Gary Johnson’s Third Con Job

 

Jim Geraghty has long sounded the alarm about politicians who run campaigns not to win but as book tours. They mess up primaries, in particular, by creating noise that makes picking the right candidate harder and slows the unifying of the party before the general, while contributing nothing of value. At best, they offer an idea that the public can enjoy (although it’s much easier to find a memorable idea, like Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan, than an idea that has gone on to have an impact). 

What is unusual about Johnson’s campaign, and unlike his last two efforts, is that he’s finally come out and said it. In an interview on Scott Steigler’s Stig show, he said “By ‘fully expect to win’ – I’ve won, because – is winning receiving more votes? Maybe that won’t be the case.” Then later “Winning? I’ve won, really. I’m sitting here with you. You wouldn’t have had me on any other way, right?” Stig says “If that’s your qualifier, we need to raise your standards.” Johnson responds “Does winning mean you get more votes?” Stig explains that “Winning does mean you get more votes. You can’t influence anything if you don’t, right?” And Johnson says “Well, maybe that’s not the case. That’s kind of what I’ve dedicated my life to, is talking about these issues as they should be talked about… You can argue that I didn’t stand a chance in either one of those [presidential] races.”

So there are two outcomes to the race; the first is that Johnson gets media time, donations, and such. The second is that some kind of message is put out. What is the message that Johnson wants to put out in the world? His primary message is that he’d cut spending, but not on anything in New Mexico. So, specifically, he’d focus cuts on military spending, but he’d not cut the military in New Mexico. Indeed, he’d increase New Mexican military spending, because the environment is well suited to military stuff. He attacks Sen. Heinrich for failing to maximize defense spending in New Mexico. Likewise, he’s a fan of federal spending on scientific research, because it takes place in New Mexico, but doesn’t pretend to have a principled position defending it. 

His secondary messages are that he’d oppose military interventions, and promote pot. His actual record includes support for the invasion of Afghanistan, for intervention in Yemen, in Uganda when Kony was in the news, and against ISIS in Iraq, while his calls for US support for Russian attacks on ISIS in Syria led to his most memorable moment in 2016. Even a week after being asked about Aleppo, a Russian backed atrocity that did not involve ISIS, he still sought to change the subject to ISIS. In other words, if you broadly agree with Johnson about the policies you most want, you already have a Senator who agrees with you: look through the hyperbole and Martin Heinrich is a security moderate who favors pot legalization, is comfortable with federal spending, and would prefer that it took place in New Mexico than elsewhere. 

The big differences are that Heinrich is honest and informed. When Heinrich tells you something, it’s likely going to be based in reports from the news or other forms of thoughtful research. When Johnson explains that he opposes Libyan intervention because ISIS has taken all the weapons from the rebels and now runs Libya, you are left wondering if he’s getting that from the fringe blogs that were spouting the Russian line or if it’s just something he made up. Unless Johnson really believes it’s plausible that he’ll get federal spending cuts everywhere except New Mexico, he’s not taking more radical positions on his central issues than Heinrich, just less informed ones that sound more radical. 

So, again, listen to the interview. Notice that when he talks about the impact he can make, it’s about getting himself into the media, not about promoting a particular idea. Even when he fantasizes about being a senator, it’s about “I hope I’m mentioned every Sunday morning amongst the talking heads as to where Johnson’s at on this. And the country can look to Johnson as to what should or shouldn’t take place.” It’s not about a passion for education reform or some other way of helping people. Because Johnson’s campaign is a scam in the same sort of way that various fake Tea Party groups were scams, or the Ben Carson or Chris Dodd campaigns were; they sucker good people out of their money, drive idealistic kids to volunteer their time, and increase the rifts between Americans, all in the name of ego and cash. 

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  1. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    As always, if you don’t like a topic, feel free not to read it. Defenses of Johnson are welcomed, though. 

    • #1
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    James Of England: Stig explains that “Winning does mean you get more votes. You can’t influence anything if you don’t, right?” And Johnson says “Well, maybe that’s not the case.”

    I agree with Johnson on this point.

    I would never vote for him, though, and think it’s fine if he’s called out for his behavior.

    • #2
  3. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    James Of England: Stig explains that “Winning does mean you get more votes. You can’t influence anything if you don’t, right?” And Johnson says “Well, maybe that’s not the case.”

