The Third Party Candidate: What Does He Make Me?

This November when Americans go to the polls to cast their vote, they will have three presidential candidates on the ballot; Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Gary Johnson.

A few days ago Johnson, a member of the Libertarian party, was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Like many Americans, I had no idea who Johnson was. Nor could I say with certainty his political views.

I found this all very disturbing. Here was a man who had made it onto the presidential ballot for the 2012 election and I knew nothing about him or his politics. So I did as every good American does when they don’t know something – I turned to Google.

First of all, I had to ask, what do Libertarians believe? For as long as I can remember our system has been one of two-party candidates. This isn’t a good thing, but I knew no different. I went to the Libertarian Parties website to find out more about their beliefs. Their headline declares them “The Party of the Principle” with the catchphrase “ Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom,” under its banner.

While I listened to Johnson speak on The Daily Show I started to wonder, did I agree with some of what he was saying?  As a self identified Democrat, I found this jarring.  So to the Google I went.

“Libertarians believe the answer to America’s political problems is the same commitment to freedom that earned America its greatness: a free-market economy and the abundance and prosperity it brings; a dedication to civil liberties and personal freedom that marks this country above all others; and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade as prescribed by America’s founders.”

But what does that all mean?  Let’s break it down by looking at a few issues:

Immigration: “The fundamental choice before us is whether we redouble our efforts to enforce existing immigration law, whatever the cost, or whether we change the law to match the reality of a dynamic society and labor market…we can change our immigration law to more closely conform to how millions of normal people actually live.”

Translation: They understand that immigrant workers are an important facet of the American economy and that we should make it easier for immigrants to become legal residents.  I believe this too.

Health Care:  “The Libertarian Party knows the only healthcare reforms that will make a real difference are those that draw on the strength of the free market.”

Translation: Let’s remake the wheel in yet another fashion. Heath Care issues are not that complicated people. Other countries have figured it out and provide great models for us, perhaps start there?

Poverty:   “We should eliminate the entire social welfare system. This includes eliminating food stamps, subsidized housing, and all the rest. Individuals who are unable to fully support themselves and their families through the job market must, once again, learn to rely on supportive family, church, community, or private charity to bridge the gap.”

Translation: Let ‘em figure it out themselves. As a child whose family needed to be on welfare to live I can tell you that we would not have survived without it.  Sometimes there is no “supportive family, church, community, or private charity to bridge the gap.” That is where the government must step in!

I found no mention of Gay rights or women’s rights under their issues page, two very important and hot issues at the moment.  Though in the FAQ section they do state this, “Libertarians strongly oppose any government interfering in their personal, family and business decisions. Essentially, we believe all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do no harm to another.”

What I am able to gather from the website, is that what Libertarians believe is an extreme version of both Republican and Democratic beliefs. Because of this, I find myself agreeing with some of their basic ideologies.

So who is this man on our ballot in the fall? According to garyjohnson2012.com, Johnson “has been referred to as the ‘most fiscally conservative Governor’ in the country, was the Republican Governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003…Governor Johnson brings a distinctly business-like mentality to governing, believing that decisions should be made based on cost-benefit analysis rather than strict ideology…Johnson is best known for his veto record, which includes over 750 vetoes during his time in office…”

I found a handy “Compare the Candidates” spreadsheet on his website which outlines the differences between President Obama, Romney and himself.

After looking through all of this information I find myself questioning what party my ideologies really align with. I don’t agree with everything Democrats believe, almost nothing Republicans believe, and about half of what Libertarians believe. There are so many issues to think about without even looking at the Green Party, the Tea Party, The Socialists and the Communists and of course the Independents.

I believe in a government that takes care of its people and helps to pave the way for those who start with less.  I believe in a government who will let me choose who to marry, weather or not to have a child and won’t let me die on a hospital bed because I can’t afford a surgery. I believe in a government who believes in its people, their rights and their abilities.

So what does that make me?