Inside the Capitol

Sunday, May 06, 2012

5-9 Gary Johnson Deserves Attention

50912 Gary for pres

SANTA FE – Is Gary Johnson finally going to get some attention? The Republican establishment shut him out of the polls and debates last fall. Will being the nominee of the Libertarian Party make any difference now?
It's no slam dunk. Libertarians are seen as just short of weird. How can a political philosophy embrace both limited government and the legalization of pot? It's really quite simple but in our current world of bi-polar political beliefs, no one wants to listen.
Rep. Ron Paul tried to dish it out slowly and simply in the GOP debates but it was too bland as Republican leaders held their breath for fear the libertarian would say something that they would have to spend the next year defending.
Evidently Paul wanted to speak at this year's convention and the 2008 convention, but Republicans wouldn't hear of it. Johnson didn't get that far, being closed out of the polls and the debates.
The road to getting on stage with President Obama and Mitt Romney will be even tougher. The rules say Johnson must consistently be poling 15 percent and be on enough November state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning the presidency.
The ballot qualification isn't a problem. The Libertarian party usually gets itself on all 50 state ballots. But 15 percent in the polls would be a miracle. Johnson is at about half that right now and the trend for third-party candidates is downward as election day approaches.
Johnson does have some things going for him however. He's a former governor, which should increase his credibility. U.S. Rep. Bob Barr was the Libertarian candidate in 2008 and got only 0.4 percent of the vote but Barr was loose cannon in Congress and didn't bring much credibility with his candidacy.
Gov. Johnson should attract Tea Party support with his record of over 700 vetoes in eight years. One convention supporter bragged that Johnson vetoed more bills than Barry Bonds hit homeruns on steroids.
Johnson has respect within the Libertarian Party even though he is a late comer. He easily won on the first ballot with 70 percent of the vote. Four years ago, it took six ballots to choose a candidate.
Johnson could have had the nomination for the asking in 2000 when he was serving as governor and had just declared himself against the war on drugs. But Johnson hadn't set his eye on the presidential goal at the time.
I figured any politician, who planned to climb Mt. Everest as soon as his term was over, would set his sights on something like the presidency soon after. At the time, I wrote a column predicting that Johnson and Bill Richardson both would run for president in 2008. Johnson suggested I had been smoking something funny. Richardson offered me a job.
Johnson did the wise thing after winning his landslide nomination. He headed to New York, hoping on a slow news Sunday he could get some exposure. He has to hope he can be interesting enough to continue getting attention.
The Libertarian message is intriguing but few are ready to listen. They prefer to hear their candidates make mountains out of molehills from some off-hand remark made by an opposing candidate.
Libertarians, on the other hand, believe in the liberty of businesses and individuals to do what they desire without government intrusion. Democrats and Republicans believe that too except when they disagree with the issue. Then they want government to make the act illegal.
About the only places Johnson gets to talk that way is in speeches to the Johns Hopkins Center on advanced Governmental Studies and the University of California seminar on Liberty in Governance.
Johnson is doing a much better job of presenting himself. The groups of dozens or hundreds he has been speaking to the past year have helped him fine tune a message and its presentation. He deserves a chance to demonstrate those skills.


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