D. Dowd Muska


For Libertarians, the Choice Is Clear: Go for Gary

May 26, 2011

The Republican Party isn’t likely to nominate a presidential candidate who seeks a withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, opposes the “War on Drugs,” and supports temporary work visas for illegal immigrants.

Next year, GOPers will almost certainly pick Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, or Tim Pawlenty -- all of whom hew to positions espoused by the party’s base. Neoconservatives, culture warriors, and nativists may not comprise a solid majority of the American citizenry, but they reign in Republican Land.

So what are voters who favor noninterventionism, personal freedom, and capitalism to do? Volunteer for and donate to Gary Johnson.

The former governor of New Mexico has a résumé that refreshingly lacks establishment-pol bullet points. He was born in North Dakota and grew up in the Land of Enchantment. He didn’t attend Harvard/Yale/Princeton, and is neither a lawyer nor an investment banker. He inhaled, and admits it. He didn’t inherit wealth, but built his own business.

While Johnson is said to be the fittest politician in America -- he competes in triathlons, climbs mountains, and survived the Bataan Memorial Death March, “a 25 mile desert run in combat boots wearing a 35 pound backpack” -- he’s not preachy about it. When Playboy asked about his “extreme regimen” in 2001, he replied, “I believe you should try to find out what it is that makes your life tick really well and then get as much of it as you can … . I don’t push anyone else to do it, but it makes my life work.” A decade later, nothing has changed. He recently told The Atlantic: “I really think that life is about being in a state of Zen. If I might describe Zen for you, it’s being in the moment. The thing that gets someone there might be music, art, golf, reading, writing. It might be a job that you have. For me, I’ve found it in athletics. And I’ve also found it in politics.”

With one enormous blind spot, Johnson’s agenda is reliably libertarian: Scrap the U.S. Department of Education. Eliminate the federal tax on corporate income. Substance abuse “is a health problem that should be dealt with by health experts, not a problem that should be clogging up our courts, jails, and prisons with addicts.”

It won’t be received well by the GOP’s war whoopers, but in addition to bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, Johnson believes it is time to “reevaluate” America’s military presence in Europe. The Department of Defense, in his view, is one of the “big four” categories of federal spending (the other three are Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) that needs to be cut.

And the billions of dollars America annually sends to a certain tiny nation on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean? That’s where the triathlete stumbles. Johnson calls Israel “a strong, democratic nation … whose interests are almost entirely aligned with our own.”

Nuts. Well, no candidate’s perfect. (President Johnson couldn’t be worse on Israel than President Romney.) Even Ron Paul has a lousy stance on earmarks, and is co-sponsoring an energy bill that is corporatist to its core.

Speaking of “Dr. No,” his decision to again run for the Republican presidential nod is a disappointment. As chairman of the Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee of the House’s Financial Services Committee, the Texas congressman should focus his efforts on the Federal Reserve.

A strong showing by Gary Johnson in 2012 would be proof that Paul’s 2008 campaign was no aberration. If libertarianism is ever to enjoy success -- or at least, meaningful influence -- in electoral politics, its banner can’t be carried by one man. Besides, Paul will be 76 in August. At 58, New Mexico’s ex-chief executive is sharper, and more appealing to a key constituency: Baby Boomers.

It’s fun to envision a Johnson-Obama contest. A likable, self-made businessman who graduated from a state university, versus an arrogant, affirmative-action, law-degreed, career-pol Ivy Leaguer with infinitesimal experience in the private sector. A Zen dude who countenances self-direction and “being in the moment” versus a Nanny Stater who wants to control nearly everything you do. An advocate of education freedom versus a teacher-union tool. A genuine skeptic of the military-industrial complex versus a president who pretends to stand up to the “defense” lobby.

It’s the longest of longshots. But liberty-loving activists and voters should work to make such a race happen. With the Libertarian Party irrelevant and the Democratic Party unthinkable, we’re stuck with the GOP. Let’s make as much trouble as we can.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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