for these antiquated rules!
Let all Conservatives and Libertarians join hands and back Trump no matter what our differences on principle. This whole time I’ve been saying #NeverTrump but my priorities were all wrong: #NeverHillary.
“This entire experience has opened my eyes to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed. If police officers and a district attorney can systematically railroad us with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, I can’t imagine what they’d do to people who do not have the resources to defend themselves.”
–Reade Seligmann, one of three Duke Lacrosse players falsely accused of raping Crystal Mangum commenting on the state of the so-called criminal justice system in the U.S
I’ve never been a lesser-of-evils sort of voter. It’s too cynical and depressing an approach to life. Anyway I rarely think one of the major party candidates is “better” in some meaningful sense than the other.
This election is different. I cannot shake a nagging unease that one candidate must be avoided, perhaps with a vote for any marginally lesser evil capable of stopping him, however distasteful.
That candidate is Ted Cruz.
I’m not joking. There’s no punch line coming. I don’t think Ted Cruz believes in fundamental, unenumerated rights, constitutionally protected from political majorities at the state and local levels.
Probably many or even most of the other candidates share this shortcoming. What sets Cruz apart is his more sophisticated ability to appoint Supreme Court justices who share his views, as he has vowed to do.
Under that specter, liberty-leaning voters should ask for clarity and reassurance from the Cruz campaign on the following issues before casting a vote in his support.
Does Ted Cruz Want to Limit the Power of Judicial Review? In 1803, the Supreme Court decided Marbury v. Madison. Since that time, the Court has exercised three powers:
It can refuse to enforce acts of the other branches if five or more of its nine justices believe such act was in excess of constitutional powers.
It can enforce acts of the other branches of government, if five or more of the justices believe such act was constitutional.
It can require otherwise constitutional acts of the other branches to be exercised in accordance with the Equal Protection Clause.
That’s it. Under the first, the Court delineates areas of individual liberty into which no political majority may intrude. Under the second and third, it enforces the acts of other branches of government. Under none of the three does the Court “make law.”
I don’t think we should entrust governing our society to 5 unelected lawyers in Washington. Why would ya possibly hand over the rights of 320 million Americans to 5 lawyers in Washington to say, “We’re gonna decide the rules that govern ya?” If ya wanna win an issue, go to the ballot box and win at the ballot box. That’s the way the Constitution was designed.
I think we can rule out number two; he’s not complaining about acts of the political branches. His rhetoric, to the contrary, suggests that he wants political majorities unfettered by such inconveniences as meddling Supreme Court justices.
He could be taking aim at number three, in which case it is not the laws he dislikes, but the doctrine of Equal Protection. Either way, the Court is not responsible for having enacted the laws that are subject to that doctrine. The political branches are.
It sure sounds like it is the first option Cruz is targeting. He does not like the Court delineating areas of individual liberty beyond the reach of political majorities.
That is a deeply authoritarian approach to government. Unless and until Cruz repudiates it convincingly, he cannot be my “not-Trump.”
Does Ted Cruz Believe in Unenumerated Rights and Substantive Due Process? Under the view of many libertarians, the Constitution enumerates the powers of government, but not the rights of individuals. The former are few, narrow and circumscribed. The latter are many, broad and transcendent.
One textual source for this approach is the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits political majorities at the state and local levels from depriving individuals of the privileges and immunities of citizenship, of equal protection of laws, or of liberty without due process.
The “liberty” thusly protected has been interpreted to include economic endeavors as well as other peaceful activities integral to enjoyment of life and the pursuit of happiness. The concept that such freedoms are Constitutionally protected, even though not expressly mentioned, is sometimes referred to as the doctrine of “substantive due process.”
There are competing schools of thought. One is that only individual rights expressly enumerated in the Constitution are beyond the reach of political majorities. Under this view, the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted to prohibit racial discrimination, not to proscribe state infringement of unenumerated rights.
This is as unlibertarian a position as a candidate could hold. Saving the GOP from a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton is not a reason to support a nominee committed to undermining individual liberty in favor of majority rule.
Is Cruz Committed to Individual Rights? Or States Rights? Ted Cruz’s passion is not the fundamental liberty of individuals, arguably enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment. It is, rather, the power of state legislatures found in the Tenth.
He’s “a Tenth Amendment guy,” according to his wife. Indeed he once headed the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. When Ted Cruz talks about limited government, he is talking about limiting federal government. His concern is federal versus state, not individual versus collective.
Then too, even on that more beloved Constitutional provision, Cruz is willing to stray if it means more power for the right kind of majorities. He was in favor of the federal government defining marriage before he was against it. He likes states’ rights when they ban same-sex marriage, but not as much when they decriminalize marijuana.
He might be a federalist, for those who don’t mind states’ rights served squishy. But he’s no libertarian.
…[I]t is Cruz who strayed from the text and history of the Constitution, both in his histrionic criticism of Obergefell and his suggestion that the cure for America’s constitutional ills is an even more inert judiciary.
Cruz’s most fundamental error lay in the premise of the hearing itself: The most pressing threat to constitutionally limited government today is not “judicial activism” but reflexive judicial deference to the political branches.
