Monday, November 05, 2012

Why I'm voting for Gary Johnson

I realize that any post about politics is likely to incur wrath from friends, family, and random web surfers that happened to visit my blog. Politics is a very emotionally charged issue, which itself can be pretty disconcerting at times. Nonetheless, I hope to use this post to draw attention to a few of the issues that have compelled me to vote for the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson for president.

I tend to be pretty apathetic towards politics. There's so much misinformation, negative advertising, and gross oversimplification of complicated issues going around that it's difficult for me to believe in the message that either major political party is preaching.

In fact, one of the biggest reasons to vote for a third party candidate is to provide more balance to the way politics is carried out. Due to human nature, one of the most effective ways to run a campaign is by negatively attacking and thus de-humanizing the other candidate or party. Social balance theory also tells us that two-party systems often tend toward polarization, which is generally not constructive.

But suppose there were more than two major political parties. Then it would be much more difficult to run negative campaigns that split time attacking multiple opposing candidates rather than at a single opposing candidate. As a result, the game theoretic optimal strategy for each campaign would be to instead focus on how their candidate has the best policies for the voters. Furthermore, the views of politicians would then need not be so polarized in accordance with the platforms of their respective parties. It would be easier to be a Republican who embraces evolution and supports reducing the size of the military, or to be a Democrat who supports privatizing basic health care and feels that abortion may very well be akin to murder.

I don't think a third party candidate will win this election. But I do think that if enough people consistently voiced their growing dissatisfaction of both major political parties by voting for a third party candidate, it might be enough to either drive down the extreme polarization we've observed in recent years or propel a third political party into the majority.

So why Gary Johnson as the third party candidate of choice? Generally speaking, most of my political views are libertarian. I realize that the most idealized libertarian views can be counter-productive, so I'm by no means an extremist. In a nutshell, I lean conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social issues. The basic mantras are reducing government waste (which Republicans are supposedly good at doing), and protecting civil liberties (which Democrats have been relatively good at doing, with some glaring exceptions).

Moreover, I also feel that there is a growing segment of Americans who share a similar libertarian sentiment. The current electoral system is set up as a winner takes all competition. This means that for any third party to gain traction, there needs to be sustained growing interest in the same third party over a few election cycles. It's possible that this is starting to happen with the Libertarian Party.

Of course, it's also possible that Democrats and Republicans will shift their platforms to better accomodate the views of dissatisfied voters (the more likely scenario). Ultimately, a reform of the winner-takes-all election system may be required for a third major party to be truly viable. So from that perspective, one might interpret my actions as "throwing my vote away" (although anyone voting in a non-swing state is effectively "throwing their vote away" regardless). The fact of the matter is, I wouldn't have voted for either major party candidate anyway, and I feel that there may now be enough people who support libertarian views that voting libertarian could be meaningful down the road.


Jessica C. said...

I'd like to point out that although the GOP markets themselves as the "fiscally responsible" party, they have yet to prove that. The deficit exploded under George W. Bush (but no one in the GOP seemed to care about fiscal austerity then) and our GOP lawmakers have made it a priority to be obstructionist rather than actually work together to do fiscally responsible things, like raise the debt ceiling and support stimulus spending when it was necessary (see Mitch McConnell's statement from 2010 that the GOP's single most important goal is to make Obama a one-term president).

Regarding the debt and its provenance:

Refer to the chart and you’ll see that Obama is not responsible for the exploding debt; Bush was far more responsible for that (particularly the Bush-era tax cuts). However, as any economist would tell you, reducing the debt during a recession is generally the worst thing one could do, yet this is exactly what the GOP pushed. The potential upside of reducing the debt would be to decrease inflation, which is already extremely low and looks to be going nowhere. Thus, economic priorities would dictate that the government would pursue deficit spending to stimulate the economy. Reducing the debt would be an important step to take when the economy has recovered. Plans to do this could be passed now but should not take effect within the next couple years and would require preternatural economic forecasting.

Check out these charts re: unemployment rate:
This last chart, which depicts unemployment rates in the US, Europe, and Japan since 2000 is interesting in that it compares the effect of stimulus, albeit a modest one, in the US with the effect of austerity, pushed unsuccessfully by Republicans here but successfully by conservatives in the EU, in Europe. The stimulus was passed at a time when the unemployment rates in the US and the EU were similar (or worse in the US, if you compare it to the EU-27, or all 27 member states of the European Union): February 2009. As those funds were spent, the unemployment rate has diminished in the US but has rebounded in the EU. Also, Germany should not be cited as an example of a recovering economy despite austerity, no matter how many times the media repeated that claim.

That is all. Brevity was never my strong point. :)

Yisong Yue said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that I thought the Republicans were actually good at being fiscally responsible. I just meant to say that they are "supposed" to be the fiscally responsible party, whereas the Democrats are "supposed" to be the socially responsible party.

But your points are duly noted =)

Geet Duggal said...

I did too. And those are very similar regions to the ones I had. I think libertarian views present a good contrast that is needed in current American politics and it's nice to see the view gaining some traction

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