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Another Conservative for Johnson

I was prevented by hurricane preparations from participating in TAC‘s election symposium [1]. For the record, however, I’d like to add my thoughts to the excellent contributions by staff and friends of the magazine.

The first consideration, as Peter Brimelow points out, is that our votes don’t matter much in many states. New York, where I live, will inevitably go for Obama.

On the one hand, this is liberating: I can vote however I like without feeling responsible for the outcome. On the other hand, it’s a bit dispiriting. In a democracy, one likes to feel that one’s voice counts. It’s not that I hope to be the deciding vote, which both statistics [2] and common sense find to be very unlikely. But it would be nice to believe that the outcome in my jurisdiction isn’t predetermined.

Nevertheless, we have the Electoral College, and New York is now and perhaps forever solidly Democratic. So what to do?

I could cast a symbolic vote for Mitt Romney. But I find his lack of principle, glib salesmanship, and indulgence of the neoconservative imagination impossible to approve. His economic plan is non-existent. And his utterances on foreign policy range from oblivious to frightening. Strongly pro-life voters might have a reason to overlook these defects. I do not.

Or, I could join Noah Millman, Justin Raimondo, and Leon Hadar, among others, in voting for Obama. This was, in fact, my original plan. But I just can’t do it.

Many of my objections to Obama revolve around his responses to problems that he did not create: the Bush precedents on executive power; the mounting fiscal crisis; the capture of the economy by the finance industry; and the intellectual bankruptcy of his party. But the President is a rather colorless political operator rather than the visionary many of his supporters expected. He has demonstrated no ability, and perhaps not even the ambition, to escape these poisonous legacies.

If I lived in a swing state, my fear Romney will seek another war would outweigh these objections and lead me to vote reluctantly for Obama. I live in a blue state, however, and I’m free to be irresponsible. So I will vote for Gary Johnson, who is personally unimpressive but promotes a number of positions that I care about, including reducing our military commitments, restoring our civil liberties, and ending the disastrous drug war.

I suppose that it will be a protest vote, then. But isn’t it worth protesting the fact that we’re presented with two bad options in election after election?

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#1 Pingback By Breaking Down the TAC Vote | The American Conservative On October 31, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

[…] Another Conservative for Johnson […]

#2 Comment By Joe Carter On October 31, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

Or, I could join Noah Millman, Justin Raimondo, and Leon Hadar, among others, in voting for Obama.

After all these years it still amazes me how many contributors to a magazine called “The American Conservative” express support for the most liberal candidate in the race (whether Obama, Nader, etc).

If anyone wonders why the magazine has never really caught on with conservatives this is a pretty good reason why.

[Editor’s note: 4 out of 29 — [3] ]

#3 Comment By bayesian On October 31, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

Samuel, I find myself sharing many of your thoughts. I live in California, for most purposes (e.g. dysfunctional legislature and dysfunctional GOP) even more solidly blue and badly broken than NY, although if we implemented the Maine/Nebraska system, I suspect my district (CA-46) would be somewhat competitive but go for Obama in the end (we’ll see).

I’m actually quite happy to vote for Johnson, who actually was at least somewhat libertarian in office (as opposed to e.g. Bob Barr, whom I viewed as a likely sincere repentant, or for the paleos Virgil Goode, also a repentant though I’m less sure of his sincerity).

In what respects do you find Johnson personally unimpressive, and compared to whom?

#4 Comment By bayesian On October 31, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

@Joe C. –

I’ve never cared for Nader, either as a personality or for the majority of his policy positions. Likewise, I’m mostly not a fan of the Greens, at least in their American incarnations.

However, compared to both Gore and Bush the Lesser, and also e.g. to Browne (2000), Nader mostly stood and stands for the idea that we can’t have it all, that there are non-toy limits, and I admire him for that. Grokking deeply that none of us can have it all in any substantial way is the essence of the conservatism that I find valuable (and practically nonexistent amongst the self-professed conservatives that I run across in daily life, but at least occasionally hinted at in the pages here at AmCon).

p.s. yes, I agree that a conservative of limits probably would/should have voted Buchanan in 2000.

#5 Comment By Bob Jones On October 31, 2012 @ 4:08 pm


You really think the folks over there in the OC who vote for Rohrbacher would break for Obama? If so that area has changed quite a bit since I lived there. Out here in CA-44 (currently, we are being redistricted into a new district with no incumbent Congressman) it would also be a close one, but would likely break for Romney.

