This is the second post in a 2 part-series of posts on #NeverTrump conservatives supporting Gary Johnson. Part 1 discusses common areas of disagreement between conservatives and Johnson.
There are some significant issues of disagreement between the typical #NeverTrump, Cruz/Rubio Conservative and Gary Johnson. So you have some contex for what I write: I am somewhere in between Cruz and Johnson personally, but even where I agree more with Johnson, I have a good understanding of where my more conservative friends are coming from. I do identify as a libertarian, but I voted for Cruz in the GOP primary after Rand Paul was out. So I’m not the type of libertarian who thinks the right is bigoted, hateful, or all that stuff. And despite his rhetoric and bizarre campaign strategy of targeting Bernie voters, neither is Gary Johnson.
Like many Tea party politicians, Gary got his start in politics straight from the private sector. Ignoring the “party elders” in New Mexico, he ran for the GOP nomination in 1994 against an establishment front-runner, and won. He then went on to defeat the incumbent Democratic governor by a 10-point margin, despite the fact that New Mexico was 2-1 Democrat.
To get a real feel for Gary Johnson, listen to this interview with Glenn Beck from last month. You’ll notice a couple of things – one, he’s not only saying free market things, he’s actually talking like a conservative. Even on social issues, his approach is (to paraphrase) “Glenn, you and I disagree on NC’s Bathroom law, but if I’m president that’ll be NC’s business, not mine. And I wouldn’t ever sign off on the Title 9 edict from the Obama administration.” He’s never contradicted this anywhere else, but he would also never say it and risk losing his beloved Bernie supporters. The other thing you’ll notice from the interview is how much more comfortable and charismatic he seems. He always sounds so awkward in mainstream media interviews, but here, speaking to his natural political allies, he sounds much more at home and confident. That’s why I believe this is the real Gary Johnson.
Size of Government
As governor of New Mexico, Johnson vetoed a combined 750 votes – more than the 49 other governors combined during the time. He eliminated the budget deficit and drastically cut the growth of government. What kinds of radical things would he do to save money at the federal level? First off, he would make it legal for states to declare bankruptcy and take federal bailouts completely off the table. Fiscally irresponsible states, like California, behave that way because they know that they can’t go bankrupt and that they will be bailed out. During his 2012 run, he even lamented that the rank and file tea partiers do not go far enough in their desire for spending cuts, and that most conservative Republicans still see entitlement spending as “off the table.” Personally, I’m ready for a candidate that doesn’t endlessly whine about “waste, fraud, and abuse” in an attempt to convince us that he knows how to fix those things and that they actually are costing more than an infinitesimal amount. We need someone who will get to the real problem with spending, which is entitlement spending.
Johnson is also aggressive when cutting discretionary spending. Unlike many other conservatives and libertarians, he doesn’t simply see cutting or not-cutting programs as a dichotomous choice. Johnson’s biggest strength is in achieving savings while still keeping the programs, and getting better results out of those programs. How did he do this? As you might expect from a businessman with a deep understanding of free market principles, he privatized them! He was able to save the state money by cutting prison costs from $75 per prisoner to $55, simply by outsourcing the management to private companies. Another major privatization move that Johnson sought to implement was school choice. Johnson’s plan would have gotten drastically better results for the same amount of money, and it would have been implemented in a way that nullifies the biggest liberal argument against it. I’ll go into more detail in a later post focused on this subject in particular. What’s his opinion on the Department of Education?
People also think the Department of Education was established under George Washington when it fact the federal Department of Education was established under Jimmy Carter. Tell me anything that’s been value added about the Department of Education since the Eighties.
Scope of Government
Johnson is by far the best candidate in the race to get our fiscal house in order. More importantly, he seems to share my belief that the current scope of government is a much bigger problem than the size of government. Johnson may not speak in Constitutional terms as much as Rand Paul or Ted Cruz, but he has stated his belief that the role of the federal government should be limited to the enumerated powers. More pragmatically, he supports states rights from the “laboratories of democracy” standpoint – the view that 50 different solutions to a problem is better than a one-size-fits all approach and that the states can learn from each other.
Deregulation and jobs is a top priority of Johnson. Much of his savings would be achieved through massive cuts to regulatory and administrative agencies, not the least of which is the IRS. Johnson would eliminate the IRS and implement the FairTax. Not only did Johnson oversee the most job growth of any governor running for president in 2012 (a field which included Texas’ Rick Perry), he did so in a state that, let’s be honest, is kind of an economic dump most of the time. I think this directly speaks to the policies he implemented (or more importantly, the ones he didn’t implement). I mean no offense to New Mexicans- but maybe if Gary hadn’t been term limited, New Mexico would be seeing the kind of GDP and household income growth that virtually every other sunbelt state has been able to enjoy. Of course, this wouldn’t happen as Gary is a supporter of term limits; especially for Congress. Large, intrusive government often results from people trying to maintain power, as well as their relationships with prominent lobbyists.
