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Interview: Gary Johnson’s “Waste Your Vote” College Tour

by Craig D. Schlesinger, published
Photo: Gage Skidmore

Governor Gary Johnson and Judge Jim Gray are making the rounds at colleges across America, delivering their message of liberty to twenty campuses apiece in what the Libertarian Party ticket is billing as Gary Johnson's "Waste Your Vote" college tour.

When I last spoke with Gov. Johnson after his appearance at P.A.U.L. Fest, he was riding a wave of adrenaline and momentum that continues to swell as he and Judge Gray relentlessly court the youth vote. I recently had the opportunity to speak with him again:

Craig Schlesinger: Since we last spoke there seems to be a large uptick in coverage of your campaign. Do you have a sense of where that’s coming from?

Gary Johnson: I’ve actually seen it all the way across the board. I was on MSNBC and they recognized me for being at six percent, which is very significant. And I’ll point out the obvious– are you hearing my name six times for every one hundred times you’re hearing Obama’s name or Romney’s name? Maybe one time for every three thousand times! But I have seen a big uptick, and all for the good.

Craig Schlesinger: Yet the big remaining void is the mainstream media not actually covering your campaign on a daily basis. They might have you on for an interview every so often, but…

Gary Johnson: When you get back to increased coverage, that’s where they’re not covering at all. I’m getting an interview now and then, but not getting coverage as to what’s happening out on the campaign trail. And you know, Craig, it's all on an uptick right now, so relatively speaking I guess I don’t have anything to complain about. There’s still time to actually win the race! I know that sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t be out here if that weren’t the case. I’m so different than [Obama and Romney] on every single issue. If that weren’t the case maybe this wouldn’t have any hope whatsoever, but there is a third choice. Of course, I’m out here arguing that it’s the only choice.

Craig Schlesinger: What are your impressions of the college tour thus far in terms of turnout, enthusiasm, and what kind of encouragement it gives you heading into the general election and for the future of the liberty movement?

Gary Johnson: The turnouts have been terrific. The enthusiasm, I don’t know how it could be any higher. So all the way across the board, thumbs up! It’s very heartening to be a part of this liberty and freedom movement. It’s growing, it’s not turning back, and all for the good.

Craig Schlesinger: What are the most frequently asked questions or concerns that are consistent from campus to campus?

Gary Johnson: Just that I’m not getting my fair shake, which is pointing out the obvious. “What can be done to increase that, what can we do to ensure you have a seat at the table?” [Laughs] Those are good issues to have out there because it shows the frustration that I think all of us have, and in the same breath– wow, this is getting noticed! So it’s all good. There’s still time, we’re still five weeks out, and anything can happen.

Craig Schlesinger: From your vantage point, what policy issues consistently draw the largest and loudest crowd reactions? Is it civil liberties, economic policy, domestic policy, foreign policy, or a mixed bag?

Gary Johnson: What I think is consistent, and this is just from my viewpoint, is it’s every single one of these issues, and when you lump it all together it’s pretty profound! I think that kids recognize it and if I could sum up an overall reaction, “Holy cow! I agree with everything you have to say!” I’ve never had that happen before! It’s just very heartening.

Craig Schlesinger: When you explain the student debt crisis, the college crowds seem to be very much in tune with the notion that they’re being screwed over by the system. Are they able to connect the dots to other policy issues where the government intervenes in the marketplace, creating distortions and incentive problems? Are people able to zoom out and see that larger picture?

Gary Johnson: That’s the growing notion of this whole movement– the dots do connect! For the most part people don’t recognize that they connect, but it’s a growing aspect. People are connecting the dots– not enough– but as it goes forward, more and more dots get connected. That’s why I think that the movement is going to be really significant in the future. And every single day that passes it becomes more significant because of this “dot connection.” Everything the federal government does comes with an unintended consequence, and it comes with costs that we just can’t begin to recognize. That’s what this whole movement brings to bear. And as that recognition grows, so goes the recognition that government needs to be reduced significantly, and that these are all individual issues best dealt with by us, not the government.

Craig Schlesinger: Gov. Jesse Ventura (I-MN) appeared with you at Macalester College in St. Paul. What’s his level of involvement going forward?

Gary Johnson: I found it a real pleasant surprise that he came out and endorsed me, and he’s been very active in doing just that– offering himself up to do anything that he can regarding the campaign. So I’m very indebted to him because he’s been branded such a rebel, he’s been branded as somebody that thinks outside the box. By extension, that’s what his endorsement is all about.

Craig Schlesinger: So was that appearance a one-off or are you putting him to work? [Laughs]

Gary Johnson: [Laughs] Well to say that I’m dictating anything that Jesse does– that would be an absolute misstatement. But what he’s offered himself up for is to do anything we ask of him, so we’re being real judicious when it comes to that.

Craig Schlesinger: Do you find it ironic that the federal lawsuits filed by your campaign demanding debate inclusion are going to be heard-- or ignored-- by judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans?

Gary Johnson: You absolutely hit it on the head. It’s a stacked deck, the system is rigged, the system is gamed, and wow! Santa Claus is not coming, the Easter Bunny isn’t going to bring his eggs, and you know what? The tooth fairy doesn’t exist.

Craig Schlesinger: [Laughs] But with the first debate set for this Wednesday, what’s the plan given your exclusion?

Gary Johnson: I will respond to the same questions . For anybody that cares to hear a different answer, a different outlook on every single issue that we face in this country, we’ll be providing that response. I think it will be an online to the entire debate.

Craig Schlesinger: And what is the general election strategy to spread your campaign message to a wider audience?

Gary Johnson: Right now we have Super PACs that are spending money. One of the drawbacks of Super PACs is you can’t direct how that money is spent. I just think that we (the campaign) put out a terrific product every single day. You can get online, you can see all the YouTube videos that we produced. I wish that these Super PACs would be utilizing our public domain YouTube ads and just air what we have produced. That’s my only complaint; I’d just like to see all these dollars being spent in the most efficient ways.

Craig Schlesinger: It feels appropriate to wrap with the “wasted vote” myth, which seems to be getting a lot of good play at the college campuses you visit. When you ask everyone to "waste" their vote on you, do you think that actually liberates people to vote for you– or any independent candidate– without the heap of guilt and blame that other “team players” of the party duopoly try to pile on?

Gary Johnson: Well that’s what I’m hoping, that’s the case I’m making– a wasted vote is voting for someone you don’t believe in. You change the system by voting for somebody you believe in. And I’m going to argue that I am the most representative of Americans’ philosophy, which is– speaking with a broad brushstroke– fiscally responsible, socially accepting. So the pitch I’m making right now is, hey, how ‘bout everybody waste their vote? Vote for me, and guess what? I’m the next President of the United States! That’s as simple as this all gets.

Gary Johnson speaking at Duke University on September 20th, 2012

If you could ask Gary Johnson one question, what would it be?

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