The 2016 presidential election will soon have its first official party nominee. Not Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. But a Libertarian. The Libertarian National Convention is set for Memorial Day weekend in Orlando, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is hoping to emerge as the party’s nominee for president. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks to Johnson about his platform, and the viability of a third party candidacy in 2016.
Interview Highlights: Gary Johnson
Do you really think you can win the presidency?
“I wouldn’t be doing it if that weren’t a possibility but the only possibility that a third party has of winning is to be in the presidential debates. I think significant is the fact that as a third party Libertarian Party is going to be on the ballot in all 50 states. So when you talk about a third party, as the Libertarian nominee, and I hope to be the Libertarian nominee, I’m gonna be the only third party guy on the ballot in all 50 states.”
What case would you make to libertarians to consider you as the nominee?
“Personally I think I’ve got a really unique package. I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life, I did serve two terms as governor of New Mexico in a state that’s heavily democratic. I made a name for myself being really a penny pincher. Just being a steer with funds. Made a name for myself vetoing legislation, I may have vetoed more legislation than the other 49 governors in the country combined.”
So you look at vetoing a bunch of legislation as a badge of honor?
“Well, yes, from the standpoint, if at the end of the day all that the legislation does is add time and money to our lives, really is it political? Or, really does it just end up adding time and money?”
Why did you pick former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as your running mate?
“I am just ecstatic beyond belief. As governor of New Mexico, we intersected as governors. And Bill was the smartest guy in the room. I held him up as a role model. What he was doing, very simply, was just what I tried to do. Just bring a common sense approach to everything that was going on. And of course getting elected two terms in Massachusetts. And being a self-declared Republican-Libertarian, standing up for gay rights, standing up for a woman’s right to choose, saying that he supported medical marijuana, at that time, and I’m talking about the mid-’90s, that that should have done him in as the potential ambassador to Mexico. I looked at him as my plight within the Republican Party. And the fact that he wants to do this, I just, it’s unbelievable. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”
On the legalization of marijuana and the war on drugs:
“It’s an issue that everybody focuses on because in 1999 I was the highest elected official in the United States to call for the legalization of marijuana. I think that was good news in ’99. Bad news is in 2016 I’m still the highest elected official to call for the legalization of marijuana. Though I guess Bernie Sanders has now embraced this in his running for president, which is great. I mean to bring awareness to this.”
“The war on drugs is insane and it has resulted in my opinion… it’s at the root of Black Lives Matter, it’s at the root of why police forces have militarized themselves, it’s at the root of why we have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world.”
“I am not advocating the legalization of other drugs. But starting off at looking at other drugs, and decriminalizing drug use is really a good start. These are health issues, these are not criminal justice issues.”
“It’s an issue that really has its roots in just misunderstanding, just misinformation. Look, let’s embrace immigration for what it is. It’s really a good thing. We’re a country of immigrants. We should make it as easy as possible for somebody that wants to come into this country and work to be able to get a work visa. And a work visa should entail a background check and a social security card that applicable taxes get paid. They are the cream of the crop when it comes to workers. They’re not murderers and rapists. Statistically they commit far less crime than U.S. citizens.”
Do you have a problem with people who have come over illegally?
“Well, they shouldn’t have, but they have. So there needs to be a process whereby the 11 million that are here right now can basically show up and get a work visa immediately if they’ve been law abiding for the time that they’ve spent in the United States.”
“I think we should simplify the tax system. I’m going to sign onto everything that reduces taxes. But ideally we would have reform of the tax system that would eliminate income tax, corporate tax, because we would do that, we could also abolish the IRS. And we can replace it with one federal consumption tax.”
On national security:
“If we’re attacked, we should attack back. But I am a real skeptic when it comes to our military interventions. I think our military intervention, that would be boots on the ground, that would be dropping bombs, that would be flying drones that are killing thousands of innocent people, i think the effect of these military interventions are that they’ve made things worse not better.”
On having called Donald Trump a “p***y” in the Libertarian debate, and whether that’s the kind of tone he wants to take in the campaign:
“No, it’s not.”
“It was an attempt at humor, and it was really a misfire. I’m better than that, and I apologize for doing that.”
On whether he’s worried about being a spoiler:
“No, actually, in the polls that I have appeared in, and the latest one was yesterday was an actual Fox poll at which I was at 10 percent against Hillary and Trump. Really, I pull equally from both sides.”
“The key again is being in the polls, and I’m not in all the polls. But the Presidential Debate Commission says you have to be at 15 percent in the polls to be in the presidential debates.”