Libertarian Gary Johnson Thinks Millennials Need Him

Johnson hopes for an electorate eager to be left alone and to turn around a debt-riddled government.


"Millennials….may be especially ready to become engaged in politics with a candidate who wants to give them a government that will leave them alone and get its finances in order so that they don't inherit an economic collapse," suggested Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson in an op-ed published on CNN's website today.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Johnson went on to hit foreign policy: "All Americans who are rightfully and deeply concerned that a feckless foreign policy is allowing the likes of ISIS to not only threaten our safety, but humiliate us, may be ready for a candidate who will pursue reality-based foreign and military policies that actually fulfill government's most basic responsibility to keep us—and our freedoms—safe."

That's the kind of statement that might rub strong libertarian non-interventionists the wrong way, though it's ambiguous: is he implying that our past reckless interventions created the conditions for ISIS to exist? Or that a President Johnson would somehow, like Trump, destroy ISIS?

With enough context from other foreign policy statements from the candidate and his campaign, my interpretation leans toward the latter, but non-interventionist foreign policy is by no means internalized by most Americans and requires more context than an op-ed's space provides for clarity.

The rest of the op-ed does an engaging job doing what I guess most people think a presidential candidate has to do—to sell his personal story as an estimable and admirable person, stressing his business acumen, his athleticism and his record as governor of New Mexico, of which he concludes:

I did what I said I would do. I told people the truth, and I tried to run the state the same way I ran my business, and my life: Don't promise what you can't deliver. Deliver what you can on time and under budget. And most of all, don't waste anyone's time or money. I vetoed bills we didn't need nor couldn't afford—750 of them.

Johnson continues to otherwise get more earned media than any other Libertarian Party presidential candidate has in the first 11 days since cinching the Party's nomination at its convention in Orlando. Some examples:

• The Atlantic notes the numerical milestone of 2 to 3 million people likely reached via Johnson and his running mate former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld being on The Colbert Show last night, blogged earlier today by Nick Gillespie.

Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight delivers a long "color" piece reported from the Orlando convention, correctly noting that Johnson's national general election campaign can't be just about appealing to self-conscious libertarians: 

belonging to the Libertarian Party, identifying as a libertarian and being open to libertarian ideas are different things. Johnson is hoping to make inroads with the latter two groups. The shorthand pitch is social liberalism, fiscal conservatism — supporting the legalization of marijuana, the elimination of the IRS, abortion rights, and a balanced budget through cuts to entitlements and military spending.

• MTV News—that's big with the kids, right?—profiles Johnson, notes his relative normality compared to his competitors for the L.P. crown, and suggests he won't have much luck appealing to social conservatives turned off by Donald Trump.

• National Journal's profile stresses his attempt to reach out to disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporters, a part of Johnson's appeal I reported on last month.

•  David Weigel at Washington Post sums up an intra-Libertarian tempest-in-teapot over Gary Johnson having tossed a replica pistol gifted him as a show of sincere support by runner-up Austin Petersen. Johnson says he felt Petersen's profession of support was hypocritical, given that Petersen went on to do his best to make sure that Johnson's preferred vice presidential pick William Weld did not get the nod. Petersen for his part believes that support of Johnson as a candidate did not dictate handing over the Party's power and right to pick its own vice president, one with what Petersen considers real libertarian bona fides, unlike Weld.

Blast from 2011 Reason TV video about Johnson and the Left: Gary Meets Occupy Wall Street: