Gary Johnson Finding Not-So-Strange New Respect

Over at Andrew Sullivan's blog at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf says that libertarianish (but not, please, libertarian!) GOP presidential would-be Gary Johnson deserves to hit the big time. Why?

Imagine a successful two-term Republican governor with a credible small government record, a demonstrated commitment to civil liberties, skepticism about foreign wars, a longstanding determination to right America's fiscal ship, evidence of competent management skills in the public and private sectors, and an utter lack of ugly populist rhetoric during the whole of his substantial time in public life. You'd think he'd be a God send for tea partiers and civil libertarians, a possibility to win the GOP nomination in 2012, and an appealing alternative for those of us who think that given a sane alternative Barack Obama doesn't deserve another term....

Tell a savvy politico that you'd love to see former Governor Johnson win the Republican nomination and they'll tell you the same thing, usually in a condescending tone: he doesn't have a chance. It's a dynamic I might accept if the GOP field were filled with excellent options. As things are, however, there's talk of Mitt Romney reappearing in a guise that has yet to be determined, a new xenophobic version of Newt Gingrich advancing the notion that Saudi Arabia and its treatment of religious freedom should inform attitudes toward religious freedom in America, and Sarah Palin, whose crowning achievement as governor of Alaska was... well, never mind that, she's a cultural phenom and really connects with the base!!

Here's the thing about politicians and their initial rise to national attention: it's often a phenomenon driven by elites. Sometimes promising young leaders are given a speaking slot at a political convention, like Barack Obama. Other times it's taste-makers in coastal media who launch a pol from obscurity: take Bill Kristol's role in the rise of Sarah Palin, who he championed after meeting her on a luxury cruise to Alaska. There isn't anything wrong with elites alerting the wider public to a deserving candidate. What I object to are the judgments about who is worthy of that boost.

One hopes--perhaps against hope--that eventually a candidate decidedly rejected by those elites--as Johnson surely will be--can reach the voter through all those means of reaching voters that those elites can't control. I'm not betting the nation's future on it though.

Freidersdorf says something nice, but a little curious, about Reason, where we write frequently about Johnson:

Either the elites on the right should start alerting us to worthier leaders, or else the GOP rank-and-file should start looking elsewhere for inspiration. (Being a Gary Johnson partisan, I'd suggest Reason magazine, where writers seem more interested in advancing the careers of people who share their professed beliefs, as opposed to helping ciphers who'll advance their agenda out of a combination of policy ignorance, malleability, and personal indebtedness.)

Do look to us, GOP rank-and-file, but don't expect any "advancing the careers" of any politicians per se--just coverage and commentary that takes seriously the notion that that government is best which governs least, and that the governing styles and decisions of both Republicans and Democrats have been a disaster for American liberty and America's future.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • SIV||

    His pro-choice stance dooms any hope of a GOP nomination.

  • ||

    He can probably finesse that. He can honestly say that he thinks abortion ought to be left up to the states and is not a right protected by the Constitution even though he thinks it should be legal. That would get him a pass from the pro life folks.

    His immigration positions in contrast, probably will kill him.

  • SIV||

    I think he already blew the abortion finesse.He's too stupid (politically) to get the GOP nod.

  • ||

    Too stupid to get the GOP nod? Then how did McCain and Palin get it? You don't have to be very bright to get the GOP nod or the Democratic nod for that matter.

  • ||

    There is a qualifier in SIV's statement.

  • SIV||

    the parentheses should be a clue to the slow

  • AlanS||

    Qualifier not withstanding, how did McCain get the nod? "100 years in Iraq" and "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" And McCain was hardly a closed borders fanatic either.

  • ||

    McCain got the nod because he was the next in line.

    The GOP really, really, really likes nominating the person whose turn it is.

  • ||

    Bob Dole agrees!

  • ||

    Dole is the only republican for president i ever voted for...

    sad face =(

  • ||

    Bob Dole thanks you!

  • ||

    George W. Bush in 2000 was the least "dynastic" next-in-line nominee for the Republicans since Goldwater.

