A Taos News op-ed writer, Alma Lones (“Gary Johnson and the lure of Libertarianism,” My Turn, Sept. 27) attempts guilt-by-association and tries to to tie former Gov. Gary Johnson to some of the more radical, unforgiving stances staked out by extreme adherents of “libertarianism.” But anybody who observed his Libertarian nomination battles, let alone survived those trials-by-fire with the governor, will recognize her slapdash stab at hanging the “extremist” albatross around Gary Johnson’s neck is preposterous. Because even a simple web search will turn up plenty of invective aimed at Johnson by the self-appointed guardians of what supposedly is “real libertarianism.”
Watching the short clips from Johnson’s spot early in the 2016 election season on the TBS network’s Full Frontal with Samantha Bee vividly illustrate this “Gary Johnson is not a real libertarian” shtick. In one clip, Bee’s producers captured not only the quirky scene of the Libertarian presidential nominating convention, but also the vitriol spewed by the “Anybody but Gary” gaggle, who weren’t just quirky, but hysterical in their Stalinist suspicion of Johnson, outraged that he dares to hold his own Libertarian views, independent of what they insist is “real libertarianism.”
When I advise Libertarian candidates, I tell them that if they are genuinely interested in creating an impact in the “real world,” drop the “ism.” It’s irrelevant to the libertarian-leaning voters in the general electorate that you should be appealing to. As the late, great comedy writer Andy Breckman used to say: “Nobody knows what that means. Nobody cares.”
“Libertarianism” is not a word you’ll hear very often coming out of Gary Johnson’s mouth. In fact, a recent Daily Lobo piece incorrectly identified Johnson as the “independent candidate,” but it’s a good descriptor of the former governor.
To win the Libertarian presidential nomination nomination — twice in nail-biters — Gary Johnson never surrendered his independent streak, never gave in to demands of an extremist fringe that demanded that he drop his his support for a strong public accommodations non-discrimination law for LGBT Americans, weathering the incessant smears of “Gary’s not a real libertarian.”
A behind-the-scenes moment from the Full Frontal segment taping demonstrates the independent, mainstream Libertarian brand that Johnson truly adheres to. The clip features host Bee joining Johnson on a rock-climbing wall. In one moment I observed just off-set, Bee slips and a safety mechanism kicks in, breaking her fall. Bee asks, (paraphrasing) “See, Gary, sometimes we all need a social safety net, don’t ya think?”
Gary Johnson didn’t miss a beat and rejoins that, sure, he’s not against a basic social safety net. He might advocate reforms for a more modest net, reserved for the most truly needy of society, but he has no interest in abolishing the safety net, cutting loose Americans in economic distress.
Why did that moment not make it into the segment that aired? Because Johnson’s reply was reasonable, not from the extreme fringe of “libertarianism,” and that didn’t make it funny enough to make the comedy show’s cut.
The “Anybody but Gary” haters are in fact the very folks who do adhere to those more extreme examples that the author insinuates — incorrectly and without citation — that Gary Johnson secretly shares.
Gary Johnson’s independent libertarian views aren’t fringe, but they’re shared by many of his Taos and Santa Fe neighbors. In some precincts in 2016 the former governor won up to 23 percent of Taos votes and up to 16 percent in parts of Santa Fe. Those are voters who, may want lower taxes, but favor LGBT marriage rights, too; while they favor less regulation of tech companies, they’re are also concerned about criminal justice reform.
Those voters won’t find that set of mainstream views in either the Democratic incumbent or his GOP challenger, but they will find it in Gary Johnson’s independent Libertarian platform.
John Vaught LaBeaume is co-editor of ElectionDissection.com. He was deputy communications director for the Johnson/Weld 2016 presidential ticket. He lives in Washington, D.C.