Last week amid considerable speculation, former New Mexico governor and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, formally announced his bid for the 2016 Libertarian Party nomination. In an exclusive interview for IVN, he clarified his announcement and ambitions for his 2016 campaign.
Gary Johnson is known for a wide range of accomplishments as an entrepreneur, two-term governor, marijuana advocate, and extreme athlete. To pave the way for his presidential bid, he resigned as CEO of Cannabis Sativa, Inc. – a position he recently described as his “dream job.”
So why aim for an even loftier goal of becoming president?
“I have a great life. I don’t need to be president. But I do need – and want – to alter the course the nation is on under the leadership of the past couple of decades,” Johnson said of his objectives.
His first hurdle is securing the Libertarian nomination. There are at least ten others vying to be the LP candidate, including computer security pioneer John McAfee.
The LP endorsement is an open, competitive process, a process which Johnson believes in.
“I’ll have to earn the nomination,” he confirmed, adding that he is the candidate most capable of “providing a voice on the national stage.”
He means that literally.
The Libertarian National Committee is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit to change the rules that obstruct third party candidates from participating in presidential debates. While the court decision is still pending, Johnson says movement is expected in the next few weeks.
“We believe we have a strong case, and that we will not only prevail, but in the process, expose the Commission on Presidential Debates as the partisan, rigged organization that it is,” he remarked.
Having a podium on the national debate stage is crucial to his success, suggesting that 2016 may be a “tipping point” in the viability of independent candidates.
Johnson believes that, like himself, the majority of voters are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. He elaborated:
“There are literally millions of Americans today who are libertarians, but frankly don’t know it. Their beliefs align with ours, and they just need a political home. We must make the LP that home.”
And Johnson is not holding back against the current field of Democratic and Republican candidates. According to Johnson, “a majority of Americans now say that neither of the two ‘major’ parties represents them,” citing little difference among Obama, Clinton, and the Republicans.
Hillary Clinton, Johnson explained, “might well surpass President Obama when it comes to spending and increasing the debt.”
“Voters have just as much to fear and oppose from Clinton as they do the Republicans,” he added
Regarding the Republican candidates, “despite their attacks on one another, when you wade through the rhetoric, there is really very little difference among them,” Johnson stated, adding:
“Donald Trump may well be bringing some new ‘anti-establishment’ voters into the equation, but that is more a matter of style than substance. On the issues, none of the Republicans are bringing any new ideas to the conversation.”
He previously expressed that Trump’s intentions are “just whacked… crazy.”
Johnson hopes that he and the LP will benefit from this.
“Our job is to connect with those voters and give them a credible, viable alternative,” he explained.
Where will his votes come from? In his announcement, Johnson asserted that “Libertarians draw as many votes from Democrats as they do from Republicans.” But conventional wisdom may suggest otherwise. When asked specifically whether he will draw votes from an already fragmented Republican electorate, he responded, “I certainly hope so.”
“It is clear that not just Republicans, but Americans across the board are rejecting the status quo. I believe 2016 has the potential to be historic in terms of the door being open for a candidate other than the Republican and Democrat to gain substantial support. Our job is to connect with those voters and give them a credible, viable alternative.”
What will constitute success?
“I want to win, and I want to serve,” answered Johnson. But he also sees success in shifting the debate and reshaping American politics, citing the examples of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
“If we change the course of the nation and restore liberty as the true American value, it will be a job well done,” he said.
Dream job or not, the presidency would be quite an achievement for Gary Johnson. But are voters truly ready to affirm his rejection of the status quo on Election Day? As Johnson maintained, “the only wasted vote is a vote for a candidate one doesn’t really believe in.”