Elections 2012: Is Gary Johnson the new Ron Paul?
Ron Paul’s supporters are on an almost religious crusade to remake America. A smaller America, less government, and a national security policy that depends on oceans more than it does an United States presence around the world.
There’s even a dedicated band of Native American supporters on Facebook, including Russell Means who endorsed Paul several months ago via YouTube.
The only thing is Paul wasn’t able to win a single state in the Republican primary and lost to a “moderate” Mitt Romney. His fans aren’t happy.
So what now?
Paul himself has hinted that he might not vote for Romney. He told Fox News last month that he’s still undecided because Gary Johnson will be on the ballot in 47 states.
Johnson is a former Republican candidate for president now the Libertarian Party’s nominee. He’s also the former two-term governor of New Mexico.
“Few in New Mexico had heard of Gary Johnson when he announced his candidacy for governor in 1994. Two weeks after he ran his first television spots, he was the front-runner,” it says on his website. “He’s our best hope for ending the wars, ending the IRS, balancing the budget and kicking corruption out of Washington.”
Johnson has focused his campaign on supporters. He urges voters to “be Libertarian one time.” He often cites “Dr. Paul” as his most important political influence. His father was a public school teacher and his mother worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. One of his first acts as governor was to support signing compacts with pueblos to open up Indian gaming in that state.
One reason why Johnson (or for that matter, Paul) is popular is his declaration that America’s war on drugs is a complete failure akin to the Prohibition of the 1920s. “By managing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco – regulating, taxing and enforcing its lawful use – America will be better off,” Johnson says on his web site. “The billions saved on marijuana interdiction, along with the billions captured as legal revenue, can be redirected against the individuals committing real crimes against society.”
Libertarians are an interesting mix of ideals. The anti-tax, anti-government positions attract conservatives. But that logic is consistent, so it extends to drugs, abortion, and less U.S. involvement around the world. He would cut the military’s budget by 43 percent.
Johnson’s view on immigration is also different from either President Barack Obama or Romney.
“As the former governor of a southern border state, I know fences and walls do not keep out illegal immigrants,” he says. “With workable employer verification systems, smarter border enforcement, and common sense, a national problem can be turned into a national benefit.”
All minor party candidates are asked the same question: Are they just running to be a spoiler?
A CNN/ORC International poll this week shows that only 3 percent of likely voters say they would vote for Johnson. But in many Western states, Johnson has the potential to do significantly better than that.
In New Mexico, for example, The Albuquerque Journal pegs Johnson’s support at 7 percent of voters. “Johnson subtracted almost equal numbers of votes from Obama and Romney, according to the poll, meaning his third-party candidacy was not more damaging to one than the other,” the newspaper said.
Other states where a Johnson vote could be significant: Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada. In fact: Nevada could be really interesting. At least three Republican Electoral College members say they might not vote for Romney should he carry that state in November. Ken Eastman told The Associated Press this week that he is exploring his options because he is “pretty disgusted” with the Republican Party and the way it worked to “suppress Paul's grassroots movement.”
Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.