As the United States readies itself for a Presidential election this fall between big government, corporately funded, statist Democrat Barack Obama and big government, corporately funded, statist Republican Mitt Romney, people on both sides of the political spectrum are left feeling less than pleased with their choices.
What if there were another candidate with more executive experience than Obama and Romney combined who was highly regarded in his last position as a Governor?
On Saturday, the Libertarian Party is expected to nominate former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as its choice for President of the United States. His likely running mate will be Jim Gray, a former California Superior Court judge, Federal prosecutor and Navy JAG officer known for his opposition to the War on Drugs.
While it may seem like a waste of time to even mention in passing the Libertarian Party as it relates to the general election, 2012 may be a year for the party to shine. If you remove social issue dogma from the political conversation, Johnson may well represent the best choice for disillusioned voters on both the left and the right.
As Governor of New Mexico, Johnson was known for his commonsense business approach to governing. He eliminated New Mexico’s budget deficit, cut the rate of growth in State government in half and privatized half of the State prisons. And while many conservatives view some of Johnson’s ideas with disdain, consider the alternative: As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney grew government and created the first draft of what would later become Obamacare.
Consider the issues. Johnson offers voters the choice to remain neutral on social issues while tackling the economic problems and assaults on liberty that are on the minds of Democrats and Republicans alike.
- Obama: Fourth-straight year of trillion-dollar deficits is projected. Raises debt limit to avoid default. Calls for tackling the debt with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. Central to Obama’s plan is to let George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making more than $250,000.
- Romney: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system’s collapse, opposed the auto bailout. Would cap Federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product by end of first term, down from 23.5 percent now, with largely unspecified spending cuts. Favors Constitutional balanced budget amendment.
- Johnson: Wants to reduce Federal involvement in the economy. Reject auto and banking bailouts, State bailouts, corporate welfare, cap-and-trade, card check and the mountain of regulation that protects special interests rather than benefiting consumers or the economy. Reduce or eliminate Federal involvement in education; let States expand successful reforms such as vouchers and charter schools. Stop stimulus spending and cut military spending.
- Obama: Proposed the Buffett Rule, asking millionaires and billionaires to do their fair share. The President has asked Congress to take action to reform our tax code and close tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires, as well as hedge fund managers, private jet owners and oil companies. End Bush tax cuts.
- Romney: Has proposed eliminating all taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest. He has also signed the cut, cap and balance pledge.
- Johnson: Abolish the Internal Revenue Service. Enact the Fair Tax to tax expenditures, rather than income, with a “prebate” to make spending on basic necessities tax-free.
- Obama: Has done little to address entitlement reform. Accused of “kicking the can down the road.”
- Romney: Believes “current seniors” and those near retirement should not have their benefits reduced. He would like to return Medicaid to the States, and the Medicare plan he unveiled this spring was similar to the Ryan plan, including a voucher-like system.
- Johnson: Block-grant Medicare and Medicaid funds to the States, find efficiencies and provide better service at lower cost. Repeal President Obama’s healthcare plan, as well as the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Fix Social Security by changing the escalator from being based on wage growth to inflation.
- Obama: Increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014, though now he says it’ll be closer to 2024. Approved U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the indefinite detention of American citizens.
- Romney: Would increase strength of armed forces, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016. Has spoken in favor of covert action by the U.S. and regional allies in Syria but “the right course is not military” intervention by the U.S. Criticizes Obama’s approach on Iran as too conciliatory. Supports NDAA.
- Johnson: U.S. forces should leave Afghanistan’s challenges to the Afghan people. Re-evaluate U.S. military bases throughout the world. Make better use of military alliances to allow greater sharing of the human and financial burdens at less cost of protecting national interests. Individuals incarcerated unjustly by the U.S. should have the ability to seek compensation through the courts. Individuals detained by the U.S., whether at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, must be given due process via the courts or military tribunals and must not be held indefinitely without regard to those fundamental processes. Maintaining a strong national defense is the most basic of the Federal government’s responsibilities, so the U.S. should maintain a military presence in the Mideast, continue drone attacks in Pakistan and even consider military intervention for humanitarian reasons.
On social issues, the rhetoric coming from Obama and Romney is common Democrat/Republican squabbling. Though Romney, considered infamously moderate, could simply be “Etch A Sketching” conservatives by saying he is opposed to things like abortion, which he previously supported. On issues of giving up liberty for security, all of the evidence shows that Obama and Romney feel the same way about increasing Bush-era government surveillance and intrusions into Americans’ lives.
Johnson would be considered a social liberal by many conservatives. He wants the government to wash its hands of dealing with issues like gay marriage and abortion to focus on economic issues. Johnson is also promising to make marijuana legalization a “front burner” issue in 2012. He rejects the idea that government can be minimalized in a fiscal sense but remain heavy-handed on social regulation.
Political consultant Roger Stone opined recently in the Huffington Post that if Johnson is able to get on the stage for a national debate with Romney and Obama, voters would support his ideas overwhelmingly. He writes:
Many of my Republican friends have incorrectly chided me claiming that support for Johnson will merely reelect Barack Obama by siphoning votes from eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney. This is wrong. Romney will lose a two-person race to Obama. Johnson, a more-than-credible candidate with a distinguished record of cutting spending and taxes and fostering a job boom during his eight years as governor, will ultimately pull votes from both Republican and Democratic nominees.
The American people have never been offered a candidate who is a fiscal conservative and social liberal. If you voted for the Republican because you favored spending and tax cuts you also had to swallow a ban on abortion and opposition to gay marriage. If you voted for the Democrat because you were pro-choice, you also had to support fiscal policies that would bankrupt us.
Maybe Johnson is the compromise American voters need for 2012. Judging by his proposals, a Johnson Administration would definitely not be more of the same.