Why Libertarian Gary Johnson may be the best thing to happen to Hillary Clinton yet

If you haven’t done so already, you really need to meet Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for President.

Here’s his new campaign ad with his running mate, Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts:


And, grab some popcorn, here is him calling Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States, a “pussy.”

Johnson comes across as charismatic, irreverent, straight-shooting and really eager to go to war with entrenched federal interests. It’s exactly what draws people to Trump, especially white, working-class, rural men.

He’s the person who Trump is pretending to be.

Trump’s not a “successful” businessman – he’s a fraud, a scam artist who’s profited time and again off of slimy maneuvers that have padded his already overstuffed pockets by screwing those around him.

Trump’s casinos have mostly gone bust. His “university” was a joke. The arena he’s thrived in most has been as a television personality, the one game where you don’t actually need business acumen or integrity, you just need to be a sufficiently magnetic asshole.

The son of a slumlord so exploitative that Woody Guthrie even wrote a song about him, much of Trump’s career has simply been playing with the money he inherited. According to the Washington Post, if Trump had merely taken the $100 million he had in 1978 and invested it in the stock market, he’d be worth twice as much today as he is currently.

Johnson, like him or not, seems much closer to being the real deal.

Starting as the only employee of his company Big J Enterprises, Johnson built the firm into one of the largest construction corporations in New Mexico. He’s an extreme athlete who’s climbed Mt. Everest and regularly runs marathons. He’s a good Lutheran who built his own house in Taos. The ultimate rugged individualist.

Johnson’s been in government since 1994 when he was elected governor of New Mexico as an outsider Republican, trumpeting “People Before Politics,” running on $500,000 of his own money.

Once elected, he vetoed 200 of 424 bills in his first six months in office—a national record of 47% of all legislation. By the time he left office, eight years later, he’d vetoed more bills than the other 49 governors combined—750 in total, one third of which had been introduced by Republican legislators. New Mexico’s government had gone from being deep in debt to having a billion dollar surplus.

He first ran for President in 2012, originally entering the race as a fringe Republican candidate and then taking it to the ballot as a Libertarian in the general election in November, earning 1.3 million votes and 1% of American voters.

As things stand today, a recent Quinnipiac University National Poll puts him at 8% of the 2016 vote, and, now that the primaries are over and public attention has shifted away from the races within each party, this number might well continue rising.

Compared to Bernie’s $222 million, Johnson has made it this far on a mere $700 thousand. While he isn’t likely to win, assuming he starts fundraising, like, at all, it seems likely that he’s on track to play a major role in what happens over the next four months.

So, here’s the question. With Clinton and Trump less than 10 points apart, and Johnson quickly gaining notoriety, who’s he going to take more votes from?

When the conservative bloggers at Breitbart analyzed the numbers in a recent post, they concluded that he’s pulling equally from both major parties, and therefore he isn’t likely to have much of an impact overall.

I’m not so sure.

Johnson still isn’t very well known. My guess is that as his name gets out there more, he’ll continue to win support, drawing especially from among the conservative voters who currently make up Trump’s base.

To be clear, several of the core Republican constituencies will never support Johnson.

Big business, or at least most of it, probably won’t. He may get votes from individuals who support free markets in principle, but he’ll never get the Skull and Bones types, like those in the Bush cabinet, because despite their constant claims of “small government,” they profit hugely off of America’s bloated militarism.

Trump, on the other hand, markets himself as an outsider, but he’d never actually go after something like the $40 billion in federal contracts that Haliburton offshoot KBR received for their work in Iraq. Johnson, the guy who vetoed more bills than almost anyone ever as governor, might well put them and the others like them on the chopping block.

He also won’t get the Christian fundamentalists.

Johnson is strongly in favor of ending the war on drugs, proudly claiming to have used cannabis to recover from a paragliding accident in 2005, and recently serving as the CEO of Cannabis Sativa Inc., a large marijuana producer and distributor based in Nevada. He’s against mass deportations. He’s a longtime supporter of gay marriage.

In comparison, who knows what Trump actually believes on a personal level, but he’s clearly figured out how to validate the fears of white Christians in middle America by frequently reminding them of the dangers posed to them by everybody else in the United States, from potheads to Muslims to Mexicans.

Johnson doesn’t believe that the federal government should be in the business of protecting the cultural purity of white, Christian America. Those who do will vote Trump.

But neither of these groups genuinely speaks for the Republican rank and file.

Most Republicans are hard-working, beer-drinking, flag-wavers, often from the white, rural, lower-middle class, who hate DC and the corrupt suits who run it.

They’re the people who listen to Country radio, who hunt and fish, who fantasize from their F-150s about what their lives would be like if they were truly free and independent.

Trump isn’t what they want. He just plays it on TV.

They want somebody capable, an independent thinker, an outsider. They hate cronyism. They want somebody who’ll cut their taxes, not just give handouts to their friends.

In this age of meth, they all grew up around pot, and many of them would be happy to see it legalized. They all know somebody who’s gay, and these days, homosexuality is barely an issue anymore.

