Q&A: Gary Johnson on His Failed Presidential Bid and What’s Next

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Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson won 1.1 million votes on Tuesday, more than any other Libertarian presidential candidate in history. In an interview with TIME, Johnson talks about his campaign, the consequences of re-electing Obama and his plans for the future.
Was it worth it?

As I told the students every time I visited a campus, you are the director of your own movie, and if you aren’t enjoying what you are doing, change it. That’s the way I operate, and if this campaign hadn’t been worth it every day, I wouldn’t have been out there. The ideas we are promoting are important, and having the opportunity to go out and promote them every day is not only worth it but essential.

What was the high point of the campaign for you?

There were many great moments, but the most heartening experience was visiting college campuses around the country and having hundreds of young people turn out to ask the tough questions, enlist in our movement and display a level of energy that was truly encouraging for the future.

What do you think your candidacy accomplished?

I hope that people will see that we don’t have to sit by the sidelines and watch as the two major parties limit their choices to slightly different flavors of the status quo. It is, in fact, possible to join the fray, stand up for principles and offer a real alternative. Of course, now that we appear to have re-elected the status quo, both in the White House and in the Congress, I hope those same people will see that there is a very real need for the process to welcome, rather than exclude, new and different ideas.

Any predictions for Obama’s second term?

Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches. It obviously remains to be seen if that will be the case in a second Obama term. I fear that it will not be. I am actually one of those who took President Obama at his word when he first ran — that he would get us out of ill-advised wars, that he would do something about health care costs and that he would protect civil liberties. Like many Americans, I was disappointed. If the President somehow sees his re-election as an endorsement of his first term, I fear that we could be in serious trouble. We cannot sustain another four years of growing debt, wars we cannot afford and ever expanding government. Based on the outcome of the election, I frankly see a continuation of gridlock as Washington puts politics ahead of the good of the country and refuses to truly address the challenges we face. If that is the case, I am afraid the next four years may look a lot like the last four.

What have you personally gotten out of running for President?

I have gotten thousands of new friends, a renewed sense of optimism from the energy and determination I see in our young people and the satisfaction of doing something rather than sitting on the couch and watching our country go in a direction that it cannot sustain.

What are you doing now, and what do you plan on doing in the future?

Right now, I’m taking a deep breath, recharging the batteries and giving serious consideration to how best we can deploy the grassroots organization we built and the tremendous energy of our supporters to put individual liberty and economic freedom back on America’s agenda. To the extent that I can continue to give voice to those ideas, I will.

146 comments
FrankBlank
FrankBlank

He and the rest of the libertarians need to find a country of two thousand people.  Their policies will will then fit the circumstances.

JoshMcCullough
JoshMcCullough

Sounds like this interview happened before the election but was published the day after. How convenient.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

I remember when there was an army of Johnson supporters here two weeks ago (I guess it got linked on his blog or something) claiming that he was different and that he'd get 5% of the vote to challenge the 2 party system.  I guess that's not going to be the case, just like many many others before him.

Joemamie
Joemamie

I did not vote Libertarian, but I strongly believe that it deserves more consideration than Madcow is giving it.  At least Libertarian principles are sensibly aligned with our Constitution in thinking that indvidual rights should be expansive and that rights of the government should be limited.  Repubs and Democrats alike fail miserably in putting together a consistent position.  Recall that in the Republican primaries, Romney's advocation for less Federal power, except as it might happen to relate to DOMA.  Or Obama's support for gay marriage, while endlessly noting that the solution to all economic problems is to continue to create distortions in the market that are good for certain people (who are the middle class anyway?).  I hope to eventually vote for a candidate that believes that individuals can make the decisions that are best for them without government interference.  This need not be reflected in disbanding the Fed immediately, but simply acknowledging that individual freedoms are important in our fiscal and social governance would be appreciated.

DL
DL

http://www.libertarianism.org/history

Please take the time to read this.  

It will show you how the U.S. Constitution was the crowning achievement of over 2,000 years of struggle for individual liberty against central powers, how Classical Liberalism bears almost no resemblance to modern Liberalism, how "progressivism" is really "regressivism", undermining every freedom granted to us by the Constitution, and how many things you think about Libertarianism are actually very incorrect (not even going to cite anything specific -- I've read enough comments by people here to solidify my view that most liberals are grossly mistaken about what Libertarianism even is).