    2008 - McCain, second place last time
    2004 - GWB, sitting Prez
    2000 - GWB, governor of largest Rep state, son of Prez
    1996 - Dole, second place last seriously contested primary (1988), former VP
    1992 - GHWB, sitting Prez
    1988 - GHWB, sitting VP
    1984 - Reagan, sitting Prez
    1980 - Reagan, second place last time, governor of largest state
    1976 - Ford, sitting Prez
    1972 - Nixon, sitting Prez
    1968 - Nixon, previous nominee, previous VP

  • ||

    That's largely a function of the GOP dominating the presidency for so much of the time since 1968. The Dems only held the presidency for 12 of those 40 years.

    Though I think the Republican primary structure of "winner take all" also has something to do with it.

  • ||

    The Dems only had a sitting president or VP to run in 4 of those elections, and they ran that person every time. (Humphrey, Gore, Carter, Clinton)

    Whereas the Republicans had a sitting Prez or VP to run 7 times, and only ran 6 of them.

  • ||

    Yes, but in the non-sitting Prez or VP elections, the Republicans have been more likely to run the guy who finished second in the primary last time out.

  • ||

    how did McCain get the nod?

    McCain was expendable. The Powers that Be in the big-government faction of the Republican party knew that whoever they nominated this time was going to be road kill, so they tossed it to the geezer.

    -jcr

  • ||

    McCain strikes me as a pretty poor political campaigner, and who really wanted to be the GOP candidate in 2008? Very hard election to win.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    His only shot would have been if he had come out against TARP and any other bailouts. Instead he helped to push it through.

  • ||

    Well, put yourself in his shoes: you're extremely likely to lose the election. Do you want to piss off the paymasters?

    -jcr

  • CE||

    Yeah, because beating a freshman Senator who wants to expand the government is too tall an order for the Republicans to figure out.

  • Sam Grove||

    You don't have to be very bright to get the GOP nod

    I thought that was a requirement.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Odd, I seem to remember that McCain was a driving force behind the immigration reform bill that would have given legal status, a lifetime visa, and social security numbers to every illegal immigrant in the country. You know, that bill... what did they call it... ah, yes, the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill.

  • The Gobbler||

    Be grateful half of that comedy team is dead.

  • ||

    Gary Johnson doesn't have a vagina. So Andy feels a lot less threatened by him.

  • ||

    That's, apparently, very true

    I consider Gary Johnson an exceptionally qualified politician for the times... His speeches to high-school kids on "Career Days" are, more often than not, electrifying by dint of their against-all-odds sanity. Which is why I hope this "freedom fest"-type boomlet, emanating from people who are better suited to debating the epistemological character of the Horta's attraction to pointed ears in ep. 25 (TOS), dies down, soon

  • jasno||

    But did he keep his johnson in his pants? Because, in America, how you use your johnson is more important than how smart you are, or your positions on current issues.

  • ||

    I am sure Andy is on the case to find out all about Johnson's Johnson. So don't worry.

  • RyanXXX||

    If Johnson and Paul both run in 2012, libertarianism (or at least classical liberalism) will for the first time in decades get a voice on the national stage.

  • The Gobbler||

    Paul has stated very clearly that he is not a Libertarian. IIRC, he claims to be a Constitutional Conservative.

  • Subsidize Me!||

    Rand, yes; Ron... well, there are decades of his statements to parse.

  • RyanXXX||

    Paul the elder RAN as a libertarian, friendo. His philosophy is best summed up by an Anderson Cooper interview where he was asked "Are you a republican or a libertarian?" and he answered "yes".

  • Yonemoto||

    seriously? Wow. I have a lot more respect for the guy. Libertarian AND a binary logic pedant!

  • ||

    I think Johnson has a reasonable chance as a dark horse, though he'll have to get past a few issues in the primaries.

  • Apologetic California||

    I really don't get this phenomenon of libtards telling the center right people what to do. Conor Cocksucker needs to go tell Obama what to do.

  • The Gobbler||

    "Do look to us, GOP rank-and-file, but don't expect any "advancing the careers" of any politicians per se"

    I believe John McCain would agree.

  • The Ron Paul Treason Report||

    Reason magazine, where writers seem more interested in advancing the careers of people who share their professed beliefs

    Riiiiiiiiiiggggghhhhhhhttttt.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Yeah, remember how most of reason's writers didn't vote for/advocate Obama?