Gary Johnson’s support for tax reform is not just about jobs- it is philosophical. I think this is what’s most important. He sees the tax code as “a massive deployment of government force on our lives, our finances and our freedom.” Understanding that his underlying philosophy is about individual liberty should provide comfort to anyone who thinks advocacy for low tax, low regulation policies is situational.
There is no doubt – Gary will severely restrict the amount of government in your life. Or at least he’ll sign off on it. Listen to him in interviews and you’ll notice his answer is usually something to the effect of “well, I would like that, but the president doesn’t have that authority. I would encourage Congress to pass such a bill and I would sign it.” When was the last time you heard a president campaign in a way that recognizes separation of powers, let alone govern this way.
Johnson is heavily principle-focused – an attribute I often hear conservatives prioritize above most others (and rightfully so). In fact, his mandatory-pre-presidential-run-book is all about principles. Rather than each chapter being about personal stories or specific issues, each one is about a different principle. Within each chapter, he explains how that principle applies in his personal life, in his time as New Mexico governor, how it informs his beliefs, and how it would apply should he be elected.
I think there is a perception that Gary Johnson is more “libertine” than libertarian. It is true that his morality and foundational principles are not as conventional as most presidential candidates (or, more likely, he’s just more honest about them). He has used marijuana recently and he doesn’t really go to church. He believes in God and identifies as Christian. How many other Americans are in this place (maybe not the weed part)? Most people I know believe in God and call themselves Christian or Jewish, but don’t really attend religious services outside of Holidays. I’m not sure why we hold our candidates to a higher standard. What matters to me is that someone has good values. I know that my church teaches them, but I also can’t guarantee even someone who goes to my church actually accepts those values. Furthermore, I also know that those values can be learned in other places. Having read Gary’s book, I am convinced he is principle-centered and is a fundamentally honest person.
Johnson never once mentioned his opponent by name while running for governor, choosing instead to focus on his ideas and accomplishments. Granted, he has not signaled an intent to do this while running for president, and frankly, he shouldn’t. Nobody should run against Trump and Hillary and promise not to focus on their negative attributes. Just knowing that he has actually run a positive campaign and succeeded shows a lot about his principles and his unfailingly commitment to them, even though most other politicians would eventually break this promise with little consequence.
Nothing demonstrates his commitment more than his willingness to take unpopular stances and not back down. Seeing as I’m trying to convince conservatives with this article, it might be wise for me to refer back to the massive budget cuts that would likely be unpopular with the voting public. Maybe I could mention his support for raising the retirement age to 72. However, I think we all know that the most public example of this is his support for marijuana legalization. He was one of the first major political figures to openly advocate for legalization of pot, and it cost him politically. Even though his approval ratings tanked into the low 40’s, they had rebounded to 58% before leaving office. Some might say this is in spite of him not backing down on marijuana, but I would say it’s actually because he didn’t back down on something he believed in. He’s never caught with his pants down, figuratively or literally, because he straight up tells you the truth, and doesn’t care if it’s conventional. He’s the original honey badger.
I only touched on a handful of issues, and went into actual detail on a smaller handful. There’s a lot more to learn about Gary Johnson than had the space here to include. I encourage you to read his book, which was the source of most information I provided here (and I independently verified it from outside sources). Hopefully you have kindle reader, as it’s only $9.99 (or free with Kindle Unlimited). Apparently he didn’t have many copies printed since the cheapest hard copy available is $65 from third-party sellers. It just shows he’s not writing to get rich, he’s trying to spread an honest message. He’s already super rich.
His book will give you more details, as well as an appendix outlining his views on specific issues of the day. My point in writing this was to give you an overview of how Gary Johnson thinks, and how he views government. He may not be everything you want. He may not have the right foreign policy or immigration views for you. These issues are pretty important, but neither of the other candidates can be trusted at all on either of those issues (If Trump actually builds a 40 foot wall on the border that Mexico pays for, I will eat the computer I typed this on. Literally. I will do that). There is no doubt that he has strong conservative/libertarian credentials in his views on the size and scope of government, as well as the foundational principles that underlie those views. His agenda would limit government more than any president in history. He may not be perfect, but he advocates for all the things we know are most important for this country right now. Let’s reject Trump’s toothless populism and make America great again by making our government limited again.