An Interview with Gary Johnson
Libertarian candidate talks to Weekly Alibi
By Carolyn Carlson
Former New Mexico two-term governor Gary Johnson is trying to get his Libertarian presidential candidate message out among disenchanted voters. Not only to frustrated Republicans and Independents, but recently to Bernie Sanders supporters as well. Johnson released a video aimed specifically at Sanders peeps who are not pleased with Hillary Clinton. “If you’re still feeling the Bern and feeling burned because the Clinton machine rolled over your ideals, there is another option,” Johnson says in the new ad.
Johnson claims he and Sanders agree on many issues. “We obviously come to a junction in the road when it comes to economics, but when it comes to opportunity, when it comes to cronyism, capitalism, dropping bombs, legalizing marijuana, women’s right to choose, marriage equality—Bernie and I are one and the same.”
Native New Mexican and loyal Bernie Sanders supporter Debbie Gordon is one of those voters Johnson is after—voters who are disappointed that Sanders did not get the nomination and for whatever reason are not going to vote for Hillary Clinton. So, why Johnson? “He will shake up the two party system, neither party has put up a viable candidate for a lot of us voters,” Gordon told Weekly Alibi. In a way a Bernie vote for Johnson can be a form of protest showing that this block of voters want a real change.
Heart in New Mexico
Johnson is from New Mexico. New Mexico is a predominately lower income state struggling to find ways to not be dependent on federal, state and local government employment. New Mexico might seem ripe for the free market ideology, but is it really?
Weekly Alibi exchanged emails with Johnson asking him some tough questions about New Mexico and his Libertarian platform, here’s what he had to say:
Alibi: New Mexico is your home state. It has a myriad of issues facing its mixed, low-income government dependent population—how can these New Mexicans be sure they will not be lost in the free market, “cut government services” philosophy of the libertarian platform?
Gary Johnson: Many in New Mexico are struggling. I live there, I know it, and I see it. When I was governor, I worked to get government out of the way of the real job-creators in the private sector, and by most accounts, we had some success. Ultimately, good jobs and a growing economy are what will help those who are struggling the most. However, I have never suggested that we should not provide a basic safety net for those who truly need help. The key is to have realistic eligibility requirements, provide the best services at the lowest cost to taxpayers and create an environment where real opportunities exist.
“First, Libertarians believe government’s most basic responsibility is to protect us from those who would do us harm. Polluters and those who otherwise damage the environment are doing us harm, and there is a role for government in protecting us from that harm. At the same time, the government’s attempts to manipulate our behaviors and, for example, the energy marketplace have not succeeded—and won’t.”
What level of gun control do you support?
I begin with the premise that the Second Amendment means what it says. Americans have an individual constitutional right to own firearms. At the same time, I am open to a conversation about how we go about keeping guns out of the hands of deranged individuals who present a real risk to others—a risk not defined by an unelected government bureaucrat who puts you or me on a list, but by way of due process at a level that is appropriate when talking about a fundamental constitutional right.
How can the free market guarantee the environment and the earth’s natural resources will be protected?
First, Libertarians believe government’s most basic responsibility is to protect us from those who would do us harm. Polluters and those who otherwise damage the environment are doing us harm, and there is a role for government in protecting us from that harm. At the same time, the government’s attempts to manipulate our behaviors and, for example, the energy marketplace have not succeeded—and won’t. Consumers want a clean and sustainable environment, and the marketplace is having far more success in moving us toward greater sensitivity and sustainability than are unnecessary regulations that do little more than cost jobs and impede the progress we would otherwise make on our own.
Don’t the ideals of the Libertarian Party depend on people being altruistic to some great degree?
I frequently point out that Libertarianism is not Darwinism. Again, I have always maintained that a basic safety net is both needed and appropriate. Libertarianism also is grounded in the idea that the most important thing we can insure for the individual is equal opportunity and the freedom to provide for one’s self. It is difficult to be altruistic when one doesn’t have a job or when the government is taking outrageous portions of our earnings in order to support its spending habits.
New Mexico has a private prison industry and a huge problem with recidivism due to poverty from a lack of jobs for felons. Doesn't a privatized prison industrial complex incentivize continued incarceration as opposed to rehabilitation? Wouldn't the economy be better served by rehabilitating prisoners with skills training so they can contribute economically when released?
There are many contributing factors when it comes to recidivism, but privatized prisons are not one of them. As Governor, I never once witnessed or experienced pressures to fill prison beds from the prison “lobby.” It just didn’t happen. There is much we can do to address the real problems, beginning with reducing the incarceration rate to begin with. We put too many people in jail for drug offenses when we should be treating those offenses as health issues, not criminal ones. Mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws and other inflexible statutes are also significant factors that must be addressed.
The Affordable Care Act has provided millions of Americans with health care who were unable to enroll before. If the ACA were to be dismantled, how would those people, more than half of New Mexicans, receive healthcare?
I have always maintained that, as governor, I could provide a basic health care safety net at less cost and greater service without the regulations and strings that come with federal programs. And I believe most governors around the country would agree. The promise of the ACA was lower cost and greater access. Neither has been the result. If we are going to have federal health care assistance, simply provide the states with funds in the form of block grants, and let state-by-state innovation put those dollars to the best use providing effective and economical health care services to those who truly need them.
We know your strong stance on legalization of marijuana but what do you plan to do about all the people serving time in jails and prisons for nonviolent marijuana related charges?
President Obama has actually taken some important steps toward granting pardons and clemency to nonviolent drug offenders. I would continue that effort—and accelerate it. However, the reality is that a great many of those serving time are doing so under state laws and convictions over which the president has no control. For those prisoners, the federal government can serve as an example and hopefully apply pressure on the states to follow its lead in returning nonviolent offenders to free and productive lives.
How and why is your party relevant to socialist leaning, liberal-minded people?
There is very little philosophical daylight between Libertarians and classical liberals. Both believe strongly that the rights and freedoms of the individual must be respected. Marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose, privacy, non-intervention abroad ... those are all issues on which liberals and Libertarians converge. And frankly, recent history has shown that neither the Republicans nor the Democratic Party is a dependable ally on those issues.
Do you prefer red or green chile?
Johnson will be speaking in Albuquerque at 2pm, Aug. 20, at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
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