A few months ago I would have laughed at Johnson for pandering to a left-wing movement that’s purportedly all about economics by emphasizing his common ground with them on everything but economics. After reading this, I’m not so sure. There’s a convincing case out there that a good chunk of Berniemania is twentysomethings and independent white men who disdain the Democratic label, relish the spirit of Sanders’s movement, but … aren’t terribly invested in the ultra-left platform he’s running on. Give them a dose of idealism and a strong anti-establishment posture, which is one great virtue of a third-party candidacy, and they might hear you out. I wonder, though, how much Johnson will be hurt by the contrast in temperaments with Sanders. Like Trump, Bernie is a bombthrower, although most of his bombs are aimed at institutions, not individuals who’ve displeased him. There’s a thrill in joining a movement that’s dedicated to burning down a corrupt system but you don’t get that vibe strongly from Johnson. He has none of the fire despite libertarians’ counterculture brand. He comes off in interviews less like Sanders or Trump than like Ben Carson, the kindly yet awkward high-school teacher whom you’ve always liked but who’s always seemed a little “off.” Trump’s advantage this fall in competing for Sanders voters is that he’s the only one of the final three candidates who has any degree of charisma. How much will that matter to Bernie’s less dogmatic fans vis-a-vis sticking with the Democratic nominee or throwing in with the none-of-the-above candidate Johnson?
Exit question: At one point, Johnson assures the caller here, “Libertarians agree with socialism as long as it’s voluntary.” I … sort of understand that. As long as people are choosing their social arrangements freely, without government coercion, sure, go ahead and form that commune with 40 other people that you’ve always dreamed of. To a right-wing mindset, though, the idea of “voluntary socialism” seems like a contradiction in terms. Social equality of the type and scale that Sanders has in mind requires state coercion necessarily. The rich aren’t going to rob themselves of their wealth, you know. “Voluntary socialism” is like a meatless hamburger: You can cook up something that might semi-plausibly fit the description, but it’s missing the key ingredient and no one’s going to buy it. Ah well. Can’t fault a newly-minted party nominee for pandering.