EXCLUSIVE: Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson: I Hope to Be a Presidential Election Spoiler

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: August 29, 2012 3:55 AM
Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson at the Paul Festival | Photo: Jaime Roocke-Sherman - roocke.com

“I think I’m the next president of the United States, based on the 1.9 million people who have taken the test at isidewith.com.  And interestingly, I side with more Floridians and Texans than any other state.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is not very well known outside of his home state, but over the next couple of months the Libertarian Party presidential candidate hopes to send a strong message to the nation’s political establishment by siphoning enough votes away from Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney to throw off the November general election.

“I hope that I would get labeled as a ‘spoiler’ from the standpoint of people actually focusing on what it is I am saying, and that this changes the way whoever wins governs,” Johnson told Sunshine State News in an exclusive interview Saturday at the 2012 Ron Paul Festival.

Johnson’s Saturday address at the three-day pow-wow, sponsored by his newly adopted political party, was one of the gathering’s major highlights, as he worked a standing-room-only crowd of thousands of disaffected conservatives and libertarians to a fever pitch while knocking off the various planks of his presidential platform.

“Libertarians are fiscally responsible and socially accepting, and I think most people in this country fall into that category,” he tells Sunshine State News. “Libertarians are going to be real good on civil liberties and are going to be dogged on balancing the budget.”

Johnson rejects conventional wisdom that says his candidacy will necessarily tip the election, if at all, in favor of the Democratic ticket.  “This question has been put to a test through polling,” he says, “There’ve been four states [so polled]: in two states I take more votes from Romney; but in two other states, New Mexico and Colorado, I take more from Obama.”

Johnson’s appeal to the American center-left is readily understandable when one considers his stance toward some of the issues most contentious even within the so-called “liberty movement.” Abortion is one example. “I fundamentally support a woman’s right to choose,” he declares. “My own personal beliefs on this issue mirror the law of the land. The law is that the woman has the right to choose [abortion] until the fetus is viable, when it is possible to sustain the life of the fetus outside the womb, even by artificial means. This was my own personal position even before I understood the law on the issue. My own personal position on the issue and the law of the land are the same.”

Still, Johnson insists that his political stance on the matter is virtually identical with that of the staunchly pro-life Ron Paul. “I would appoint Supreme Court justices based on their commitment to interpreting the constitution on the basis of original intent,” he explains. “That needs to be the fundamental criterion for a Supreme Court justice. Though I would not ask them their opinion on Roe v. Wade [the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which declared abortion a constitutional right], it is my understanding that, based on that criterion, that Supreme Court justices would in fact overturn it,” thereby rendering abortion a subject for each individual state to legislate on.

But when it comes to homosexual marriage, the Libertarian candidate differs sharply from the Texas congressman. Paul believes the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of defining or regulating marriage at all – indeed, he believes state governments shouldn’t be doing so either, but that they should limit themselves to enforcing contracts, while leaving it to individuals or their voluntary associations (e.g., churches) to define marriage however they please.

Johnson, instead, insists that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to have their relationships recognized as marriages by state governments, and believes the federal government has authority under the 14th Amendment to impose recognition of homosexual marriages on each state. His position on the matter arguably puts him to the left of President Obama and the Democratic Party.

“I would like to draw a parallel with the civil rights movement of the 1960s; if it were left to the states, would we have segregation today?” he asks. “Perhaps.”

Johnson is also campaigning on a much less bellicose foreign policy than either of the two mainline candidates. He would withdraw all of America’s troops from their present military engagements; reduce U.S. military presence in Europe, South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere; and reduce the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal from 2300 to 500.

Asked what his policy would be regarding the Middle East specifically, he is emphatic: “We don’t bomb Iran.”

“Here’s what happens when we bomb Iran: we’re going to make 100 million enemies in this country that we did not otherwise have, and we’re going to find ourselves in a two-year bombing-maintenance program,” he elaborates. “We do need to be vigilant against any threats. But we didn’t bomb Russia when they were developing nuclear weapons. We didn’t bomb Pakistan. We didn’t bomb India. We didn’t bomb China; we opened up trade with China! How did that work out? I don’t think China is a threat to us; they’re re our trading partner. Why can’t we apply those same principles to Iran?”

Johnson is no leftist, and he hopes other aspects of his reputation and political platform will attract Romney supporters, most especially his fiscally hawkish economic proposals, which would balance the federal budget within the first year of his presidency.

“I’m promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013, which would contain a 43 percent reduction in overall spending. [That] takes us back to 2003 spending levels, so it’s not the end of the world,” he says. “The end of the world in my opinion is continuing to borrow and print money to the tune of 43 cents for every dollar. Doing this is unsustainable and we’re going to find ourselves without a country if we continue on this path of unsustainable debt.”

His immigration policy is not unrelated to his economic. “I believe we should make it as easy as possible for someone who wants to come into this country to work to get a work visa – not a green card, not citizenship, but a work visa – and that would entail a background check and a social security card so that applicable taxes would get paid.”

But, he’s quick to add, he wishes to abolish both the IRS and the income tax. “I support the Fair Tax, a single federal consumption [i.e., sales] tax; if we implement that, taxes would not be an issue at all [for legal or illegal immigrants].”

He also supports free trade. "When we talk about the tariffs that may get applied to us [by our government] who ends up paying for that? You and I do. But if we get goods and servies subsidized by another country, which then get sent to us, who ends up benefiting from that in a free market system? We do. Let's buy as much of it as we can; its being given to us at a discount that’s artificially created. It will fix itself."

