Gary Johnson Answers Critics Within the Libertarian Party

From "Nazi cakes" to his 2012 campaign finances, Gary Johnson defends himself to Libertarian Party delegates.


Still not treating victory as a sure thing, and smart not to do so, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson last night on his Facebook page released a public letter to Libertarian Party delegates addressing some controversies surrounding him and his campaign that might incline some of them not to vote for him for their presidential nomination.

Gary Johnson facebook

Highlights, after he explains all the reasons for the delegates to be optimistic about their chances with him at the helm, he takes on what has come to be known as the "Nazi cake" controversy, created by his opponent Austin Petersen challenging him on some of the implications of Johnson's support for anti-discrimination laws:

In a nationally-televised debate among three of the Libertarian candidates for President (A debate that should, by the way, have been more inclusive of all the candidates.), a highly unlikely hypothetical question was raised about whether a Jewish baker has the right to refuse to serve a Nazi sympathizer asking for a "Nazi cake". I responded to that question in the legal context of whether a public business has the right to refuse to serve a member of the public, as distasteful as it might be. 

The simple answer to that question is, whether all like it or not, U.S. law has recognized the principle of public accommodation for more than 100 years: The principle that, when a business opens its doors to the public, that business enters into an implied contract to serve ALL of the public. Further, when that business voluntarily opens its doors, the owners voluntarily agree to adhere to applicable laws and regulations—whether they like those laws or not.

To be clear, anti-discrimination laws do not, and cannot, abridge fundamental First Amendment rights. I know of no one who reasonably disagrees. In the highly unlikely event that a Nazi would demand that a Jewish baker decorate a cake with a Nazi symbol, the courts, common sense, and common decency—not to mention the First Amendment—all combine to protect that baker from having to do so. It's not an issue, except when distorted for purposes of gotcha politics.

Does a public bakery have to sell a cake to a Nazi? Probably so. Does that bakery have to draw a swastika on it? Absolutely not. And that's the way it should be.

As Johnson has said to me in interviews as well, he goes on to note that there is some important political and cultural weight behind the question, and he thinks linking the Libertarian brand with defense of intolerant discrimination is a bad idea:

Of course, we all know that this conversation is really "code" for the current, and far more real, conversation about society's treatment of LGBT individuals. I have even heard some talk of a "right to discriminate". And of course, we have states and municipalities today trying to create a real right to discriminate against the LGBT community on religious grounds—the same kinds of "religious" grounds that were used to defend racial segregation, forbid interracial marriages and, yes, defend discrimination against Jews by businesses. That is not a slope Libertarians want to go down.

Once again, my belief that discrimination on the basis of religion should not be allowed has been distorted by some to suggest that a legitimate church or its clergy should be "forced" to perform a same-sex marriage. That is absurd. The various ballot initiatives I supported across the country to repeal bans on same-sex marriage all had one provision in common: A specific provision making clear that no religious organization, priest or pastor could be required to perform any rite contrary to that organization's or individual's faith. That protection was supported almost universally by the LGBT community—even though most legal scholars agreed that such a protection already exists in the Constitution. We just wanted to leave no doubt.

I was the first major candidate in the 2012 presidential campaign to call for full marriage equality, and Libertarians have long stood for equal treatment under the law for all Americans. As your candidate for President, I will not tarnish that record.

He also addresses some (but not all) of the critiques of the way his 2012 campaign handled its finances:

Due to the nature of FEC reporting, our 2012 campaign reports continue to show a substantial "debt". That is in no way unusual. Most major national campaigns have the same reporting issue. The actual debts listed by the FEC have, in reality, been resolved and the resolution has been submitted to the FEC for approval—months ago. Our attorneys continue to work with the FEC to gain acceptance of our submissions, and we are confident they will ultimately do so. This is a tedious and burdensome process that plagues virtually all major campaigns, and says more about the nature of government regulation than it does about our finances.

The key fact for you, as a Delegate, to know is that NO funds being raised for the 2016 campaign will be used to reduce the 2012 debts shown on our campaign disclosure reports.

Johnson's preferred vice presidential partner William Weld similarly took to Facebook to react to some common Libertarian concerns about him.