In a recent Monmouth University poll that asked people who'd they vote for in a three-way race among Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and the Libertarian Party (LP) candidate from 2012, 11 percent said they'd flip the switch for Gary Johnson (42 percent went for Clinton and 34 percent for Trump).
That poll might have been a fluke—or it might just demonstrate the depth of anti-Clinton and anti-Trump sentiments. But Gary Johnson, who served two terms as the Republican governor of New Mexico, also got 1.2 million votes (around 1 percent of the total) in the last presidential race.
He's well-spoken, has a track record, and an interesting life story. Among other highlights, he's climbed the highest peak on seven continents, does long-form triathlons, and is refreshingly open about his pot smoking; he's about the only baby boomer I'd ever vote for.
In a new Daily Beast column, I argue that Johnson may also be the only thing between us and a real-life reenactment of the infamous 2004 South Park episode, "Douche and Turd," in which the show's kids are forced to pick between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich as a new school mascot.
Johnson has his problems, to be sure. As John Stossel has noted, he can be, well, a little sleepy, "as if he is high on weed." On his eponymous Fox Business show last week, Stossel aired the first half of a Libertarian Party candidates' debate, in which Johnson squared off against anti-virus software guru and man-of-international-intrigue John McAfee and activist Austin Petersen. The gov basically finished third, and stumbled with answers to questions like the old chestnut, "Should a Jewish baker be forced to bake a Nazi wedding cake?" Earlier this year, when announcing his run for the LP nom, he told Reason he would ban the burqa and other Islamic face coverings before quickly walking it back. Derp.
And yet…I followed him around the campaign trail in 2012 and even saw him bring a crowd of 500 or so at the University of Cincinnati to their feet near the end of the election season. When he's on, he can sell the libertarian alternative like few others. I'm not a member of the LP, though I've voted for its candidate in every presidential election since 1988. Here's some free advice from an interested observer (and needless to say, my views don't represent those of Reason Foundation or any other writers who appear at Reason.com):
This much seems certain: The Libertarian Party will go the farthest in 2016 with Gary Johnson at the top of its ticket. If this is the winter of our electoral discontent, American voters still aren't so pissed off that novices such as McAfee, whose gnomic invocations of libertarian dogma and piercing eyes can be quite beguiling, or Petersen, no matter how much "pussy" he's swimming in, are capable of reaching anything like the 11 percent that Johnson has already registered.
The LP meets in Orlando in May to pick its presidential candidate and, even assuming Johnson regains the form that earned him 1.2 million votes in 2012, there's still a non-trivial chance that the party faithful may dump him in favor of somebody less capable. In the past, after all, the LP has chosen candidates who eschew driver's licenses and any possibility of electoral success.
But if the party does back Johnson, and he does get his act together, and Hillary and The Donald go after each other like Adams and Jefferson once did…well, let's just say it will be the most entertaining election this side of South Park. Except that this time, there will be an actual third choice that might actually represent the plurality of American voters who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
The second half of the Stossel debate with Johnson, McAfee, and Petersen airs this Friday at 9 P.M. Eastern time. Check out highlights from the first part here.
Reason TV caught up with Johnson last summer at FreedomFest, the annual mega-meeting of libertarians in Vegas. Watch that convo now: