Fact is, Bernie Sanders has a lot more in common with Gary Johnson than any of the likely nominees from the Republican or Democratic parties.
And a recent poll by Monmouth University suggests that "the major parties’ most likely nominees are largely unpopular among American voters.” The unpopularity of the wall street-friendly Clinton or the so-called xenophobe Trump will force Bernie supporters to look outside the establishment’s nomination process to a more “similar-to-Bernie” presidential candidate.
Importantly, according to the poll, Clinton currently leads all registered voters with 42 percent, Trump pulls in 34 percent, and Gary Johnson holds a surprising 11 percent. Considering the nearly $3 billion worth of media coverage received by Clinton and Trump over the last few months, who the heck is Gary Johnson?
Well, he is the former Republican governor of New Mexico, a former candidate for both the Republican and Libertarian nomination, and is an otherwise likable “regular guy” who might have broad appeal to voters who are more interested in challenging the status quo than championing an ideology.
But even so, Sanders supporters may be surprised to find that Gary Johnson, painted by our traditional “left v. right” national media narrative as being “too far right,” has a lot of policy positions that the anti-wall street, pro-legalization, and socially liberal “lefties” could agree with. All matters of practical electability aside, Johnson is much closer to Sanders when it comes to his positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, corporate subsidies, and immigration reform.
Last year, for example, Sanders introduced a bill that called for the end of the federal prohibition of marijuana. Johnson, as former CEO of Cannabis Sativa Inc., a company that seeks to market legal marijuana products, could not be a more authentic and credible supporter of Sanders’ efforts. And like Sanders, Johnson views drug abuse as a medical issue, not a criminal one.
When it comes to abortion rights, Sanders’ policy is grounded in the empowerment of women. Johnson, who calls on the government to get out of the personal and medical decision making process, is similarly pro-choice. The point is, the candidates may ground their policy positions on different ideological viewpoints, but they often arrive at the same conclusions.
More importantly, much of the discontent among the electorate -- whether it manifests in support for Sanders, Trump, or not voting at all -- may have to do with a genuine belief that traditional politicians don’t take positions that are grounded in anything at all, except polling information and manufactured talking points.
Immigration reform is another hot topic this election year, and again, Johnson and Sanders agree that we need to create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. This will sit well with Sanders’ supporters who view Clinton as just another cog in the bipartisan inability to implement practical reform.
Fact is, if the two parties choose Clinton and Trump as the presidential nominees, Sanders supporters are not going to concede lightly. And a large number of these supporters feel betrayed by the Democrats as much as the Republicans. So statements from DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz like, “superdelegates exist to protect the party from grassroots candidates,” might motivate Sanders’ supporters to take their grassroots support to a place where it is welcomed.
Gary Johnson, like the long-time independent Sanders, is running on the ticket of a qualified political party because it is the only practical path to getting ballot access in all fifty states. But like Sanders, Johnson is not really a “party man." He is a candidate with a perspective that does not fit nicely within the “two-sided” narrative the establishment in both parties have created.
And this is something the grassroots arsenal that is fueling the Sanders campaign might just support.