OK, it’s true enough. I secretly met with Gary Johnson at Java Joe’s, even after informing my colleagues that my opinion regarding Johnson’s Senate hopes should amount to radio silence; we were too busy electing progressive Dems to consider dwelling on what pre-crash entrepreneurial capitalism might look like if it had boomed and not busted in 2008.
Ahem. After a well-placed early evening telephone call from one of Governor Johnson’s staff—I happened to be at the Rio Grande Zoo, admiring the crocodile enclosure—I assented to a meeting the next morning, to talk things over. But I was clear, too, and reminded the fellow on the other side that we had already endorsed Martin Heinrich and were apt to propose in our election issue that a straight Democratic ticket was the way to go at the polls in 2018. I felt just like Johnny Sack waiting to hear from New York whilst gearing up for a retreat from that declamation.
But instead of wandering away from the wire, Johnson’s assistant said, yes, he would be at the coffee joint at 11:15, waiting to talk with me. Now that’s curious, ain’t it, thought I as a million questions raced through my mind. This very page has spoken out against Libertarianism—a tired-as-communism political ideology that generally abandons the concept of community in favor of self-interest—on at least two occasions. Further, this time around the newspaper has decided to wear its electoral heart upon its community sleeve. We truly believe the best way forward is to vote the bums out with Democratic candidates from top to bottom.
Yet Johnson’s agents persisted and I agreed on the premise of curiosity. The next day, after spending some gloriously authentic New Mexican time hanging with the Michelle Lujan Grisham campaign at the Barelas Coffee House, I walked over to Java Joe’s at the appointed time and there he was: Two-time governor, former construction magnate, conqueror of Everest, Gary Johnson.
We talked for about 20 minutes. A lot of it was contentious. Gary got ornery, emotional and cussed and I took that to mean he was at least passingly aware of tactics with similar emotional content and complexity taken on and legitimized by the very Washingtonians citizens were working to dethrone, namely privileged dudes Kavanaugh and Trump.
That sense of enlightened white outrage—false or not—must surely and soon reach peak output power. It’s a tired trope that doesn’t play well in times of privation and fear. Toward the end of the talk, Johnson sounded the alarm, telling this reporter that, very soon and for realz, this country would face a monetary and food crisis to rival those that have happened in the Soviet Union and Venezuela.
He told me twice, quite pointedly, emphatically, “Young people are fucked.” Apparently millennials are going to inherit nothing but pure shit from the baby boomers—lest a budget correction that includes radical reimaginings of programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security takes place, like, now.
And when we tried to talk about the second amendment, well just forget about it. He tried to snare me semantically by arguing about the difference between semiautomatic and automatic weapons, a treatment I saw as paternal at the best and patronizing at the worst. “He’s just angry and defensive again,” I said under my breath as I uncomfortably tried to shift the subject to something the candidate might be happy to talk about.
But Johnson’s tone at the meeting was one of angst and displeasure. At the beginning of the interview, I asked the candidate with whom would he caucus if elected. He did not know yet, he told me in an exacerbated tone suggesting a shift away from friendly banter and towards a planned but unpleasantly articulate debriefing. Midway through the interview, he seemed to grow irritated with my questions, and seemed to be chiding me when he abruptly stated that he did not have all the answers. Either that or he thought I really was imploring him to step up and solve this planet’s deepest problems.
At that moment he seemed grand but world-weary, an important state leader, an elder statesman even, sharp-minded and observant like many in the entrepreneurial class—you can thank Gary Johnson for beginning the discussion which led to the legalization of medical cannabis in this state—whose time is just not now.
I admit, I played it as very aloof. This wasn’t the same August March that shared lemonade with Senator Heinrich when the State Fair was in town. But I was still clear and my perceptions were clear then and now. Johnson’s view of governance is opaque to the point of almost being occult. Here the cult is capitalism and the misguided notion is that only the good will rise up. It’s this sort of nonsensical, colonialist thinking that has helped propel our nation to the brink. Like Trumpism, it has no place in Washington.