The first Republican presidential primary debate was held last week. Only 5 candidates participated, two of whom were Ron Paul and Gary Johnson. For anyone following politics and particularly for libertarians, Ron Paul is fairly well-known now. That should give us a lot of reason for optimism, but that is a subject for another day. Gary Johnson is not as well-known by most Americans and even many libertarians.
Gary Johnson was the governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. During that time, he vetoed about 750 bills, which was more than the other 49 states combined. He is in favor of legalizing marijuana and is an advocate of lower taxes and less spending (state and federal).
So what is not to like about that record for a libertarian? First, I think he did do an excellent job as governor when you compare him to anyone else in the last 15 years. My criticism of him in regards to his time as governor is only that he did not leave a more permanent mark. New Mexico is certainly in better shape right now than many other states, especially when you look at nearby California. But New Mexico is not exactly a libertarian paradise either. I understand that the governor (just like a president) only has so much power and that the legislature is a major piece of the puzzle. However, state education continued to be funded along with many other government programs that do not come close to fitting into the libertarian view of things.
This is similar to the way I view the Reagan presidency, although I’m much harder on Reagan because government actually expanded quite a bit on his watch. But even if Reagan had kept spending under control (which he didn’t) and he had balanced the budget (which he didn’t) and he had not started any wars (which he did), it would still be hard to give him a lot of praise. If the person leaves office and things go right back to where they were before, how much good did they really do?
If a libertarian is going to become governor or president, I want him to dismantle the government. If the legislature is not cooperative, then just veto every single spending bill that there is. In addition, take your case to the American people on an almost daily basis, talking about the proper role of government. Repeat often that it is not the government’s job to provide education, to eradicate drugs, to provide healthcare, etc. This is what I would expect from a good libertarian governor or president.
I think Gary Johnson’s presence in the debates will be good. It adds confirmation to some of what Ron Paul is saying. I think most Ron Paul supporters will stick with Ron Paul. Most people who support Ron Paul want someone who is radical in the defense of liberty. They will not sell out to someone who has a watered-down message. Ron Paul and Gary Johnson both present common sense viewpoints on why government doesn’t work. Ron Paul adds in morality. He is not afraid to point out that government is force. Ron Paul will speak more philosophically as well.
I don’t think Gary Johnson has much of a chance of getting the nomination. I think Ron Paul has a better shot, but unfortunately I think there are too many pro-war Republicans to allow this to happen. Either way, it is good news that both Paul and Johnson are getting some attention. It is time that Americans start to hear a more libertarian message.