The Times-Dispatch’s endorsement of Gary Johnson is an excellent reminder of Libertarian privilege
Over the weekend, RVA’s largest newspaper, The Times-Dispatch, endorsed a third party candidate for president and I found myself impressed by their distain of the truth.
Former New Mexico Governor Gay Johnson (top image) is once again leading the Libertarian party as a “viable” third party candidate for the 2016 presidential election. Libertarianism is an interesting belief system which often gets swept up as “all inclusive” and can seem attractive to anyone looking for an alternative to the two larger parties or candidates.
“Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton meets the fundamental moral and professional standards we have every right to expect of an American president,” the paper’s all White, college educated editorial board (pictured below) wrote. “Fortunately, there is a reasonable — and formidable — alternative.”
Screen grab via the TD’s website
The concept of a realistic alternative in Libertarianism is cute and one the party likes to pretend is real.
When you meet a self-described libertarian it often comes with a number of tropes that run in the face of one another as they take the easy road and say “it’s up to the individual.”
Looking at their 2016 platform, they have a pretty modern stance on a number of social issues. They support legal recreational drugs and ending the surveillance state. They support the right to bear arms but they do not support the death penalty. They support marriage equality and letting parents “raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs” (whatever that actually means).
Sadly, as America has become more decisive, these social issues (which many could agree should be out of the hands of government) have taken the main stage. To leave things like transgender bathroom use, ex-gay therapy, or other basic civil rights “up to the individual” is a joke. Meanwhile the party’s economic platform includes the essential breakdown of every progressive program and government action taken since the civil rights era.
The Libertarian fantasy of freedom from government comes at the cost of social security, the most basic workplace and anti-discrimination regulations and any system which could ensure the weakest and most vulnerable in our society are protected.
These workplace protections are what should concern LGBTQs the most. We already live in a state where we can be hired one day and fired the next, all because of who you love. Imagine a country where the fight is null and void nationally because the government has no role in protecting you.
The Libertarian answer to this problem, as is their answer to all questions, lies with the free market – the mighty Adam Smith-blessed temple that all Americans are a part of whether they like it or not. And in a fantasy world where all people are genuinely created equal they might have a point.
If every person from Brooklyn to New Orleans, from the suburbs of San Diego to the swamps of Gloucester County, were actually born with the same rights and opportunities as everyone else then this wouldn’t be up for debate.
Sadly, the very system Libertarians worship is the one which has doomed so many others.
Being born gay, trans, poor or not-white is not up to the individual and those qualities can greatly impact the rest of your life.
Let’s pose a hypothetical here where Libertarianism get’s its way: I grow up in Midlothian, VA and realize I’m gay at the age of 16.
I’m going to a private school because there are no public school anymore and the quality of that school depends on what the parents in the area can afford to pay for. If the school I ‘m attending is run by folks who don’t acknowledge my sexuality as valid then I could be forced out of the school if not into ex-gay therapy because that’s what the school suggests. Sure the school might actually be supportive, but when other parents around the area find out about a supportive policy, they might start taking their kids out, forcing the school to change their policy or shut down.
While I’m dealing with all of this I’ve got to try and find work to save up and get out of my unsupportive home. I get a job at a fast food place where I fail at hiding who I am because I present pretty fem and before long I’m getting called a “faggot” by my boss and my co-workers.
A Libertarian’s answer to all of this is the free market. If and when the rest of the world finds out about how I’m being treated, they will change their financial habits and put their kids in a less discriminatory school or start buying from a competitive, less discriminatory fast food place.
But the only newspaper in town is owned by someone who doesn’t believe bullying is a problem; hell, maybe he thinks my school and by boss are right, so when I beg for someone to report on what’s being done to me my cries fall on deaf ears.
When you put your faith in the free market you rely on the rest of the world to open up before you – free of discriminatory action or, yea know, basic human nature.
That’s why kids bully – that’s why people discriminate. We are all different – physically, emotionally, financially. We come from different families and neighborhoods with different values and a free market allows for voting with your wallet with little alternative. And if you live in a homogenized area like the Virginia suburbs there’s little reason to expect drastic change – in your class room, in your workplace – without a governing body stepping in and saying “no.”
The modern struggle for transgender rights is another good way to examine this.
Thanks to the Obama administration, access to health care and protections for trans folks has grown exponentially. Meanwhile, in a Libertarian world, where trans folks are seem as a minority with little buying power, what’s to make an insurance company offer coverage for expensive transition related services.
What’s to stop an employer who thinks their longtime employee who just came out as trans “might make us look bad” and fires them.
For gay folks, that same insurance company has no reason to cover a same-sex partner or the child of that partner if it starts to hurt their bottom line.
And if you’re poor, there’s no reason for them to cover anyone who can’t afford payments. And there’s no reason for a hospital to serve someone if they can’t pay the bill.
It’s real easy for Libertarians to come out and say they are a better option because the world they believe in simply doesn’t exist.
Humanity has income inequality; we have varying and complicated health needs. We have differences which can’t be solved with a 20 dollar bill.
Civil Rights legislation was enacted because people were being killed for existing, not because it was economically hurting the South.
The small advances the LGBTQ community has made came at the great cost of pushing against the majority’s opinion.
But let’s be honest, the real reason the TD’s Editorial Board made this call was twofold – they got an interview with Gov. Johnson and Libertarians LIVE on the internet. They support and patron anyone who preaches their gospel.
With over 45K facebook likes, this story will probably be the most read site on the newspapers website in the past or future decade. It was as much a financial decision as it was a moral or political one. A fight for relevance in it’s own lowest common denominator.
A similar thing happened when we wrote about the Libertarian candidate for Governor of Virignia a few years back - we got a massive spike in traffic and people who had never heard of GayRVA found themselves reading our words.
And the TD’s Editorial Board (White, college educated, employed) are in a uniquely privileged place to be able to throw their support behind a candidate like this when they have literally nothing to lose by the breakdown of every civil rights law in history.
Either way, the real irony of all of this for LGBTQ folks is more often conservatives or traditional Republicans are the ones who switch votes to the Libertarian party. This means whoever the TD has managed to sway was probably voting for Trump or not at all and a vote not-for-Trump in a swing state like Virginia is a vote for Hillary.
This election has been unique for a lot of reasons – from unpopular major candidates to third parties finding new loyalties from once-Republican allies. What this all means for the individual LGBTQ person is up to them, but as a whole, the choice for expanded protections and supporting those who need it most is obvious – whether we like it or not.
Top image of Gary Johnson via Facebook
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