Four years ago, I was deputy communications director for the most successful Libertarian presidential ticket in U.S. history. And I haven’t regretted my work for that campaign for a moment. That ticket of two former governors — New Mexico’s Gary Johnson and Massachusetts’s Bill Weld — represented my views better than any ticket I’ve ever had the chance to vote for in a presidential election.
But after four, exhausting years of President Trump, to maximize my vote against his reign in the White House, I will unenthusiastically, but without any hesitation, cast my ballot for Joe Biden.
I have a strong hunch that the former vice president and his inner circle are savvy enough to understand that millions of Americans like me — who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton four years and now feel compelled to punch the Biden button — aren’t endorsing much, if any, of the candidate’s policy prescriptions or the Democratic Party’s evermore progressive platform.
We’re merely bound together into this specific electoral coalition, in this specific year, by the notion that Trump is a historically corrosive figure who must be ushered out of the White House before he can inflict any more harm on our republic.
The reasons people might want to amplify a vote against Trump have been catalogued exhaustively, and more eloquently, countless times, elsewhere. But Weld, who ran against Trump in a futile bid for the Republican nomination this year (a campaign I also worked on as deputy communications director), put the case strongly and succinctly in a tweet: “It's America or Trump, and I'm going with America.” Hear, hear.
So why don’t I regret working for, and voting for, Johnson and Weld’s ticket four years ago? Because Johnson spoke firmly on what arguably has been where Trump’s ideas and demagoguing have been most dangerous to America: immigration. Johnson told a conservative media host during that campaign to stop using the term “illegal immigrant,” making a vigorous, patriotic defense of American immigrants, documented or not. Voting for Johnson sent a strong message that America is indeed still great, thanks much to immigration.
The Johnson-Weld Libertarian ticket also differed with both Trump and Clinton in standing unabashedly in favor of free trade with other nations and refusing to dismiss tackling middle-class entitlement reform.
But even a lifelong Libertarian like me realizes that this time around, voting for my party’s ticket could only diminish my vote against Trump. In the face of Trump’s xenophobic demagoguery and the Democratic base flirting with socialism, Libertarian Party delegates complacently put forth a ticket of ideologically rigid unknowns who are selling theories of libertarianism, as if this campaign were unfolding in a vacuum — or a college dorm.
The Libertarian ticket’s occasional critique of Trump is balanced with denunciations of Biden. But the man who harnessed a coalition, boosted by Black voters, to vanquish the most extreme elements in his party to win its nod is simply not an equivalent electoral danger to this country.
Unlike many third-party voters, a Libertarian voter isn’t withholding a vote to demand purity from one side, like a Green Party voter might vs. a Democratic nominee. It’s not a matter of insisting on making the imperfect the enemy of their ideal candidate.
Libertarians look at both sides and see half of our positions rejected, by Democrats on economic policy and by Republicans on matters of criminal justice and personal and social freedom, to name a few areas.
So if there is no credible Libertarian option on the ballot, and if I’m only getting (probably well less than) half of my policy positions from voting Republican or Democratic, it boils down to the candidates’ intangibles.
And this year, those intangibles, in turn, boil down to Trump.
What I fear is that four more years of Trump’s reign could inflict irreparable harm on America’s unique institutions, and I fear overreaction, leading to illiberal overcorrection from Democrats (think packing the Supreme Court).
Trump stokes his party base’s baser instincts, while, in this cycle, Biden has been showing the mettle to say no to his own party’s zealots on issues such as the “Green New Deal” and “Medicare-for-all.”
Though the progressive activist base will insist that rejection of Trump with a pro-Biden vote will endorse the institutional-upending extremes of their agenda, the former vice president indicates he doesn’t buy that wishful thinking, telling a Cincinnati radio station, for instance, he’s “not a fan” of proposals to appoint more than the current nine Supreme Court justices.
That’s why I will pull the lever for Biden in the polling booth — and why I’m encouraged that polling is pointing to a majority of that record-setting 4.5 million Americans who voted Libertarian four years ago, like our party’s vice-presidential nominee, will, too.