In an appeal to voters who might otherwise be inclined to support the similarly liberty-minded Constitution Party instead of his Libertarian ticket, he points to the widely reported expectancy that his Libertarians will be the only 3rd-party to have ballot access in all 50 of the United States.

“I’m not sure of how many states the Constitution Party will appear on the ballot, but I’m going to guess it will be a maximum of about 20 or so,” he explains, recalling numbers reported by various news outlets and by the Constitution Party itself. “My understanding is that the [left-wing] Green Party is going to come the closest to the Libertarian Party in that they are going to be on the ballot in a maximum of 30 states, so there is no other 3rd-party that is going to come to close to a 50 state ballot access.”

“We still have some states to go,” he admits, “but we’ve already overcome the worst states. It is an ongoing process. At this point we have twelve more to go, but we’ve already gotten through the hardest ones.”

Johnson’s appearance at the Ron Paul Festival was more than a little ironic, as he ran a statistically underwhelming campaign against Paul in the latest Republican primary, before dropping out of that race to join up with the Libertarians. He was effusive with praise for his former rival in his speech before festival attendees.

“If I thought back in December Ron Paul was going to be the nominee, I would not be sitting here right now,” Johnson says.

When asked why, if he so respected the libertarian hero in whose honor the festival was being held, he ran against him in the first place, he insists he did it to bring greater attention to the very ideas Paul has stood for his entire life.

“I thought it would be a lot harder for the media to marginalize two candidates saying the same thing, as opposed to just one,” he says. “I got completely marginalized, and I think Dr. Paul continued to be marginalized by Republicans.”

But the presidential longshot is quick to qualify his criticism. “I speak of the Republican establishment, not Republicans in general. I think the fastest growing segment of American politics today is those who would label themselves libertarian in some way, shape, or form.”

He shrugs his shoulders. “And those who control the Republicans, the establishment of the Republican Party, don’t want to have anything to do with Dr. Paul’s message.”

 Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

Comments (15)

1:06PM SEP 4TH 2012
Wrong...a vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Gary Johnson. He might not win this time around but if enough people vote and show support now then the 2016 election will be a different story.
Poppa Land
4:58PM SEP 1ST 2012
A vote for Gary Johnson is equal to a vote for Obama. Cannot stand another 4 years of Obama and his cronies. Differ for think there is an influence of very bright young folks that are taking back the Republician Party. I hope we do it this election, if not, hope we here again in 4 years and will see a strong 3rd party to recon with.
Poppa Land
4:58PM SEP 1ST 2012
A vote for Gary Johnson is equal to a vote for Obama. Cannot stand another 4 years of Obama and his cronies. Differ for think there is an influence of very bright young folks that are taking back the Republician Party. I hope we do it this election, if not, hope we here again in 4 years and will see a strong 3rd party to recon with.
11:20AM AUG 31ST 2012
4:16PM AUG 30TH 2012
I would love to see Gary win just to make sure we have non-partisan people put on the SCOTUS bench. Gary, I'm support you :)
6:56AM AUG 30TH 2012
If Obama gets elected because Johnson took votes from the Republican Party, he will go down in history as a traitor. Trust me, he isn't going to take one democratic vote
1:18PM SEP 2ND 2012
>he isn't going to take one democratic vote <

Registered Democrat here.
Sign me "Voting for Gary Johnson"

Romney and Obama are BOTH party puppets. They will say whatever it takes to get them in office and then turnaround and do whatever the party tells them to do.

Gary Johnson, on the other hand, has a brain.
4:18PM AUG 30TH 2012
A traitor???? Really? Me thinks YOU are the traitor here, acting like the only people who have a right to run for office are those in the GOP or Dem parties!
12:03PM AUG 30TH 2012
I voted for Obama and if voting today I'd go with Gary Johnson. So much for trusting you. Obama could still win my vote with a fix to the CSA. Romney will get my vote if I wake up tomorrow either completely ignorant, racist, or a 1%er bent on telling enough lies to fool all the ignorant racists I can.
6:26PM AUG 29TH 2012
Romney or Obama. Both will grow the National Debt. A vote for either is a waste. If either is elected, it will be 4 more years closer to national bankruptcy. So I plan on voting for Johnson regardless, at least I'll be able to sleep at night, knowing I voted my conscience.
3:15PM AUG 29TH 2012
Well, if he gets traction we will enjoy another 4 years of Obozo, probably even more!! Thanks Mr. Johnson for your selfishness, and increasing the likelihood that Obama stays in power What a travesty for our nation you may cause!!

1992 all over again. Very serious. Very sad.
5:22PM AUG 30TH 2012
What do you propose, Bill? That we vote for Flip Flomney, who is by most measures identical to Obozo? To do that would send the clear message to the GOP that we don't mind all the vote-stealing, rule-changing, my-way-or-the-highway tactics they've employed this primary season, and that we'll go along to get along. Not happening this time. This country needs a viable third party, the two party system no longer represents the electorate. It stands only to perpetuate itself. 4 more years of Obozo is only minutely more worrisome than a possible 8-years of Goldman Sach's pretty boy Romney.
2:18PM AUG 29TH 2012
The GOP thought they would cause us to go away. GARY JOHNSON 2012
Daniel Lewis
2:17PM AUG 29TH 2012
I plan on voting for my fellow Gary Johnson electors in November and then when Gary Johnson wins Tennessee, I will vote for him in January.
George Whitfield
4:52AM AUG 29TH 2012
Gary Johnson is now our clear choice to restore peace, prosperity and liberty to America.

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