AliensWatchYou
AliensWatchYou

While I disagree with the existence of human rights, the concept of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and loathe the possibility of humans walking around without 24/7 surveillance and shock collars, I do respect the commenters here who make a passionate, logical case for their cause.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

While I disagree with both the libertarian message and the libertarian messengers I do respect the commenters here who make a passionate, logical case for their cause.

lolotte
lolotte

My 18 years boys are convincing me of the benefits to be a libertarian, the unfortunate events is the press they want to let you believe one party is great the other one is old and crappy and the libertarians are marginals, so nobody knows about them. They should start now by giving their messages so we will have a real society choice in 4 years

ManishGupte,PhD
ManishGupte,PhD

If it works at home, it works everywhere! In India one neighborhood was bribed for buying votes, they voted the other party in, because a study showed the return to the neighborhood was more from a clean government than a corruipt government! Now, the cleaner party wins but the ´corrupt one´ tries to take revenge..now as the right one has won, police arrest them!! Now, this is an example for all..These are some of the things a grass roots movement can do!

Youngminds
Youngminds

Nice job on having 2 whole articles on Gary Johnson this election, Time. (One of which was AFTER THE ELECTION.) It almost compares to the 500 each for the other 2.

I have lost a lot of respect for time, and, let's just say, I will NOT be renewing my subscription this month. You have just lost yourself a lifetime member.

Time has been incredibly, and unapologetically biased this cycle, acting as if there only were 2 parties.

I don't care who you support- thanks to Time, and its partner CNN, millions of people went to the polls UNINFORMED. There is no greater failure for a news source than that, and you should be ashamed.

CallMeMike
CallMeMike

I voted for the Libertarians once when I absolutely could not stand either candidate of the two major parties.  I'm tired of the lesser of two evils.  I am a fiscal conservative, small govt type who doesn't care much about social policy.  Sleep with whoever you want provided it isn't my wife.  Your pregnancy is not my business.  Neither is your abortion, provided you aren't asking me to pay for it.  I don't even get excited if my tax rate moves up or down a little.  Just use my tax money efficiently and in the manner it is supposed to be used.

I don't know a lot about monetary policy or the mission of the Fed.  Not my thing.  I do know that neither of the two parties has ever shrunk govt.  The R's talk the talk when they want your vote, but it never happens.  Even for the short period under Clinton when we had a surplus govt didn't get smaller.  So I am leaning voting Libertarian in future elections.

By the way, it's great to see a real conversation without a lot of name calling.

I have an honest question I hope someone on here can help me with.  How is "too big to fail" not an admission that they are in voilation of anti-trust law?

iamajimm
iamajimm

You don't have to join the  Libertarian party, just join the GOP.  Libertarian's have taken over the right wing of the GOP, mostly I think because that's where the money is.  No-one would support them as Libertarians but as Teaboogers, well, they're shoe-in.

AndrewKaplan
AndrewKaplan

My hope is that the Libertarians will grow stronger and draw the reasonable moderate republicans towards the middle, leaving the tea party extremists (AKA the backwash of America), to wither and die on the vine.  Every year more Republicans die than Dems and more Dems are born than Republicans, you dont need to be a math major to see where that puts us as we move forward.

SimonNella
SimonNella

Libertarian = A Republican on steroids.

tracyjomartin
tracyjomartin

The majority of Americans do not know what the Libertarian platform is about because they're still not seen a serious contenders by the media or most people. Yes, they're for the legalization of pot and their anti-war message is also very appealing, but what they're against is national healthcare. They still believe that the market corrects itself without intervention. Markets maybe, but not people so much.

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

one "will" was enough.  Big government made me put it in to watch the other "will."

madcow11
madcow11

@Joemamie Joe, I have thought quite a bit about it, actually.  Please go to pbs.org and on the lower-right of the screen, you will find a link to a program entitled, "Park Avenue: Wealth, Power & the American Dream."  It talks a lot about Libertarians and Libertarianism.  Tell me if you still feel the same way about Libertarianism after that.

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

@DL Interesting opinion.  However, sorry to have to say that you are completely wrong.  

