Governor's Gary Johnson and Bill Weld put the Libertarian Party on the ballot in all 50 states in 2016, stirring the odds in perhaps the most extraordinary presidential race in history. If they capture at least 5% of the popular vote, the Libertarians will qualify for public funding in future races, and single-handedly create a 3-party system. Contributor DAVID BAUCOM chats with the candidate about pot, gays, online poker, and the future of liberalism in America.
Photograph: Johnson Weld 2016
He calls himself a "classical liberal" and feels the purpose of government is to "protect individuals, groups, corporations, even other countries from harm." He distinguishes his views from social conservatism by saying “Conservatives criminalize behaviors that run contrary to their own agenda.” He’s brings gays, pot, and online poker to the forefront of the 2016 presidential race and argues however simply that “government has no place in that equation."
His stand on Marriage Equality garnered him attention when he criticized a conservative-circulated marriage pledge as "un-American, intolerant and offensive,” and he doesn't simply take the standard counterpoint. Johnson calls for government to "get out of the marriage business altogether."
His divergence with typical Republicanism goes beyond social issues into the economic realm. "Although Republicans allegedly stand for lower taxes and greater freedom, for over half a century they’ve defined and conducted themselves in relation to Democrats—who have grown progressively socialistic. Republicans were once against an income tax, but then accepted it, and we got higher and higher rates. They were against Social Security, but then accepted and expanded that. They were against Medicare, but then embraced it. And they were against welfare, but accepted most of that.” So how much of a role has this Republican slide played in causing the current fiscal crisis? How much are they to blame?
Governor Gary Johnson believes that both parties are to blame. "When the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, they passed a prescription health care benefit (which at that time was the largest entitlement program ever passed) and ran up record deficits. So I see Republicans as part of the cause not the solution.” Johnson continues. “I was a Republican because I’ve always felt that Republicans did a better job when it comes to the checkbook, but, of late, I just see it as status-quo on both sides.”
Johnson advocates abolishing the IRS, throwing out existing tax code, and instituting the Fair Tax. For starters, it does away with a tax code so complex as to beguile average taxpayers. It also does away with the loopholes and unfairness inherent the monstrosity we have today.
"I’m promising to submit a balanced budget in 2017, and to veto any expenditures that exceed what I consider to be balanced. Congress can override that veto, and they probably will, but my promise is to submit a balanced budget.” It may all sound like political bluster, but Johnson has a proven record of integrity and results when it comes to the kind of radical steps he proposes. As governor of New Mexico, he vetoed more bills than the other 49 states' governors combined. In addition, he cut twelve hundred state job positions, reduced taxes, reformed Medicaid, promoted school vouchers, privatized prisons, and, most importantly, helped eliminate the state’s budget deficit.
There is no trace of power-lust in this guy, and Johnson recalls somewhat innocently, "I didn’t find government difficult. I found it easy; easy to stick by your principles. When you're not out to auger the left and right, to appease your base, office and power, the focus becomes the result. Principle driven politics is the only way to produce a result.”
Johnson admonishes the media for picking winners and losers, and examples run ad nauseam which manipulated polling statistics to exclude him from debates. But it's more than that. The media defines the public’s palate. Politicians merely pander to and insatiate their appetite.
More Americans are turning away from independent thought for simplistic labels and ideology. They don't want to think for themselves, but rather gravitate to and from false polarities. And they’re getting what they deserve: democratic liberals who believe government should solve everyone's problems through collective self-sacrifice. Americans seek the opiate of political demigods with shallow, albeit magnetic charisma; those who assuage their fears with emotionally driven messages rather than reason, independent thinking or honest diligence. In fact, the greatest American presidents were the least kingly: those of independent-thinking and accomplished, real-world results, all of whom most preferred their time out of political office. Americans, it now seems, want more of a king.
They want someone who will rise up and seize power and use it against all and everyone they’ve demonized as the source of problems in the world. Not a quietly self-assured sort who sees constitutional principles and American ideals as the real savior. Johnson says, “The best thing that I can do for society, the best thing I can do for my fellow human beings, is to be the best that I can be. There are only three fundamental ways to lead,” the governor contends. "The first is by example. The second by example. And the third and last is by example."
Amidst his hope and heartening rallies, Johnson's earnest, frustrated efforts have unfolded before us like a ballad capturing the disappointment and angst of a failing America. Not unlike our country's battle hymns to liberty and independence, this classical liberal’s intention to protect and defend Americana seems to grow ever more faint.
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