    I agree with Johnson on this point.

    I would never vote for him, though, and think it’s fine if he’s called out for his behavior.

    Sure. You can have a message and abuse the election as a way to bring attention to it. What’s distinctive about Johnson, though, is that he doesn’t have a message. There’s nothing serious in the Johnson campaign that you won’t find in the other two candidates in a more informed position. 

    Unless you think that cutting spending only outside of New Mexico is a serious plan. 

    • #3
  4. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    I as in New Mexico when he was governor and thought he did a good job.  Since leaving the Republican Party and going full libertarian, he has just become more and more wacko. The libertarians are a joke, and nothing Johnson has done in the last fifteen years has changed that.

    • #4
  5. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    I as in New Mexico when he was governor and thought he did a good job. Since leaving the Republican Party and going full libertarian, he has just become more and more wacko. The libertarians are a joke, and nothing Johnson has done in the last fifteen years has changed that.

    I really enjoy New Mexico political history (I’m writing this from Albuquerque because I enjoy it so much!) Would you mind if I asked what, in particular, you enjoyed about his administration?

    • #5
  6. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Oh, and separately, there are Libertarian Party members who can talk eloquently about policy, and members who care about it. Larry Sharpe, for instance, Fred’s candidate for NY governor, is genuinely into that stuff. Bob Barr was pretty smart. Ron Paul may have had some regrettable views, but there were policy things he cared about.

    Johnson’s bad character isn’t wholly the fault of the LP.

    • #6
  7. DonG Coolidge
    DonG
    @DonG

    The only purpose of the Libertarian party has been to promote legalizing pot.  That purpose is in the past and anyone interested in libertarian (small ell) values should vote ‘R’.  Heck, join the party and help shrink government!

    • #7
  8. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    James Of England (View Comment):

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    I as in New Mexico when he was governor and thought he did a good job. Since leaving the Republican Party and going full libertarian, he has just become more and more wacko. The libertarians are a joke, and nothing Johnson has done in the last fifteen years has changed that.

    I really enjoy New Mexico political history (I’m writing this from Albuquerque because I enjoy it so much!) Would you mind if I asked what, in particular, you enjoyed about his administration?

    He cut spending, and issued more vetos than any governor before or since. 

    James Of England (View Comment):

    Oh, and separately, there are Libertarian Party members who can talk eloquently about policy, and members who care about it. Larry Sharpe, for instance, Fred’s candidate for NY governor, is genuinely into that stuff. Bob Barr was pretty smart. Ron Paul may have had some regrettable views, but there were policy things he cared about.

    Johnson’s bad character isn’t wholly the fault of the LP.

    There are one or two who have some good ideas, but as a whole the effect is desultory, immature and counter-productive.  I don’t know about Sharpe, but note that the other three politicians had success in the Republican Party, then became footnotes after they left.

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    James Of England (View Comment):

    As always, if you don’t like a topic, feel free not to read it. Defenses of Johnson are welcomed, though.

    Fat chance of that from me.

    Did Steiger ask him if he knows what a leppo is yet?

    • #9
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    James Of England (View Comment):

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    I as in New Mexico when he was governor and thought he did a good job. Since leaving the Republican Party and going full libertarian, he has just become more and more wacko. The libertarians are a joke, and nothing Johnson has done in the last fifteen years has changed that.

    I really enjoy New Mexico political history (I’m writing this from Albuquerque because I enjoy it so much!) Would you mind if I asked what, in particular, you enjoyed about his administration?

    He cut spending, and issued more vetos than any governor before or since.

    Spending increased 75% under Johnson. He was one of the biggest spenders around during his eight years. Not as much as debt, which increased by twice that to 2.5 times what it was when he took over, but pretty fast. I’ve written fairly extensively about this, if you’re curious, but usgovermnentspending.com is a great resource if you want to explore it yourself. I’m curious if there’s anything other than Johnson claiming restraint (I don’t think even Johnson said he cut) that makes you say spending went down.

    He did veto a lot of bills. Since he passed many of the worst, though, like the pioneering film subsidies, or the budgets, it’s not obvious to me how that’s an advantage. He could have been passing libertarian laws the legislature liked, such as the gun rights expansion passed immediately after he left office.

