While the two major political parties garner the lion’s share of press and attention, third party candidates for President of the United Sates often struggle to garner attention, equal treatment, and the votes of individuals dissatisfied with the status quo. Many modern Pagans, already predisposed towards questioning the dominant narratives in our culture, have flocked to the Green Party or the Libertarian Party depending on where they fall on various social, foreign policy, and economic issues. In 2008, around 8% of Pagans polled by Witchvox said they were going to vote for a third party, a number that may have been depressed by the Libertarian ticket running noted anti-Pagan activist Bob Barr. This election cycle, with many voters frustrated with the lack of forward movement on a number of issues, third party candidates could see increased numbers among frustrated demographics, religious minorities included.
One third party politician that has already made a very public splash with modern Pagans is Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who held a historic press conference with representatives of Pagan and Hindu organizations. When asked why he took the time to talk to religious minorities who have little sway over large voting blocs, Johnson said: “I am going to go out on a limb here and say that you are opinion makers. People look to you for your opinions because you take the time to be well informed.” Nor did Johnson backtrack when the mainstream press took notice, telling the Pagan Newswire Collective that “there was no consternation within my campaign about any of the feedback that we got on that event. No consternation.” Because of this, Johnson has sparked the interest of many Libertarian-leaning Pagans, including the Pagan Newswire Collective’s Cara Schulz, who is acting as a volunteer coordinator for an upcoming speaking event at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. I quizzed Schulz about her support for Johnson, and why she’s throwing her support behind a third party candidate when the common wisdom often says such votes are “thrown away.”
“It’s considered conventional wisdom that if you vote for a Third Party you’re throwing your vote away. I think we need to reconsider what throwing our vote away means. We complain about how the two major political parties ignore Pagans at best and are hostile to us at worst, with a heavy sprinkling of mockery thrown in for the LULZ. Yet we reward them by voting for them. We need examine what a thrown away vote is. If you’re voting for someone who won’t have anything to do with you and won’t stand up for you when it’s politically chancy to do, isn’t that throwing away your vote? I’ll be throwing away my vote for a candidate who doesn’t run away from the evil or silly Pagans and treats us with respect, like he treats any other citizen. You can bet if he takes heat for having Pagans perform at his rally, like he took heat for the Pagan media townhall, he won’t care.”
Schulz added that “in Presidential elections I’ve voted Republican and Democrat. Not this year. In a video Johnson asks people to ‘be Libertarian with me for one election’ and that’s what I’m doing.” In addition to Schulz’s support, local band Murphey’s Midnight Rounders, made up entirely of Pagan singers and musicians, will be giving an opening performance . In an editorial posted to the PNC-Minnesota bureau, Brad Murphey of Murphey’s Midnight Rounders explains why he was willing to play at this event, and be seen as aligned with Johnson’s campaign.
“Why did I agree to play for the Gary Johnson Rally? Because Gary Johnson is speaking to needs and changes that affect Pagans and sub-cultures that are related to it. Because the more we stand up and address those needed changes, the more will get done. Because it’s time for us all to get up off the couch and stop barking at the TV. Murphey’s Midnight Rounders is not a Pagan Band, per se. We are a Folk Band (we like to call it ‘Power Folk’). Our music addresses what we feel and who we are. At the same time, all of us in the band are Pagan, so a big percentage of our music speaks to that subject: honoring Deity, tradition, and approaching the goddess with mirth and reverence. That being said, for a band that is all Pagan and sings about Pagan issues, it was an honor to be asked to sing at a rally for a presidential candidate. It says a lot about him, that, as a candidate, he is more open and supportive of the Pagan religions.”
Murphey also noted how he things Pagan ideals and Libertarian ideals align, saying that “We, as Pagans, tend to profess acceptance (or at least tolerance) of individuality and lifestyles that we may not subscribe to” and “Paganism tends to embrace and defend many sub-cultures that have been marginalized by (dare I say it?) mainstream thought.” There has long been a trend toward small-l libertarian values among more conservative Pagans, many of whom are uninterested in fighting the Christian-fueled “culture wars,” but are interested in fiscally conservative ideas and a less interventionist foreign policy. Indeed, Republican New York congressional candidate Dan Halloran, now well-known for his Heathen faith, is also seeking to run on the Libertarian ticket, a gambit that benefited him when he won a seat on New York’s City Council.
Just as the Green Party has drawn progressives unhappy with the Democratic Party, the Libertarian Party seems to be a haven for conservatives that couldn’t find room inside the Republican Party’s “big tent.” These ”Ron Paul Republicans” are finding Johnson to be an alternative who speaks to their values.
“[State representative candidate Kevin] Kervick, a Republican, publicly endorsed Johnson on Wednesday, saying he thinks the country is “broken,” and he doesn’t see the national Republican or Democratic parties doing anything to fix it. He said he still supports Republican candidates for governor and other state offices, but can’t bring himself to endorse Romney.”
For many, including Schulz, Johnson is the inclusive, socially “cool,” conservative voice they have been waiting for.
“There were no questions about religion and there never is with the Johnson campaign. They don’t care about your religion or how your religion reflects on them, they care about how well you can do your job.”
For those in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the Johnson event starts tomorrow (Friday) at 12:30 CDT. Organized by the Macalester Young Americans for Liberty. You can get the details, here.
[This article is the first in a series exploring how modern Pagans are interacting with the presidential race. Are you a Pagan who is volunteering with the Democratic, Republican, or Green Party? Drop me a line, and you may be quoted in a future installment!]