Gary Johnson’s 15 minutes of fame has finally arrived.
The former New Mexico governor and current Libertarian Party candidate for president is getting some attention by the national media as an alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Polls are showing, and have been for some time now, that the majority of Americans don’t like Clinton or Trump, and Johnson’s subtle but important rise in the polls suggests that he, more so than Green Party candidate Jill Stein, is a legitimate third choice.
Of course, whether he can turn his 15 minutes into a winnable race remains to be seen, but this much is certain—a lot of voters would love to vote for someone other than Clinton or Trump. That is Johnson’s opening.
Someone could make a lot of money in this campaign by printing and selling two yard signs, one saying, “Vote Trump: He’s not Clinton” and the other, “Vote Clinton: She’s not Trump,” since those seem to be the prevailing sentiments of the times. The days ahead will tell us if a third sign, “Vote Johnson, he’s neither,” would sell just as well.
I think Johnson represents what a lot of Americans believe. He’s a fiscal conservative and a social progressive, which a lot of people are these days. And during this time in which “establishment” candidates are frowned upon, his views are about as against-the-grain as they come:
• Johnson is advocating a consumption tax to replace most of the current tax code. He wants regulations that give businesses and entrepreneurs incentives, not hassles, for growing their enterprises and creating jobs.
• He advocates for congressional term limits and wants the all-out abolishment of the federal Department of Education.
• On foreign policy, he wants to bring more of our troops home and focus on better security in the U.S. And on immigration, he wants to “incentivize assimilation” with ways to encourage legal entries across our borders.
• As for civil liberties, he’s all about keeping government out of our private lives, and is pretty consistent in his views. He’s for same-sex marriage and is pro-choice. He’s for our right to bear arms, as long as other people don’t get hurt with them. And he advocates common-sense reforms to the criminal justice system, in part by putting an end to the war on drugs, with a particular emphasis on legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana.
That last issue might be a sticking point for a lot of people, not because of opposition to legalization—polls show a majority of Americans now favor full legalization—but because of his personal relationship with what is still classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic.
Johnson, who has working in the “budding” cannabis industry, is also an unabashed pot smoker. In June, he said he’d last smoked marijuana five weeks earlier, and when asked if he’d smoked it for medicinal reasons, he said nope, he’d done it recreationally.
Love or hate him, you gotta respect his honesty. Some would say that such honesty will be his undoing in this presidential election race, but it’s refreshing nonetheless to see a candidate with such candor.
Of course, he can counter the stereotype of pot users as underachievers with his own success story, as an athlete, businessman and governor in New Mexico, but I’m not sure that will be altogether effective. I can see the editorial cartoons now, depicting a stoner in the White House. The media will have a lot of fun with it, and I guess I’m already guilty of that myself; I just brought up “stoner”—and yet I like Johnson.
Not that I’ve decided to vote for him; I haven’t made up my mind yet (except for my steadfast antipathy for Trump). But I’ll certainly be writing more about him in the weeks ahead. I think he’s offering an alternative that’s worth serious consideration.
And if he manages to leverage his 15 minutes into “serious candidate” status, expect the spotlight to also turn to New Mexico, and that’ll make this race all the more exciting for us. That’ll be our 15 minutes of fame.
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.