We can have a judiciary that reflexively defers to the political branches or we can have constitutionally limited government — but we cannot have both.
I hate all the candidates who aren’t libertarians.
I hate the voters continuing to lend their support to the authoritarian politics of the two major parties.
Most of all, I hate the endless raving about a possible Trump candidacy.
Trump Isn’t the Problem. His Supporters Are. An ocean of words has been written about Donald Trump’s detestable politics and undiagnosed personality disorders. Every one of those words is true. He is a sleazy multi-level marketer with a cheap spray tan and a bad comb-over; a low functioning bully with the attention span of a second-grader, whose first policy instinct will always be authoritarianism and who lacks even the most basic conceptions of constitutional governance, separation of powers and individual freedom.
If nominated, he will, without one shred of doubt, lose the general election to Hillary Clinton.
Nonetheless, anyone who thinks the GOP establishment can do much to stop this slow motion train wreck misunderstands the nature of government.
Government is not the party elite, big money donors, or the politicians in Washington. Government is us. We the people. The voters (and non-voters) who put and keep those politicians in office. Ourselves, our neighbors, our friends, family and co-workers.
The establishment cannot fight Trump because he is not the target. His supporters are.
How has endlessly pointing out how racist, xenophobic and stupid they are worked thus far?
Squeezing out other candidates won’t force any voters to shift their support to an establishment pick. As Trump himself discerns, with his trademark narcissistic clarity (but his detractors somehow miss), those supporters might just as well shift to Trump. And squeezing him out won’t force any of them to turn out for some other, better, more respectable, nominee in the general.
Therein lies the rub.
Trump’s candidacy reveals something ugly and festering on the American right, something with the potential to do nuclear-level damage to the GOP’s credibility with everyone from moderates, independents and swing voters to Christians and mainstream Republicans.
On the other hand, if the party squeezes him out—whether through an onslaught of establishment attacks or a brokered convention—it risks alienating his pissed off contingency of Republican voters.
Money Does Not Buy Elections. There’s some evidence money buys politicians and pundits. But Trump’s candidacy annihilates the myth that an entrenched two-party system, dripping in advertising wealth, subliminally messages clueless voters into supporting the status quo.
Neither establishment donors nor the politicians themselves are in control this election cycle. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and their respective Super PACs paid through the nose to perform poorly in the early voting states. Trump, on the other hand, without the support of any Super PAC, is paying minimally to outperform expectations.
That Trump is a phenomenon unto himself might explain why it costs him so little to win. It does not explain why Bush and Christie have paid so dearly to lose.
What does explain it is that rebellious primary voters are not beholden to any amount of campaign advertising, political spending, establishment credibility or ideological purity.
The GOP Might Not Survive the Trump Campaign, But the Country Undoubtedly Will. Trump is a monarchist who wants to use the office of President to crown himself king and savior, while cutting through the red tape for his next casino parking lot. Unfortunately, all too many people—including plenty of Republicans—are ready to go along with the cult of an imperial presidency.
Notwithstanding that problematic trend, we still have Congress, the Constitution, and the limits on presidential power set forth in Article II.
That might not be true if Ted Cruz got his way and turned SCOTUS into just another political branch of government. Party loyalists desperate to stop Trump may not understand how dangerous that is.
As a libertarian, I have never enjoyed an election cycle in which the viable candidates were anything but clowns. For me, 2016 is just par for the course. The rest of the electorate is now feeling the way I always do.
Maybe now is a good time to ponder what they’re so desperately trying to save.
Unless It Can Reinvent Itself, the GOP May Not Be Worth Saving. I suspect my political aims are vastly different from those of most Trump supporters. I nevertheless also suspect we have similar reactions to the prediction that he is going to destroy the GOP and/or conservative movement:
Are we supposed to conclude that’s a bug…or a feature?
Amid all the handwringing about the wreckage that will be left in the wake of Trump’s candidacy, precious little is devoted to convincing voters there’s anything worth saving.
Remind me again, what is the point of the GOP?
It’s clearly not to restrain spending. Once they obtained control of both houses of Congress, Republicans drove a stake through the Budget Control Act, broke budget caps, suspended the debt ceiling and doc-fixed Medicare to the tune of $500 billion. Along the way, they extended No Child Left Behind, passed a $305 billion highway bill (muh roads!), and reauthorized Ex-Im.
I’ll grant them abortion. That’s one. What else? Carpet-bombing and traditional marriage?
This is me yawning.
If the GOP wants voters like me to come to its rescue, it’s going to have to start selling something we want to buy. It will need to cut lose the growing horde of populist authoritarians, the seedy underbelly of racists and xenophobes venturing from their closets, and the dying remnants of traditional marriage zealots. It will need to replenish its base instead with the growing numbers of liberty-minded voters currently spread out across the two major parties, a few third parties, and the sizable ranks of swing-voting independents.
It will need to unite its disparate factions around common principles of limited government and apply those principles consistently across social, economic and national security issues.
And it will need to convince us that this time it means it.