They feel powerless a lot of the time, and owning and shooting guns makes them feel better. They just want a decent job and an affordable 30-year mortgage.

Trump won the primary because he was the biggest outsider, and he’s polling well among these folks because he makes them feel special, he speaks directly to their fears, and, while he’s been a prominent fixture of the American elite for decades, he hasn’t spent that time hobnobbing around the upper echelons of DC bureaucracy .

But, at the end of the day, Trump’s a salesman.

He gets in, he makes the deal, and he moves on. He can’t be trusted. He’s a grand stander with a good show, combining the theatrics of a Pentecostal tent revival with the antics of a blowhard, white supremacist stand up comedian.

He’s selling out stadiums across the country. It’s an act, an attractive one, but an act. And everybody, if they’re really honest with themselves, knows it.

Johnson’s a real politician.

He spent eight years leading a state with two million residents. He’s smart. He’s a fiscal conservative with a proven track record of shrinking government. Sure, he’s culturally liberal, but so is much of Trump nation.

The biggest thing standing between him and overtaking Trump is his lack of recognition and campaign funds, but in today’s world of Facebook memes and crowd funding, he may soon be able to overcome that. In fact, a dark alliance is rumored to be forming between Johnson and billionaire David Koch. If I were in Trump’s campaign room, I’d be pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to take him down.

Democrats, on the other hand, have Clinton, whom many progressives despise for her close ties to Wall Street and her hawkish foreign policy, but whom most of them will probably end up gritting their teeth and voting for, if only to avoid Trump.

Plenty of bloggers are saying that Johnson will take votes from Clinton by luring away Sanders supporters.

Writing on RedAlertPolitics.com, one such blogger, Ron Meyer, boils it down concisely, predicting that Johnson’s upcoming rise in popularity will be fueled primarily by the “disgruntled younger base of the Democrat Party.”

According to a recent Quinnipiac University National Poll, as many as 12% of voters under 35 support him, compared to 44% for Clinton, 21% for Trump and 10% for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate.

Johnson’s an outsider, Meyer claims. He’ll legalize weed and keep us out of war. He’ll even try to lower the drinking age. He’s funny. Despite having spent much of the last few decades leading major corporations, he still seems down to confront Wall Street.

What more could hip young millennials want?

Personally, as a proud member of that “disgruntled younger base of the Democratic Party,” I’m offended. Contrary to what some folks may think of us, we aren’t idiots.

While Johnson may be able to claim certain kinds of integrity, as I see it, he’s the exact opposite of what our cohort needs right now.

If Americans are going to have any reasonable quality of life, especially us young people, politics for us can’t just be about culture. We need the government to do more than sign off on our libertine lifestyles. We need it to spend a lot more money on us.

We’re the first generation anybody can remember likely to fare worse than our parents. We, like everybody else in this country, are increasingly facing a truly tough economic landscape.

We can’t get a decent job without going to college, but we can’t go to college without accruing massive debt. When we do get a job, it isn’t likely to offer much in the way of decent health insurance. Who’s going to look after us when we, the millennials, get old? Will we ever be able to buy homes of our own?

We need the federal government to drastically increase public spending on healthcare, education and other basic necessities, and we need that money now.

When it comes to questions like this, Johnson falls short by a mile.

He recognizes the problem, but he thinks we can solve these inequities by simply increasing “competition” in the medical sector. He supports “tort reform” that would reduce the number and severity of lawsuits. He loves voucher systems that effectively rob the local public elementary schools to fund corporate educational ventures.

It seems like he’ll support anything but the government actually collecting enough funds in taxes to sustain adequate public services.

There’s plenty of money in our society to pay for this stuff. The American GDP is the highest it’s ever been. The problem is that our nation’s money is increasingly being consolidated into places like hedge funds and offshore accounts where only a tiny percentage of the population has access to it, and where almost none of it can be collected in taxes.

Sanders Democrats desperately want a leader who’ll go after those lost revenues, taxing the wealthiest among us and putting that money to use helping all of us. As governor, Johnson cut taxes 14 times and never raised them. He simply isn’t the guy to do that.

Clinton may not be a socialist like Stein, but she’s also not about to take a hack saw to America’s tax code. She championed ObamaCare, which, while far from perfect, has led the government to spend a lot more money helping low income folks go to the doctor. That’s a good thing. We need more of that.

Johnson opposes that kind of spending, going so far as to say that “government-managed healthcare is insanity.” He believes that the market will magically fix this crisis on its own if we only allow it to. I’m pretty sure it won’t.

Will some Democrats be drawn to Johnson by his charming web personae?


But, unless you’re sure that you’ll be able to pay for your medical care and education out of your own pocket, and these days, practically nobody can, you’d be making a big mistake.

Rob Korobkin

About Rob Korobkin

Rob is a software engineer, community organizer, teacher and musician. He can often be found at Peloton Labs, staring at his laptop, drafting diatribes and programming software late into the night.