    Oh, wait.

  • ||

    If i recall there was a pretty good 3 way split between McCain, Obama, and Barr....with a not so bad showing of the "Don't vote" crowd.

    Reason's voteing record is to much of a mixed bag for your sarcasm to sting.

  • Bo||

    Can you imagine the aneurism the left of center mass media will have about his "unsafe for children" approach to drugs?

  • ||

    Reason magazine, where writers seem more interested in advancing the careers of people who share their professed beliefs, as opposed to helping ciphers who'll advance their agenda out of a combination of policy ignorance, malleability, and personal indebtedness.

    That's *good*, right?

  • creech||

    Johnson is far more experienced than the current president. He grew a construction business from nothing to 1,000 employees in a twenty year period. He then served eight years as governor of a state which is on the front-lines of immigration policy.
    He needs to acquire some foreign policy credentials - maybe visiting a couple of dozen countries on trade missions for the U.S. Chamber or something, where he gets to meet foreign leaders and line up reciprocal trade that adds jobs in America.

  • robc||

    He can see Mexico from his state.

    BTW, why did Palin mention Russia but not Canada? Did she forget that America's hat was a foreign land?

  • ex-pat Canuck||

    Only Canadians who work for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) think Canada is a foreign land. Most U.S. citizens don't even know that Canada exists, I mean c'mon event the weather maps on TV stop at the border.. there's nothin' there!

    And Canadians who retire (and most Canadians who can afford to retire have been government employees - so think pension) mostly move to Florida or Arizona as soon as they can.

    Besides nobody believes Canada isn't already part of Alaska... 'cause other than a couple of border crossings with appropriate flags in the middle of nowhere, ya can't tell where Alaska or Canada begins or ends.

  • DanD||

    ...the governing styles and decisions of both Republicans and Democrats have been a disaster for American liberty and America's future.

    Waaaaaaait a minute.

    I thought you guys were Republicans?!

  • Pants-Wetting Paranoid Center||

    GARY JOHNSON!!!!!????? He doesn't think seatbelts should be mandatory!!!!!!

    I'M WETTING MY PANTS!!!!!!!!!!

  • ||

    Whatever you do, save the remaining sterile fluids and sell that on the Internet, because the synthetic stuff is, purportedly, being detected in some quarters

  • ||

    Your right to turn your body into a deadly projectile ends at my nose.

    Do you have any idea how many people were killed by bodies flying out of auto accidents?

  • RyanXXX||

    I'm guessing not that many, actually

  • Brett L||

    So, repuditate the Libertarian label, get strange new respect from people at The Atlantic. Hmm.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    As a New Mexican who enjoyed Johnson's governorship and who has met the man a couple of times I would very much endorse him in a presidential run. I do not think the base will like him much, however. He is too Libertarian.

  • ||

    Being a Gary Johnson partisan, I'd suggest Reason magazine, where writers seem more interested in advancing the careers of people who share their professed beliefs

    Well...yeah you guys do promote those who fight for liberty, but come on let us be honest...if one wanted to become a break out candidate (with elites fighting you or anyone fighting you) reason is not the place to go.

    I love you guys...but i have more faith in the Libertarian party in getting someone elected then i do in Reason.

  • Gene Berkman||

    Gary Johnson has been active campaigning in California for the initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana - Proposition 19.

    More information on Proposition 19 @ http://www.taxcannabis.org/

  • nil||

    Newt Gingrich: We believe in nothing, Gary. Nothing. And tomorrow we come back and we cut off your chonson.
    Gary Johnson: Excuse me?
    Newt Gingrich: I said
    [shouting]
    Newt Gingrich: We'll cut off your johnson!
    Mitt Romney: Just think about that, Gary.
    Newt Gingrich: Yeah, your wiggly penis, Gary.
    Mike Huckabee: Yeah and maybe we stomp on it and squoosh it, Gary.

  • ||

    That the writer never mentions Mitch Daniels shows that he is a JournoList style hack who's trying to set up the field that best serves the Democrats. Not that I don't completely want Johnson to win the nomination.

  • Robert||

    How did those elites get to be elites?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement