CNN is going to host a one-hour, live town hall with Gary Johnson and Bill Weld tonight, starting at 9 p.m. ET.
With any luck Johnson and Weld will use tonight to better position their ticket as a viable alternative to the Immoral Ones (Trump and Clinton, if you couldn’t guess). I am hoping they will at least get the boost in poll numbers they need to earn a spot in the Presidential Debates. (I haven’t yet committed to voting for Johnson/Weld in November, but as you can see from this post, I’m seriously considering doing so.)
Recently on Facebook I mused that, if I were to write a book about this year’s Presidential election, I’d call it “Fear and Loathing,” as those are the two emotions that will motivate core enthusiastic voters of Trump and Clinton, respectively. A vote for Clinton (as opposed to a vote against Trump, which is more understandable) is a vote to continue the egalitarian-nihilistic policies of Barack Obama. I doubt seriously that any core enthusiastic voter for Clinton will ever be convinced to vote for Gary Johnson. Therefore, if you are enthusiastically committed to voting for Hillary Clinton, you may as well stop reading now. I doubt I could interest you in anything that follows.
If, however, you are voting for Donald Trump because you think there is a reasonable chance that he will solve some of the truly scary problems that exist in our country and the world, do read on. I am hoping that I can convince you to consider adopting the attitude: “Feel the fear, and vote Johnson/Weld anyway.”
I wish to address those who will vote for Trump out of fear–especially fear of Islamic Terrorism. This is true not only because I think I have a chance of actually convincing those people to change their minds, but also because I am sympathetic with that fear and with many of those who have expressed it. The ISIS-inspired attacks of late have been particularly horrific, and many who believe Trump will best protect us from this threat are willing to suspend judgment and belief about quite a bit in order to vote for him. But I don’t think doing so is necessary or advisable, given Johnson/Weld as a viable alternative.
Yes, Johnson/Weld are not perfect. Johnson has unfortunately said that he is in favor of keeping anti-discrimination laws that would, if consistently applied, force Jewish bakers to bake a Nazi cake. Also, during a recent Facebook live video that I just finished watching this morning (thanks, Rob Abiera!), Johnson said that he does think government can help to create “equality of opportunity”–whatever that means. Further, even though he would institute substantial cuts and structural reforms in “entitlement” programs like Social Security, he does believe in a government “safety net,” and would not completely eliminate these programs.
However, there was much to like in what Johnson said during that Reason interview. I am hoping that some of what I will share here will allay the fears of those who think he will sit around smoking (now-legalized) joints in the White House, pursing policies that will leave us poor and defenseless (but happy because, hey, we’re all smoking joints).
First, he explicitly repudiated the term “open immigration” as expressing his policy. He does want to make it easier for people to come and work here, and he cited a recent post by the Wharton School of Business explaining why this would be good for our economy in general–and even for Americans’ wages. However, he would subject those who come here to background checks and, unlike Clinton who has promised a “path to citizenship,” Johnson is talking only about permission to work here legally.
I also liked the way Johnson addressed the threat of domestic terrorism. First, he cited the difficulty of formulating policies to prevent harm at the hands (or via the guns or trucks) of anyone who is determined to kill himself while killing you. He then said that, while he doesn’t know what went on at the FBI such that they were able to interview the scumbag (my term) responsible for the atrocity in Orlando three times without identifying him as the threat he was, he would make it a top priority as President to call a meeting to find out. When Johnson talks about refraining from military intervention, he gives, as his standard, pursuing only interventions that would make us safer than we would be without the intervention. By way of example, he describes recent interventions in Syria and Libya as “not intentionally” (really? I’m not so sure) resulting in the arming of ISIS, when US-supported oppositions in both of those countries fell.
Johnson cites a recent poll of U.S. military personnel showing he has the support of 39% of this group, beating out both Trump and Clinton. He speculates that the reason for this is the fact that these military personnel understand that, if Johnson were to send them to fight for our country, it would be only in our defense, only as a “result of being attacked.” (Given the opportunity, I would like to press him on this, and see whether he would ever be in favor of a pre-emptive strike in any circumstance. Maybe I’d use North Korea as my hypothetical? See below.) If you’re interested in learning more about Johnson’s views on foreign policy, see also this interview with the Los Angeles Times, in which Johnson discusses foreign policy more extensively and says, when pressed, that U.S. policy should be that “we do continue to knock ISIS out…that is inevitable.” (Also in that interview Johnson repeats what he has stated elsewhere: that he sees North Korea, whose ICBM’s he thinks will eventually work, as the biggest threat to the United States.)
So far all I’ve addressed are some of Johnson’s policy mistakes, as well as those of his policies that have–understandably I think–been a cause for concern. If none of the above is a deal-breaker for you, then consider that Johnson/Weld…
**pledge to submit a balanced budget within the first 100 days of taking office, which means cutting twenty percent of government spending, pretty much across-the-board.
**promise to try and eliminate the IRS and replace the current Income tax with a “FairTax”–i.e., a national sales/consumption tax.
**plan to uphold the current law with respect to a woman’s right to choose an abortion–i.e., per Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that a woman has that right up until viability (defined as viability with or without medical assistance)
**would not increase restrictions on the ownership of firearms–at least not restrictions based on type of firearm (e.g., “assault rifles”).
**would legalize marijuana (and only marijuana) by using the President’s prerogative to “deschedule marijuana as a Class 1 narcotic.” This is assuming Obama doesn’t do so as he’s on his way out of office, as Johnson predicts will happen.
**say they would eliminate the federal Department of Education. This was not discussed during the Reason interview, but you can read about it here. And about other issues more generally here.
One thing that I know will be important to some of my friends who are skeptical about Johnson: he used the opportunity he was given during the Reason interview to “walk back” his earlier, more positive comments, about Hillary Clinton. He now describes her as a “beholden,” “establishment” candidate who, if elected, will ensure that “government plays a bigger part in all of our lives.” In addition, in this interview as elsewhere, Johnson emphasized that he and Weld are “two-term Republican governors of very Democratic states.” In other words, they are not portraying themselves as fringe Libertarians; they are portraying themselves as candidates holding mainstream positions, candidates whom Republicans and Democrats can both support–even if for very different reasons. I don’t generally think that voting for a particular party’s candidate constitutes an endorsement of that party–and often not even the candidate! But I think that’s especially true here, where Johnson/Weld will have entire campaign ads in which they never mention the “L-word,” but make sure to mention their Republicans-in-Democratic-states bona fides.
Overall during the interview Johnson struck me as an intelligent, thoughtful, well read, caring and decent guy. I haven’t had the chance to meet him in person, as my FB friend recently did. But I felt, after watching the interview, that I got to know him better and I liked him more. I could not imagine that such a seemingly caring, intelligent, thoughtful person would deliberately pursue policies that would leave us poor and defenseless, even if he were to smoke marijuana as President.
Here’s hoping that Johnson and Weld make the most of the opportunity CNN is giving them tonight. Let me know what you think, of either this post or of their appearance tonight, below.