Both major party nominees boast unusually high unfavorable perceptions among general election voters, and that has the Libertarian nominee for president eyeing his chance for fame — even inclusion in the presidential debates.
Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, ran for the GOP nod in 2012, but when he gained zero traction among conservatives he bailed on the party and became the Libertarian nominee for president. Johnson’s 2012 bid was such a non-factor that there is scant evidence of his mark on any phase of the battle between President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
From immigration to life, from the growth of government to marriage, Gary Johnson is no conservative.
But with both Trump and Clinton taking the mantle of their party after bruising primary slogs, and a few lingering Trump naysayers still pounding the drum for a third-party option, Johnson is getting more attention than usual for a Libertarian candidate.
A May 18 Fox News poll found Johnson notching 10 percent support nationwide, and a May 24 Morning Consult poll also found the Libertarian nominee, usually statistically irrelevant, sitting at 10 percent. Both polls indicated Johnson was pulling from both Clinton and Trump, drawing in disaffected liberals and conservatives alike.
If Johnson could climb just 5 points higher, and maintain 15 percent support in several summer polls, he may even qualify for the official presidential debates in the fall, giving him a massive platform to poach voters from whichever candidate he feels an easier target.
But for the conservatives who may consider him, aside the obvious impact of essentially casting a vote for Clinton if they sidestep Trump to vote Johnson, they will be lending their support to a record of statements, positions, and policies that are markedly anti-conservative.
For starters, Johnson had a terrible record on spending and the growth of government as governor. When Johnson took the governor’s mansion in Sante Fe in 1995, the annual state budget was $4.397 billion. By his departure in 2003, the state budget had ballooned 176 percent to $7.721 billion.
Social conservatives, especially those who are skeptical of Trump’s pro-life conversion, should take time to review Johnson’s fairly forward pro-choice position.
Asked by moderator Shannon Bream about his refusal to identify as pro-life during a May 2011 Fox News GOP primary debate in South Carolina, Johnson waffled.
“I support a woman’s right to choose up until viability of the fetus,” Johnson said, going on to point out he “really didn’t get” the pro-life vote in his first primary for New Mexico governor.
Johnson reaffirmed this in a June 2011 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, stating “fundamentally this is a choice that a woman should have.”
More recently, Johnson lampooned Trump in his acceptance speech for the Libertarian nomination. Johnson slammed Trump’s call for a lawful system of immigration, calling Trump’s proposal for the wall and deportations “ridiculous” and Trump’s rhetoric “racist.”
Reminiscent of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s “act of love” line, Johnson said Tuesday in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo that illegal immigrants crossing the border “just want jobs.” Johnson went on to say the government should make it easier for illegals to find work in the United States.
But even Johnson’s liberal bent on the issues pales in comparison to the record of his already-announced running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
During Weld’s first campaign for governor, he called for a statewide assault weapons ban, proposed mandatory wait periods for handgun purchases, and even restrictions on the number of guns an individual could purchase, according to a 1990 report from The New York Times.
Weld said Obama had a “first-class political temperament,” and called him a “once-in-a-lifetime talent.”
In 1994 Weld encouraged the Environmental Protection Agency to mandate 2 percent of all American manufactured cars be electric. But the crown jewel for Weld’s liberal history is his glowing 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama. “It’s not often you get a guy with his combination of qualities,” Weld said in his written statement in October 2008.
In a follow-up interview on the endorsement with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Weld said Obama had a “first-class political temperament,” and called him a “once-in-a-lifetime talent.” Asked by Matthews which Obama policy positions made Weld confident in his pick, the former governor pointed to energy.
I’ve gone deeply into his energy policies,” Weld said. “His platform is outstanding.”
Voters, particularly in the hard-hit coal producing region of Appalachia, need little reminder that Obama’s administration has been the most radically environmentalist, anti-energy in history.
The choice of Weld as a running mate, combined with his own past liberal tendencies, should give pause to Trump-skeptic conservatives considering the Libertarian nominees. From immigration to life, from the growth of government to marriage, Johnson is no conservative and no viable option for a Trump skeptic looking for a principled vote.
In fact, liberals dismayed with Clinton’s problematic pattern of ethical problems, hawkish tendencies, and Wall Street coziness should be the voters who should take a good hard look at Johnson and Weld. A vote for the Libertarian nominees may more easily pass the smell test for progressives, liberals, and socialists than it would for conservatives.