    James Of England (View Comment):

    Oh, and separately, there are Libertarian Party members who can talk eloquently about policy, and members who care about it. Larry Sharpe, for instance, Fred’s candidate for NY governor, is genuinely into that stuff. Bob Barr was pretty smart. Ron Paul may have had some regrettable views, but there were policy things he cared about.

    Johnson’s bad character isn’t wholly the fault of the LP.

    There are one or two who have some good ideas, but as a whole the effect is desultory, immature and counter-productive. I don’t know about Sharpe, but note that the other three politicians had success in the Republican Party, then became footnotes after they left.

    Ron Paul’s best days we’re post-LP, but I agree that that is the pattern. Like doing a last set of reps on a lower weight before leaving the gym. On the other hand, WAR and Roger Stone were lured back to the GOP by Trump. It can go both ways, but never Democrat.

    • #10
  11. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    DonG (View Comment):

    The only purpose of the Libertarian party has been to promote legalizing pot. That purpose is in the past and anyone interested in libertarian (small ell) values should vote ‘R’. Heck, join the party and help shrink government!

    One of the best bits in the interview is the claim that he smokes as civil disobedience. So principled!

    Pot is illegal in New Mexico for recreational use, and illegal federally. Given Johnson’s professional career in pot distribution, the federal law is legitimately important. Since Heinrich also supports it, though, it’s not a reason to be in the race.

    • #11
  12. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Percival (View Comment):

    James Of England (View Comment):

    As always, if you don’t like a topic, feel free not to read it. Defenses of Johnson are welcomed, though.

    Fat chance of that from me.

    Did Steiger ask him if he knows what a leppo is yet?

    I’ve really enjoyed the respectful tone of NM political radio. They weren’t interested in being a jerk to him, just gently exploring his ideas.

    • #12
  13. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Sat across the table from Presidential candidate Harry Browne at a Libertarian Party fund raiser. I think I was pegged to be the biggest sucker in the room and seated accordingly. He was better with anecdotes than policies, and had a book to sell, Why Government Doesn’t Work. He was lively and amicable and quick witted.

    Found out after the campaign that he spent all of his communications budget on ads in the DC area and in one other state. Living in DC it sounded like he had quite the campaign going, but not so much.

    • #13
  14. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Percival (View Comment):
    Did Steiger ask him if he knows what a leppo is yet?

    A miniature leaopard. Everyone knows that.

    • #14
  15. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Sat across the table from Presidential candidate Harry Browne at a Libertarian Party fund raiser. I think I was pegged to be the biggest sucker in the room and seated accordingly. He was better with anecdotes than policies, and had a book to sell, Why Government Doesn’t Work. He was lively and amicable and quick witted.

    Found out after the campaign that he spent all of his communications budget on ads in the DC area and in one other state. Living in DC it sounded like he had quite the campaign going, but not so much.

    Harry Brown Thing got my vote!

    • #15
  16. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Sat across the table from Presidential candidate Harry Browne at a Libertarian Party fund raiser. I think I was pegged to be the biggest sucker in the room and seated accordingly. He was better with anecdotes than policies, and had a book to sell, Why Government Doesn’t Work. He was lively and amicable and quick witted.

    Found out after the campaign that he spent all of his communications budget on ads in the DC area and in one other state. Living in DC it sounded like he had quite the campaign going, but not so much.

    Harry Brown Thing got my vote!

    A lot of New Mexicans went that way! Decisively so! New Hampshire went for Bush by over 6k votes, despite a more than 5k Reform/ Libertarian vote. If Bush hadn’t won NH, Gore’s victory in New Mexico would have been decisive. Gore won by 366 votes, a dramatically smaller margin than even Florida got. There were 1,392 Reform votes and 2,058 Libertarian. Browne came very close to providing an enormous expansion in government. Thankfully, the New Hampshire campaign pulled through, so instead Nader denied America the most environmentalist President he would ever see. 

    • #16
  17. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Sat across the table from Presidential candidate Harry Browne at a Libertarian Party fund raiser. I think I was pegged to be the biggest sucker in the room and seated accordingly. He was better with anecdotes than policies, and had a book to sell, Why Government Doesn’t Work. He was lively and amicable and quick witted.

    Found out after the campaign that he spent all of his communications budget on ads in the DC area and in one other state. Living in DC it sounded like he had quite the campaign going, but not so much.