JoshMcCullough
JoshMcCullough

@Paul,nnto How would anyone disagree with personal freedom? Do you really want a babysitter all through your adult life?

madcow11
madcow11

@lolotte Before they start convincing you of anything about Libertarianism, do yourself a favor and go to pbs.org.  On the lower-right of the screen is a box with a link to a show entitled, "Park Avenue: Wealth, Power & the American Dream."  It talks about Libertarians and what their effect is on our country.  Tell me if it doesn't change your whole view of politics. 

madcow11
madcow11

Mike, that anti-trust issue has been raised before but it doesn't have the backing of enough people.  It is an excellent point and was recommended by a former CEO of Chase on Bill Moyers a little while ago.  I am for it, and I believe most people would support it.  The problem is that the politicians who could make a difference rely heavily on contributions from the financial industry for re-election.

stephenbaker75
stephenbaker75

@iamajimm I'm sorry, but Libertarians have not taken over the right wing!  They're the ultra-right of the GOP, because they are GOP.

They may talk only a small sliver of the Libertarian platform (low spending that they really have no intention or ability to deliver on) but the rest of the platform...where the "Liber" even comes from...isn't in the rhetoric.

Your comment makes me think you have no real concept of what a true Libertarian is.  I think we need a better PR agency.

stephenbaker75
stephenbaker75

@AndrewKaplan Well, if you read the platforms of the Green Party and the Libertarian party, the only real difference is in using the government as a means to an end.

I think Libertarians drew plenty of Obama voters, too.

stephenbaker75
stephenbaker75

@SimonNella 

Hmm,

So, supporting gay marriage, ending the needless wars, ending the war on drugs, not spying on your own citizens without a warrant, sensible immigration policy including paths to citizenship, reproductive rights, and standing against voter suppression are "Republican on Steroids" platforms?

Those aren't even Democratic platforms.  Well, the first one was, when Obama evolved to win an election.  True Libertarians (not the Tea Party pretenders) are actually quite liberal.

justin_k
justin_k

@tracyjomartin Republicans also tend to be against national healthcare and strongly believe in the free market, and they are a major party. So, while most Americans are unaware of the Libertarian platform, I think a sizable segment of the population would not necessarily be turned off when they discover how Libertarians align on these issues.

Frankly, if you are both socially liberal and fiscally liberal (you want your pot and your healthcare), then in theory Democratic party should be the party for you, and you should not need to consider Libertarianism. Unfortunately the Democratic party is sucking at its job of being socially liberal, but maybe if we're lucky Obama will adopt some of Johnson's ideas.

stephenbaker75
stephenbaker75

@tracyjomartin I'm a Libertarian party member that supports national healthcare, with the qualifiers that it be solvent each and every year, raise its own funds (much like SS/Medicare ostensibly do) and be opt-in.

madcow11
madcow11

I have seen plenty of serious contenders, Tracy.  Libertarianism, as I point out in my posts below, is a noble attempt to fix serious problems, but it has bad faults of its own.  It is better just to fix the things we have than destroy what we have worked so hard to achieve.

Joemamie
Joemamie

@madcow11 @Joemamie I've not seen this PBS documentary (I've seen many, just to avoid any FOX allegations).  If the premise is that the wealthy use the political process to their benefit to the disadvantage of every other American, then I believe that is nothing that many of us don't already know.  I will be interested to see how the documentary frames the argument that libertarians are part of the disparity of wealth problem considering--as many have already pointed out on this board--that the libertarians have never wielded any significant amount of power in this country.  (As an aside, I enjoy PBS, but I would also have to take into consideration the innate conflict of interest that *could* arise on the subject of libertarian philosophies from a media organization partly funded with government dollars.)

Again, I am not a hard-core libertarian, but I believe libertarian principles concerning greater individual rights and less government intervention provide an opportunity for bringing some consensus to what has become an unnecessarily flawed, divided, inefficient, and, for lack of a better term, oppressive government.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@JoshMcCullough

So by disagreeing with the libertarian message you disagree with personal freedom?

Look - fallacies aside - there's not one single successful country in the world that can marry the Utopian libertarian views of personal freedom and a functional political system holding a country together without coming unglued.

