Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Libertarian Alternative, Gary Johnson

The Libertarian Alternative, Gary Johnson

Before he spoke at the Lincoln Initiative’s Reboot Conference on Thursday, I sat down with Johnson and asked him what the chances are that he could win. “They exist,” he answered, and that is a game change. Johnson was the Libertarian nominee in 2012 and garnered 1.2 million votes, or just under 1 percent of the vote. His name did not appear on any national polls. In 2016, that has changed. Johnson polled with 10 percent support in two recent national polls included in the RealClearPolitics polling average, which computes his support at 7.9 percent.

Third-party candidates need to exhibit 15 percent or more support in five national polls to win a seat at the national presidential debates. Johnson thinks his ticket will exceed that threshold. If the American people have a chance to hear what Johnson and Weld have to say, their smaller-government approach could resonate with middle-of-the-road voters. Johnson urges people who are interested in his candidacy to take the iSideWith quiz that asks voters their positions on domestic and national security issues and then matches them up with presidential candidates. I tried it and found I side with Johnson on 94 percent of issues — whereas with Trump it’s 81 percent of the time and with Clinton it’s 67 percent.

Most Republican candidates give lip service to fiscal restraint, without offering specifics about which spending they would cut. When I interviewed him in 2011, Johnson boasted about his record number of vetoes and asserted that he could have cut “a third of state government and no one would have noticed the difference.” If he could wave a magic wand, Johnson told me Thursday, he “would abolish the Department of Education.” He also would abolish the Department of Housing and Urban Development because local governments should choose what works for them. But he doesn’t have a magic wand, so if elected, he’d have to work with the government as it exists. He said he will propose a 20 percent cut in spending. If Congress were to give him legislation that would cut spending less than he asked, well, anything under zero percent growth presents a drastic improvement over past practices.

Clinton is vulnerable, Johnson believes, because with her, “government’s the solution to everything. Everything’s free, so taxes are going to go up.” The former governor of a border state, Johnson has been appalled at Trump’s characterization of undocumented immigrants as rapists and other types of criminals.