You've heard of Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, and Chris Christie, but you may not even recognize the name Gary Johnson. Like the first three, he was a Republican governor (of New Mexico for eight years in the 1990s) and is a potential contender for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2012. He's considered by many to be a genuine Tea Party candidate.
So, what makes Gary Johnson a possible Tea Party candidate?
He's probably the only governor in either party who can actually say that government didn't grow under his tenure. Despite governing a state with a heavily Democratic legislature that was determined to grow the state government, Johnson presided over the longest period in New Mexico's history with no tax increase. Furthermore, the state had 1000 fewer employees at the end of his eight years, with no firings, and Governor Johnson vetoed 750 separate bills (more than the vetoes of all 49 other governors over the same period combined). He says if the state legislature hadn't fought him every step of the way, he would have cut taxes and created a state-wide voucher program for K-12 education.
Now he has his eye on the White House according to the St. Petersburg Times, which reported Monday that Johnson was testing the Florida waters for a presidential bid, traveling throughout the key battleground state and campaigning on a platform of less government, lower taxes, and decreased spending.
But, Gary Johnson is prescribing less government as the remedy for a lot more than Washington's looming fiscal crisis, he also wants to see cannabis legalized in the United States. After even California rejected the idea by voting down Proposition 19 on the November midterm ballot, Johnson has a tough sell if he wants to stake his campaign on the drug issue. While he makes it clear that he doesn't support the legalization of all drugs- just cannabis- and that he doesn't think it should ever be legal to sell to minors or operate a car while under the influence, Johnson still understands that his position is a difficult one to clearly articulate in a political campaign, saying: "it's not, really, a 30-second sound-bite deal. It's maybe about a three-minute deal."
So why does Gary Johnson insist on making cannabis legalization an important part of his political platform? Go figure- he just believes it's the right thing to do. His argument is that cannabis use is less harmful than alcohol use and that the effects of prohibition are too costly for our civil liberties and for taxpayers.
Johnson also believes that he's just a little ahead of the curve, and that in two years, a majority of Americans will likely support the legalization of cannabis. If he plans to run a major Independent campaign, he might be on the right track, but perhaps the more relevant question to ask is what a majority of Republican primary voters will think about cannabis legalization in two years.
Odds are, they won't like it.