I appreciate passion but I don't need the government to babysit me. I just need or want a dog eat dog Mad Max world that would follow everyone's pursuit of personal freedom.

madcow11
madcow11

Stephen, all of those things you mention as part of the Libertarian platform are good in my mind, but remember that the typical Libertarian will advocate ending the Fed, eliminating income taxes, and returning to the gold standard.  That is not good.  And as I stated in earlier posts, I believe quite strongly that they have overstepped the line between being isolationist and "non-interventionists."

tracyjomartin
tracyjomartin

@stephenbaker75 @SimonNella I'm 100% pro-gay rights, but that leads me to another point I'd like to make. Paul Ryan also ran than that legalize pot and anti-war stance in the ground, but when asked about gay rights and abortion, he said he defers to the state rather than reveal his true thoughts. How incredibly convenient. I'm from Georgia so his answer left a very bitter taste in my mouth. I am quite Liberal too, but I do not for a minute think that Gary Johnson or Ron Paul could have ended the Iraq war any sooner than Obama, but I fully believe that Obama thought he could when he was running for the presidency. I basically reject promises made and go with who I think would do what I would do if "able." Yes, legalize pot, but don't you dare discriminate against those that do by withholding healthcare for risky behavior and please don't refuse to hire anyone with marijuana in their bloodstream unless their flying planes and such. Libertarians are pro-market and will support an employers right to not hire you or fire you for smoking pot. And if you're in poor health, don't call a Libertarian.

tracyjomartin
tracyjomartin

@justin_k @tracyjomartin Are you saying the Libertarian party is for national healthcare? I know the repubs are not. Oh wait, they once were, but now they're not.

GeoffBrandt
GeoffBrandt

@stephenbaker75 If that were the platform of the Libertarian party, I'd give a closer listen to be sure. However, I'm not sure that's the case. On the other hand, if the Libertarians are open to amending their platform based on informed input from members, count me in. I think it would be a lot easier to start from there and work towards a common, accepted alternative than to remake either of the two traditional parties.

madcow11
madcow11

Stephen, it is kind of hard to have national healthcare when you want to abolish the income tax.  Doesn't add up.

tracyjomartin
tracyjomartin

@madcow11 I agree and can appreciate their intent, but people have been swayed by their supposed stance on individual rights and freedoms, without giving much thought to their larger platform. Back in the eighties one day, I called the Libertarian party to learn more about them. It was the eighties after all. The gentleman who answered the phone told me in response to my question asking of their identity and core beliefs. He said, "We believe you should be able to do whatever you want with whomever you want, whenever you want no matter why you want. I told him he'd never met my neighbor.

madcow11
madcow11

@Joemamie @madcow11 Joe, the point of my suggesting that program to you was not just that it explicitly talks about the influence of Libertarians in our society today, but it gives a perspective that you may find intriguing.  I will be curious as to your thoughts on it.

madcow11
madcow11

@justin_k @madcow11 Justin, when you are talking about a party that advocates not only the propositions I mentioned above, but also wants to pretty much wipe-out the safety net for most people, as far as I am concerned ANY ONE of those things would be a deal-breaker.  

Let's face it:  All this babble from Libertarians over the last few years was primarily the result of the financial melt-down we just went through and the fact that so many people lost their jobs or lost their life savings and couldn't understand why.

The reason is because nobody was watching the pen when the wolves entered it.  Politicians were paid by big interests to look the other way -- and they did.  Big time.  Sure, there are problems with welfare loafers and excessive entitlements.  But we have a much bigger problem in the fact that our politicians are deeply into the pockets of the one percenters.  Another party may indeed be the solution, but won't they be just as tempted?  We have lost control of our government and the Libertarians have been a major part of the problem (think: the Cato Institute as established by the Koch brothers).  Libertarians or any of their major propositions are not its solution.  Campaign finance reform is the first step.  Even Jack Abramoff admits that in the last chapter of his autobiography.

justin_k
justin_k

@madcow11 I like that Johnson framed his candidacy as a kind of ideal hybrid of the major parties. He says, "more socially liberal than Democrats" (where I don't think any modern liberal would disagree with his stances), and "better on dollars and cents than Republicans" (this on the other hand may not hold up to modern conservative scrutiny. I am not an economist but I'll say that the "end the IRS" comes off as questionable.)