Still, I agree that having a district by district or straight proportional distribution of electors would certainly liven up the campaigns, and open the door a little for third party candidates to have an impact, or even provide a legitimate alternative on election day.

#6 Comment By Archie On October 31, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

Gee Joe, could that be the Republican party’s unanimous support for bankruptcy-inducing nation building and warmongering in the Middle East? Romney’s not a conservative, he strongly supports corporate welfare and military Keynesianism.

Maybe if AmCon was warning us about the ‘threat’ of domestic “Sharia Law” and Islamic terrorists in South America, you’d be interested?

#7 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 31, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

Liberal candidates would be those supporting free markets, laissez-faire, opposing subsidies, etc. Whatever President Obama is, he’s not a liberal, nor is he remotely a socialist. Perhaps the lack of any clear identification of what any candidate really stands for allows conservatives to vote for Obama. Perhaps that Romney gives no sign of conserving much of anything helps also.

#8 Comment By bayesian On October 31, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

Bob, CA-46’s composition changed fairly radically in the recent redistricting – less OC, more Long Beach, harbor, etc.). Rohrbacher (whom I have met once in a notionally apolitical environment – school awards ceremony -, at which time he convinced me that he is an ahole) is running for reelection in CA-48 (and almost certain to win). Loretta Sanchez (who won her first term in CA-46 against B-1 Bob before the last redistricting sent her to CA-47) took 55% in the primary against three Rs and an I, so I imagine she’s pretty likely to win the general with the higher D-leaning turnout compared to the primary.

Good luck to you in the 44th, by the way.

#9 Comment By TomB On October 31, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

I think Joe Carter overlooks the point made by Siarlys Jenkins in another thread that, in states where your vote might actually make a difference, a vote for anyone other *than* Obama may well help elect Romney.

Think about it, Joe. It’ll come to you.

#10 Pingback By TAC Digest: October 31 | The American Conservative On October 31, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

[…] Pat Buchanan endorsed Romney while Samuel Goldman found it impossible to do so and opted for Gary Johnson. Daniel McCarthy felt a Romney victory might heighten the contradictions on the right and force […]

#11 Comment By Luther Perez On November 1, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

I’m pretty hard left, but will voting for Gary Johnson.

I live in a blue state, so its going to Obama. However, I think if third party candidates can start receiving higher vote numbers in states that are solidly red or blue, it may…change the way third party candidates are treated by the national media.

#12 Comment By Bob Jones On November 1, 2012 @ 6:30 pm


Actually, I’m in the 41st now (due to redistricting) and we do not have an incumbent, so the race has been interesting and I am not sure who to support, as Taviglone was our supervisor and was generally good, but does play a little fast and loose with donors and votes.

It is pretty surprising how the lines have been reorganized for this year, so many of the districts could be pretty interesting. BTW. I agree with your assessment on Rohrbacher, met his quite a while ago and wasn’t impressed. B-1 Bob was a piece of work. I ran into him while still a student at CSUF in the 80’s. I think he was really unbalanced in some way. probably good that he is long gone.

#13 Comment By chipotle On November 2, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

Goldman is a genius and I tremble whenever I disagree with him.

But this throw-away clause in his penultimate paragraph is a total baffler:

So I will vote for Gary Johnson, who is personally unimpressive but promotes a number of positions that I care about, including reducing our military commitments, restoring our civil liberties, and ending the disastrous drug war.

Lest we forget, Johnson started his one-man business in college, grew it to 1,000 employees before he sold it for $10 million, won his first election for office in running for Governor as a Republican after beating two other “establishment” candidates in the primary and then won New Mexico (a state with 2-1 registered Democrat advantage), was re-elected with a greater proportion of votes than he won with the first time, and has completed 75 triathalons and summited Everest as well the highest mountains on 3 other continents.

Unfortunately, Johnson possesses all of the eloquence of George W. Bush. I wouldn’t invite him to a seminar on Kojève and Heidigger or Montesquieu and Tocqueville or even just on John Rawls.

But just because he’s a poor speaker and perhaps not a verbal intellectual–does this make him unimpressive?

On this I evidently part ways with Goldman who is extremely impressive.

#14 Comment By Samuel Goldman On November 2, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

Bayesian and Chipotle: You’re right that my phrase “personally unimpressed with Johnson” was too vague. I should have said something like: “Johnson is an unimpressive advocate for positions that I care about…”