Gary Johnson

Listen to the Libertarians

Gary Johnson's refreshing perspective should be included in the presidential debates.

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The matchup between Hillary Clinton, one of the most uptight politicians ever, and Donald Trump, a loose-lipped lunatic who revels in saying whatever pops into his head, promises some entertaining presidential debates. But Americans who would like to see a clash of ideas as well as a clash of styles should hope the Libertarian nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, gets the poll numbers he needs to appear on the stage with Clinton and Trump.

Johnson, a triathlete and mountain climber who founded a successful construction business before getting into politics and recently left a job as CEO of a cannabis company, is highly disciplined yet easygoing in a way that neither Clinton nor Trump can pull off. More important, as he showed in a CNN town hall last week, he challenges voters to question their assumptions about which political positions go together.

Clinton wants to ban (at least some) guns but defends abortion rights, while Trump wants to ban abortion but defends gun rights. Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, want the government to respect abortion rights and gun rights.

"When it comes to choices in your own life," Johnson says, "you should be able to make those choices as long as you're not doing harm to others." That includes, for example, someone who "takes the edge off" at the end of the day with marijuana rather than alcohol. And when drug use causes problems, Johnson says, those are "health issues…not criminal justice issues."

The Libertarians' aversion to government meddling does not stop at the border. "We don't want to get involved in other countries' affairs," Johnson says. "We think that the interventions that have gone on have resulted in a less safe world."

Weld says he and Johnson would be "a pair of skeptics when people come and say, 'We should intervene here on the ground because these people are being mean to each other, and we can't stand that.'" He says arguments for war that are untethered to national security are "not going to sell as a matter of first impressions."

Clinton, by contrast, seems never to have met a military intervention she did not like. And while Trump says "we can't continue to be the policeman of the world," he nevertheless wants to boost military spending, which Johnson wants to cut.

At the same time, Clinton and Trump both view peaceful international exchanges with a suspicion the Libertarians do not share, seeing trade as something to be managed and massaged in the interest of fairness. Although "much of what goes on under the guise of free trade really is crony capitalism," Johnson says, the genuine article is mutually beneficial by definition. Weld is confident that "free trade is always going to benefit the United States."

The Libertarians' idea of free trade includes labor. While Trump wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico and promises to forcibly eject 11 million unauthorized immigrants, Johnson supports a liberalized work visa system that would facilitate rather than hinder the hiring of people from other countries.

Johnson thinks the same market forces that make international trade a win-win proposition can be used to improve education and health care, two parts of the economy that are dominated by government subsidies and regulations. Recognizing the distorting influence of the monstrous and mystifying Internal Revenue Code, he supports replacing the income tax with a national consumption tax.

Although many of these positions sound familiar, the Libertarian ticket is unique in espousing all of them, based on a consistent commitment to limited government and individual freedom. Johnson describes his message as "fiscally conservative" and "socially liberal," while Weld says "we want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom."

I'm not sure that's a winning combination, even in an election where the two major-party candidates are disliked by most voters. But it deserves a hearing.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Trump is quoting Ron Paul when he says we can’t be the “policeman of the world,” and as you show, not sincere. Ron Paul, of course, was quoting Martin Luther King. Trump is not the only one who has been coached in mimicking Ron Paul in hopes of getting the same ardent support. It’s just that when they try it we don’t believe them. Dr. Paul reported that a number of people kept asking him how he inspired support (he said it wasn’t him, it was the message), and those people have gone on to coach other politicians. I’ve even seen advertisors try to borrow the language. As soon as I hear a politician sound like Ron Paul, I question his sincerity. Ronald Reagan wasn’t the only one with good speech-writers.
    On the other hand, Gary Johnson actually has a record of balancing budgets, and vetoing bills that are too long and complicated, so there is hope.

    1. If a Paul or an Amash or a Massie isn’t on my ballot, I’m gonna write in Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson, like I have for the past 3 presidential elections.

      GayJay is not up to those standards. Not even close.

      1. With your standards it sounds like you’ll never vote for a living person again. Johnson isn’t perfect, but he’s an order of magnitude better than anyone else who will be on the ballot. And if he has some success that will show other, even better, libertarian candidates that the country really is moving in that direction.

      2. I’ll vote for Gary Johnson. He’s not nearly as libertarian as Ron Paul or Michael Badnarik, but he’s miles ahead of Trump or Clinton, and he could well have a chance to win if people give him a chance. It’s the same reason I voted for Ross Perot — he was no libertarian, but he was by far the best choice that had any kind of a chance.

