Love Bernie Sanders? Gary Johnson Is Not Your Man
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Politics and Activism

Love Bernie Sanders? Gary Johnson Is Not Your Man

Marijuana and conservatism are not mutually exclusive.

Love Bernie Sanders? Gary Johnson Is Not Your Man
Flickr/Gage Skidmore

This election season, it seems that everyone is either “Never-Trump”, “Never-Clinton”, or “Never-Either-Of-Them.” Many voters who don’t feel comfortable voting for either major-party candidate feel that Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico who is now a third-party Libertarian candidate, is the best option. If someone is a Republican who doesn’t support Trump, I can understand switching over to Johnson. Johnson’s proposed policies are “socially liberal and fiscally conservative”, as some people might say, so Republicans who want to de-regulate businesses but keep marriage equality probably like this guy. However, as a supporter of Bernie Sanders, I have to point out how alarming it is that many people who supported Sanders during the primaries are now considering voting for Johnson.

I see the appeal of a third-party candidate, and Sanders’ policy positions were so far-left that at times he did feel third-party, and that’s what his supporters (including myself) loved about him: He was willing to make radical changes to move closer to equality and wellbeing for all American citizens, as opposed to other major-party candidates, who are almost always moderate and don’t do much to repair the corrupt system at the root of American politics. Johnson, though, does not have the same change-agent ideals that Sanders did. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t vote for Johnson if he is the candidate you like best, but if you supported Bernie Sanders for his “let’s fix this entire system and move towards a social democracy” plan, it’s likely that you and Johnson don’t agree on many things.

For starters, what causes many to assume that Johnson is liberal is this: Marijuana. Johnson fully supports its legalization for a number of reasons, such as the fact it is less harmful than alcohol and the enormous government dollars that are being spent on persecuting marijuana users. I agree with this position entirely. Looking at some other issues, Johnson is on the mark with a few other Democrat ideals, such as recognizing that men of color are disproportionately jailed more than other demographics and supporting marriage equality. However, taking a closer look, the picture dims for someone who was expecting a somewhat Bernie-esque option.

As a Libertarian, Johnson feels that federal involvement in state and local affairs should be kept to a minimum, and while this sounds great at first, what this really means for Johnson is cutting funding for social programs such as Medicaid and Social Security and eliminating the Department of Education. He wants to take funding away from these programs and, essentially, give it to corporations: His plan is to eliminate corporate taxes altogether. While he claims this would create jobs, trickle-down economics don’t exactly have the best track record. The very rich are just getting richer in the U.S., and anyone like me who liked Sanders’ economic policies (and generally supports Clinton’s) would agree that wealthy business owners should at least pay their fair share in taxes. Additionally, Johnson wants to abolish the federal minimum wage altogether, which is potentially harmful to workers who rely on jobs with pay rates that are set to the minimum wage. On top of that, Johnson actually believes that labor unions hurt the national economy, rather than recognizing them for the accountability it gives to employers. Basically, Johnson trusts corporations way too much, and that is a conservative trait.

Considering Johnson wants to cut funding from entitlement programs, it makes sense that he doesn’t support the Affordable Care Act, either. The thing is, the Affordable Care Act has helped many citizens get the healthcare they otherwise would have been able to afford. What would they do now without the Act? Is it worth it to cut it just to save money? Johnson also doesn’t believe that life-saving prescriptions should be price-regulated; that is, pharmaceutical companies can make the drugs as expensive as they want them to be, even though that medicine could be life-or-death for someone who can’t afford it one day. Again, the intention to save government money is a good one, but potentially putting people at risk isn’t the way to do it.

Johnson’s positions probably disappoint me the most when it comes to climate change. While he recognizes climate change and humans’ negative impact on it, he doesn’t believe that the government should do anything about it because the government has other priorities. Johnson considers the biggest priority for the government to be protecting its citizens from harm, and while I’m sure he’s thinking more on the military side, does he realize that climate change is going to cause harm, too, and we urgently need to take action to prevent it? On top of that, Johnson wants to remove rules that require energy companies to be environmentally friendly. He thinks this will help the economy, but I think all it will do is hurt the planet.

Overall, Gary Johnson seems like a good man with good intentions. He supports the addition of gender identity to anti-discrimination laws, he’s pro-choice, and supports marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples. He is fighting for transparency in politics, which I think is absolutely essential to turning this political system into a far less corrupt one. I disagree fundamentally with his position on climate change. Plus, his economic policies such as removing the Department of Education and eliminating government-funded healthcare seem to put at risk the very people he sounds like he cares about when describing his social policies. To put it mildly, he is definitely fiscally conservative, and if you personally feel that’s best for America economically, I totally understand voting for Johnson. As for me, though, Bernie Sanders had positions in every category that I felt prioritized the American people, and after research about the possible trajectory of his different plans, I still felt that they could go very well. I can’t say the same about Johnson. Still, It’s my hope that in a world where third-party candidates could win the general election, Sanders and Johnson would be up there now in debates, giving us a whole lot more political choice—in that case, our options would include a social democrat and a financial conservative, which are two very, very different things to be.


Sources: OnTheIssues ( and ISideWith (

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