|Gary Johnson: Look, buddy, I got|
your Ludwig von Mises and your
Lysander Spooner right here, OK?
We've had various riffs on Robert Wenzel's interview with Gary in which he and others sniff, stick their noses in the air, and express "disappointment" that the Governor is not as grounded in Libertarian theory as they would like.
Then there are various similar pieces at Lew Rockwell (a place, I must admit, I rarely ever visit), that attempt to cast doubt on Gary's core Libertarianism. Here and here for example.
There are three things you need to know about all this.
First, this criticism is a GOOD THING. It means that Gary Johnson is moving from cloistered dogmatic Libertarian circles into the mainstream of American politics. I know there are Libertarians who don't want their presidential candidates to go there, God love 'em. They think we run candidates to educate the public, not to win. I think that's lunacy, but to each their own. Point being: by running to win, by running to get the 15% necessary to get into the Presidential debates, Gary has to expand the definition of libertarian, and he has to convince people who may only be "libertarian about this issue" or "libertarian about that issue" to give him a serious look. And--to put it quite bluntly--most people in the real world who will vote in the millions this fall don't give two shits about Ludwig von Mises or John Maynard Keynes, and probably don't even have a freaking clue who Paul Krugman is, either. 90% of the Ron Paul supporters who talk about "Austrian economics" learned everything they think they know about the subject from one speech by Dr. Paul or the four page chapter in his latest book.
People want to know what Gary will do about taxes, laws, regulations, wars, and budgets.
Second, this is a "pony" argument. My friends at Delaware Liberal either created this reference or turned me on to it--not sure which. Purists at the far end of the spectrum--any spectrum--are always disenchanted with any candidate close enough to the center to have a praye's chance in hell at winning. Far Left progressives are upset with Barack Obama because he didn't give them single-payer health care, so they threaten to primary him, or sit home and not vote for him, like they would be happier with a conservative Republican in office. This is what my friends call "demanding a pony" rather than living in the real world, where every electable candidate is a bunch of compromises. For a classice DL example of the pony theory in action (or at least in rhetoric), go here
If you are going to demand that your candidate give you a pony, you are always going to be (a) disappointed, and (b) out of power. Libertarians have tried (b) for their entire existence. Time to forget the f--king pony for awhile.
Third, what do you do about these criticisms from the Libertarian dogmatists? This is going to be difficult advice to follow, because Libertarians are a contentious group, but the answer is simple:
Don't refute them, don't apologize, don't engage them, don't feed the damn trolls. Ignore them and keep rolling.
I learned this from a fat old AM morning drive disc jockey over thirty years ago. The average listening span on AM radio is fifteen minutes. 85% of your audience tunes in and out every fifteen minutes. Even if they keep the dial on your station, their attention tunes in and out. So at any given moment, 85% of the people listening don't know you screwed up fifteen mintues, ago, and won't know unless you are stupid enough to keep talking about it. Of the other 15%, a solid majority either (a) won't care, or (b) won't remember, because you're a goddamn disc jockey and not that important to their day to day life.
Program directors know this. Successful campaign managers know this. You can bet your ass that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney know this. If you campaign in the big time, and you are out there every day, you will screw up (at least in somebody's eyes) on a daily basis. Call somebody a "macawcaw" and your campaign is over; people don't forgive or forget that stuff. But blow a question about Ludwige von Mises? Nobody cares.
Move the f--k on.
So here's my answer in a nutshell: criticism means you are entering the debate; people who demand ponies won't help you get elected; and when you screw up (which you will do) keep moving.