  2. Johnson will not be included in the debates and that might be a good thing. His CNN performance was a disheveled mess and he seems to lack both charisma and the courage of his convictions. It was so bad it may have actually been counterproductive. He refuses to prep (if he actually did prep the guy who handled it should be fired) and he does a shabby job presenting himself and the libertarian philosophy and values. The two major party psychopaths would chew him up and spit him out like a stick of gum, a stammering and discombobulated stick of gum.

    1. That is a good thing for libertarians. I don’t want to be embarrassed by this guy. We don’t have much to worry about, he’s polling at 8%.

    2. Johnson isn’t a great debater, but just being on the stage with Trump and Clinton will legitimize him in the eyes of voters. He may not come across as presidential, but he’s well qualified, and not crazy or phony like the Demopublican choices.

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  4. Americans who would like to see a clash of ideas as well as a clash of styles

    Hen’s teeth.

  5. hope the Libertarian nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, gets the poll numbers he needs to appear on the stage with Clinton and Trump

    He needs to up his debate game a lot if he wants to avoid being eaten alive by Trump and Clinton. And that may not be a metaphor.

    1. He’s never going to debate Clinton or Trump. So it won’t happen.

      1. You mean Clinton and Trump will never debate him. Big difference.

      2. Yeah, getting from 10 percent to 15 percent is an insurmountable challenge when your opponents are hated and ridiculous.

  6. He is not my kind of libertarian.

  7. Absolutely. And Jill Stein as well.

    1. I’d love to see a 4-way debate. It would be interesting to see how Trump and Clinton respond to being simultaneously attacked from the progressive left POV and the libertarian POV. Actually, I know exactly how they’ll respond. They’ll ignore the points that Johnson and Stein make. They’ll attack Johnson and Stein as being “unserious” and “fringe”. And then they’ll repeat their frivolous talking-point rhetoric.

      1. Yeah, but maybe that would help wake up some of the general public.

        Oh, who am I kidding, we should all be ready to say “Hail Hydra”.

      2. I’m fine with Stein being included. A 1% debate threshold is fine for the primaries, why not the general election?

    2. I fully agree. I don’t agree with Everything Jill Stein says (68% according to isidewith; GayJay was 89%; the highest was Darryl Perry at 95%), but she too deserves to be included in the debates.

      Screw the Dem/Rep duopoly.

  8. *strolls into thread*

    Hey guys, what’s-

    *scans comments, about-faces, briskly walks away*

    1. Watch out for the screen door. It closes fast.

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  10. Getting reason to mention the words “Constitution Party” or “Darrell Castle” is going to be as difficult as getting Margaret Dumont to use the word “penis.”

  11. Well said. Johnson is a bit of a lackluster libertarian, but he is still miles better than Hillary and Trump, and certainly deserves to be in the debates.

  12. We should be hoping for the CPD to be abolished and for the League of Women Voters, or the networks, to take the debates back, and establish common sense inclusion criteria. If 1% is good enough in the primaries to exclude the whackos, 1% should be good enough in the general election. 11 candidates isn’t too many in the primaries, but 3 is too many in the general?

  13. We know that either Trump or Clinton will be the next president. The best we can hope for is to get the libertarian message out to the broadest number of people in a way that shows them that liberty is always the best route. Are Johnson/Weld the best guys for that job. Hell no. But they’re what we have and as such I will support them. They are hands down winners on the issues compared to the competition. They’re just not the best salesman.

    1. We don’t know that. No votes have been cast. Recent history shows that American voters are most likely to stay home on election day, and second most likely to elect a Republican or a Democrat, but Trump has never run against Clinton before. Anything can happen.

  14. “When it comes to choices in your own life,” Johnson says, “you should be able to make those choices as long as you’re not doing harm to others.””

    Abortion doesn’t fit this. You are harming someone else. In fact taking their life.

    1. Until the LAW (no you, me, or a physiology professor) decides when life starts . . . the woman carrying the “thing” should be able to make the call.

  15. Johnson’s perspective isn’t “refreshing” . . . it’s terrifying to big government zealots, and like particle physics to an ignorant electorate.

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  17. As far as I’m concerned, Gary Johnson forfeited his right to call himself a Libertarian when he endorsed keeping drugs other than marijuana illegal.

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