Libertarian party could be potential game-changer

By Alex Cocanig, Columnist

The presidential campaigns of 2016 are well underway and both the Republican and Democratic parties will choose their nominees to go head to head in the November general election. As of right now, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have emerged as the frontrunners for those parties, but there is still room for unexpected changes, and many more state primary elections to turn the tables.

Despite the popularity of Trump and Clinton, many voters cannot come to terms with either of those candidates, and while other candidates like Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders are appealing in the primaries, the Republican and Democratic parties will ultimately leave their voters with only one nominee on November’s ballot.

This presents a dilemma to voters who don’t agree strongly enough with Trump’s radical policies or Clinton’s establishment background, among other things. If these undecided voters don’t make a decision, they have the option of voting for a different party that will also be on the ballot come November.

One of these parties is the Libertarian party, which is one of the strongest alternative parties on the November ballot in all 50 states. Their nominee in 2012, Gary Johnson, received over 1.27 million of the popular votes or roughly 1 percent of the total vote in the last general election.

Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico, identifies as fiscally conservative and socially liberal; an ideology appealing to many Republicans that feel the establishment is perhaps too concerned with moral and personal issues, but don’t want to deviate from running a figuratively tight fiscal ship.

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Recently, Fox Business Channel hosted the first ever nationally televised Libertarian party debate that aired March 29 and April 8 in two parts. The debate was moderated by self-identified Libertarian and ABC News-defector John Stossel, who engaged three of the Libertarian party’s most popular candidates: John McAfee, Austin Petersen and Gary Johnson.

Candidates were asked an array of questions regarding their positions on issues from abortion to the economy to foreign policy. Despite all of the candidates considering themselves Libertarians, there was a noticeable degree of ideological difference between the three candidates.

Petersen, the youngest and by far the most energetic of the three, was a bit more socially and theoretically conservative than his counterparts, exemplified by his pro-life position on abortion and his desire to completely eliminate publically funded welfare, respectively.

McAfee, the former CEO of the anti-virus software company, McAfee Inc, was the oldest candidate and certainly the strangest of them all. He articulated many central points of Libertarianism, but when asked about specifics of certain policy positions, McAfee often dodged the questions and went off on tangents about the need for more freedom.

Of the three on the stage, Johnson appeared to be the most pragmatic and moderate. As the party’s most popular candidate, he would be most appealing to voters looking for an alternative on the November ballot.

As a Libertarian, Johnson represents a stark contradiction to establishment candidates like Clinton, but represents an ideology that he claims most Americans could identify with. On most hot button social issues, Johnson is pro-choice, pro-LGBT, pro-immigration and strongly opposed to the War on Drugs and resulting mass incarceration. Essentially, Johnson doesn’t think government should be involved in your personal life or decisions, as long as your actions don’t harm others.

Johnson also doesn’t think the government should play the role of a loan shark when it comes to student loans, something many of us at the University can relate to. He emphasizes the need to reform education funding and the high cost of tuition. To do this, Johnson favors a state-funded voucher system as well as turning the Department of Education into a block grant program for the states. The states would then be free to disperse the money however they needed, eliminating bureaucracy and financial limitations, but most importantly, repayment of funds altogether. As a firm believer in the free market, Johnson feels that healthy competition to offer the best education among colleges would drive tuition costs down. This is due to the idea that students would flock to institutions that offered an education of comparable quality at a lower price, thus forcing other institutions to lower their tuition costs to remain competitive.

When it comes to the economy and fiscal policy, Johnson is a conservative, and perhaps a radical one. He proposes cutting both government spending and revenue to unprecedented lows. Libertarianism fundamentally opposes large government and the big, reckless spending associated with it that is to blame for our current budget and debt crisis.

Johnson favors drastically cutting military spending, eliminating the income tax and a hands-off approach to the economy, emphasizing the strong role of a free market that is easy for small business as well as big business to flourish in.

Johnson’s positions have been consistent since he ran in the 2012 election. He provides a good alternative to a Trump-Hillary ticket come November. Republicans who favor non-traditional social values and Democrats who favor less government involvement in the economy and lower taxes would all find a middle ground in the Libertarian party’s nominee.

The two-party system has made the 2016 race look very grim, and the need for change in the political leadership of the country is stronger than ever.

Alex is a senior in LAS.

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