During the first Republican debate of the 2008 campaign for president, Ron Paul shocked his fellow candidates and the mainstream media types who were asking the questions when the subject of the 9/11 attacks came up. His opponents dutifully spouted the official line about the attacks — that the terrorists had been motivated by hatred for America’s freedom and values. Paul sent his fellow candidates, the debate moderator and commentators, and many in the Republican audience into a fevered frenzy by instead stating the truth: that the attackers had come over here to kill Americans because the federal government was over there killing people.
Paul’s observation was outside the accepted parameters of what I described yesterday as the Welfare-Warfare State box within which the Democratic and Republican parties operate.
After Paul created a political firestorm with his statement, there were calls within the Republican establishment to ban him from further presidential debates. His pointing out that the U.S. national-security establishment’s foreign policy of interventionism was the root cause of anti-American terrorism was considered outside the acceptable parameters of the Welfare Warfare State box under which these people live and operate.
It proved difficult for the Republican establishment to exclude Paul from further presidential debates, in large part because he was a Republican and also because the minute he spoke the truth about U.S. foreign policy was when his campaign took off, especially among young people, who recognized he was speaking the truth.
Since Johnson is a third-party candidate, however, it’s much easier to exclude him. That’s what the Presidential Debate Commission’s arbitrary 15 percent rule is all about — to prevent Johnson from influencing more people in the direction of libertarianism, which is the fastest growing political movement in the country, especially among young people who have become disillusioned about the welfare-warfare state way of life.
Of course, libertarian opposition to the U.S. national-security state’s policy of foreign interventionism is not the only reason Johnson is being excluded from the debates. All the other libertarian positions that challenge the legitimacy of the welfare-warfare state paradigm to which Republicans, Democrats, and the mainstream media are wedded, play a role in his exclusion as well.
In my blog post yesterday, “Why Gary Johnson Isn’t in the Debates” I asked readers to imagine a big box labeled “The Welfare Warfare State.” Inside the box, people are scurrying around, arguing and debating with each other over the myriad problems facing America and coming up with all sorts of reforms to fix the problems.
Since Republican and Democratic presidential candidates accept the legitimacy of the box, they are invited to participate in the presidential debates. Since libertarians, however, challenge the legitimacy of the box and, in fact, point out that the Welfare-Warfare State is the cause of America’s many woes, they are excluded from the debates.
Consider the drug war, one of the favorite programs within the Welfare Warfare State paradigm. In the presidential debates, Trump might say, “I favor mandatory minimum sentences for drug law offenders.” Clinton might respond with, “I favor a free needle program for drug addicts.” But neither of them will question the drug war itself, notwithstanding its decades-long failure and the massive death, violence, bigotry, corruption, and destruction of liberty, privacy, and prosperity that comes with it.
Like all other libertarians, Johnson challenges the legitimacy of the drug war. He asks: Why should this failed, deadly, and destructive government program be permitted to remain in existence? But, you see, that’s precisely why he’s not being included in the debates. He’s challenging the legitimacy of the Welfare Warfare State box itself.
The May 1972 issue of Newsweek published a column entitled “Prohibition and Drugs” by libertarian Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. Seventeen years later, the September 7, 1989, issue of the Wall Street Journal carried Friedman’s article, “An Open Letter to Bill Bennett.” Both of Friedman’s articles on the drug war are still worth reading today.
Those were lonely days for libertarians. Today, the situation is entirely different. The libertarian movement is burgeoning and every day more people, especially young people, are self-identifying as libertarians.
More important, people from all walks of life, including non-libertarians, are now calling for ending the drug war. Many states have enacted medical marijuana laws and some states have even legalized marijuana, over the fierce opposition of the drug-war, right-wing, and Washington, D.C., establishments. The feds are not even enforcing their own drug laws in states that have legalized marijuana. President Obama is releasing drug war offenders from prison early, an implicit acknowledgement that draconian drug war sentences haven’t accomplished anything.
The drug war is teetering. Johnson’s participation in the presidential debate could send it over the edge. That’s why he must be excluded, notwithstanding the fact, as I pointed out in yesteday’s blog post, that 62 percent of Americans want him in the debates so that they can get more information about him and his positions (See the mission statement of the Presidential Debate Commission) and notwithstanding the fact that hundreds of thousands of registered voters all across the country have signed petitions that will get him on the ballot in all 50 states.
In a recent remarkable op-ed about U.S. foreign policy by Texas A&M professor Elizabeth Cobbs, entitled “For U.S. Foreign Policy, It’s Time to Look Again at the Founding Fathers’s ‘Great Rule,’” Cobbs points out that Pew Research organization recently conducted a poll that reflected that 57 percent of the American people want the U.S. government to start minding its own business and to stop meddling in the affairs of other countries. That’s Ron Paul’s position too. And Gary Johnson’s. That’s the libertarian position.
Johnson’s participation in the presidential debates could send that number to 60 or 70 percent or even higher. That’s the real reason he’s being excluded from the debates. Hes challenging the legitimacy of their Welfare Warfare State box. The Presidential Debate Commission just has to make its anti-democratic position look good. That’s the purpose of its arbitrary and capricious 15 percent rule.