This election cycle is the first time I've paid attention to Libertarians, so I don't know if this is how the party is generally presented. I'll admit I had placed them somewhat far right, analogous to how the Greens are far left, and definitely thought of them as crackpots (thinking about private roads and everyone living in log cabins). However, Johnson pitched himself as sort of the best of both extremes when it comes to Democrats and Republicans. Kind of like the inverse of a centrist.

Regardless of the actual details of the typical Libertarian Party stance, Johnson's presentation of the party as a general-sense hybrid of socially liberal and fiscally conservative thought is absolutely compelling to me. I also agree with Johnson that probably a significant segment of the US population aligns this way, far more than are represented in vote tallies.

Here's the question: do the few potentially crackpot ideas from Johnson (like ending the IRS) discount the party from consideration? Put another way, does it make the party any less legitimate for consideration than the Democratic or Republican parties? Maybe a new party should rise up that is basically identical to the Libertarian party, minus 10% of the ideas? I want a real social liberal + fiscal conservative option, because it sucks having to choose between the two major parties.

stephenbaker75
stephenbaker75

@tracyjomartin @stephenbaker75 @SimonNella 

Ron Paul definitely had some personal views I disagreed with.  But everything he has actually voted to support is in line with the philosophy of liberty.

He stands against pretty much everything.  I think one of his only YES votes was in voting to make MLK day a holiday.  He stood against the government spending money to create medals for Civil Rights heroes...but he offered to pool together his own money with other Congressmen to do just that...no one wanted to do it!

Outlawing abortion and restricting gay rights are not in line with that, and despite his personal views, he has said he would never pursue them as policy items...and his consistent message leads me to believe him.

He's not the perfect candidate, but he was honest and consistent.  He had a lack of verbal tact that others found quite insulting (I think due to lack of critical thinking skills and being unfamiliar with the philosophy of liberty) that he could have phrased better.  There was a LOT of media work to make him look bad...that much was clear.

madcow11
madcow11

Tracy, please try to do everything you can to remove Paul Ryan from your mind.  

stephenbaker75
stephenbaker75

@tracyjomartin @stephenbaker75 @SimonNella Paul Ryan is hardly a Libertarian...more of a statist.  Neither is Rand Paul.  Ron Paul's stances on abortion and gay rights were a little concerning to me, but at least he said he wouldn't make them policy items...and I believed him on that since he has proven himself to be one of the only honest politicians.

justin_k
justin_k

@tracyjomartin No, Libertarians are definitely against national healthcare, just like Republicans. I apologize for not explaining this this very well. The point I was trying to make, though, is that this is not a fringe stance. I say this because your original comment sounded like you were critiquing the party's viability in a general sense (i.e. "any party against national healthcare would be not viable"), as opposed to a personal statement about whether you personally align with the party.

madcow11
madcow11

don1, you don't actually need to have fixed plans to pay back the national debt in a recession simply because you don't know how long it will last.  The important thing now is simply to get people back to work.  Nothing else is more important.  The Republicans did everything they could to thwart Obama's plans to do this and jeopardized the entire nation by doing it.  Once jobs come back, revenues go up, and with enough discipline, we can make progress at getting the debt down.  Right now the debt is high because a lot of people are hurting.  Put out the fire and worry about the cleanup later.

don1
don1

@madcow11 And it's somehow acceptable to do it with multi-trillion dollar "loans" with absolutely no plans to pay it back?

don1
don1

@tracyjomartin @madcow11 And I've talked to Democrats that believe incomes should be the same for everyone and Republicans that believe we should deport all non-whites.  You have to take the political movement as a viewpoint that we need to work with and come to compromises on issues.  Libertarians talk issues, Republicans and Democrats bash each other and change their opinions based on polls.  Don't be scared of a political movement simply because it challenges what you believe. Libertarians are somewhat philosophy misguided, but it's not like their ideas are ridiculous and it's hard to argue what the country has been doing is working all that well.

madcow11
madcow11

That's funny, Tracy!  Actually, I agree with you completely.  They wrap their wing-nut philosophy around the American flag and call themselves patriots.  There is nothing patriotic about it at all.