    I’ve spoken to a bunch of people who found him terribly charming. He was also impressively principled, turning down the Federal matching funds that Johnson made the focus of his 2012 run (that was what the “Vote Libertarian Just One Time” campaign was about). It’s a mild shame that those principles drew him to Rockwell. It’s surprising how often people with those tendencies can be so radically different to the stereotype. 

    • #17
  18. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    James Of England (View Comment):

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Sat across the table from Presidential candidate Harry Browne at a Libertarian Party fund raiser. I think I was pegged to be the biggest sucker in the room and seated accordingly. He was better with anecdotes than policies, and had a book to sell, Why Government Doesn’t Work. He was lively and amicable and quick witted.

    Found out after the campaign that he spent all of his communications budget on ads in the DC area and in one other state. Living in DC it sounded like he had quite the campaign going, but not so much.

    Harry Brown Thing got my vote!

    A lot of New Mexicans went that way! Decisively so! New Hampshire went for Bush by over 6k votes, despite a more than 5k Reform/ Libertarian vote. If Bush hadn’t won NH, Gore’s victory in New Mexico would have been decisive. Gore won by 366 votes, a dramatically smaller margin than even Florida got. There were 1,392 Reform votes and 2,058 Libertarian. Browne came very close to providing an enormous expansion in government. Thankfully, the New Hampshire campaign pulled through, so instead Nader denied America the most environmentalist President he would ever see.

    That’s what I mean by counter-productive in my comment above.  As usual, I wasn’t impressed by either major party candidate, and didn’t think my vote mattered anyway.

    • #18
  19. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    That’s what I mean by counter-productive in my comment above. As usual, I wasn’t impressed by either major party candidate, and didn’t think my vote mattered anyway.

    I hope it was a useful civic education for you. ;-) Also, if you have recommendations about things I should do while I’m out here, I’d be keen to hear them. 

    • #19
  20. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    James Of England (View Comment):

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    That’s what I mean by counter-productive in my comment above. As usual, I wasn’t impressed by either major party candidate, and didn’t think my vote mattered anyway.

    I hope it was a useful civic education for you. ;-) Also, if you have recommendations about things I should do while I’m out here, I’d be keen to hear them.

    Food, booze, outdoors or indoors?

    • #20
  21. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    James Of England (View Comment):

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    That’s what I mean by counter-productive in my comment above. As usual, I wasn’t impressed by either major party candidate, and didn’t think my vote mattered anyway.

    I hope it was a useful civic education for you. ;-) Also, if you have recommendations about things I should do while I’m out here, I’d be keen to hear them.

    Food, booze, outdoors or indoors?

    Not too much travel from ABQ or Santa Fe, and food is better than booze (I’m on a pretty tight schedule, with a dance event I’m supporting this weekend, too). 

    • #21
  22. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Sadie’s on 4th Street in ABQ or Tomasita’s and Los Amigos in Santa Fe for good New Mexican food.  (Be aware:  Sadie’s doesn’t skimp on the hot.)  The Range on Menaul or Backstreet Grill in Old Town are both good.   (Ask for Emma at Backstreet and tell her I sent you.)  The best burger is a Blake’s Lotaburger green chile cheeseburger.  The best pizza is Dion’s, though Rooftop in Santa Fe is pretty good.

    Santa Fe has better museums and galleries.  Don’t bother with Old Town in ABQ, it’s mostly just a tourist trap.  Park and walk to the plaza in Santa Fe.  The north side is the Palace of the Governors history museum, and under the eaves Indians and only Indians are allowed to sell art, jewelry and pottery.  The NW corner of the plaza has best art museum in NM.  The plaza has numerous art galleries in and around it.  Canyon Road is within walking distance, and I’d check that out first, if you’re short on time.

    The Sandia Tram in ABQ is a truly awesome experience, and Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe is a great place to go after a hard day of dancing.

    I’d also ask @dnewlander; I haven’t lived there for fourteen years, though I visit often.

    • #22
  23. LibertyDefender Member
    LibertyDefender
    @LibertyDefender

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    I as in New Mexico when he was governor and thought he did a good job. Since leaving the Republican Party and going full libertarian, he has just become more and more wacko. The libertarians are a joke, and nothing Johnson has done in the last fifteen years has changed that.

    Libertarianism remains a legitimate political philosophy – the United States Constitution is for the most part libertarian.

    That said, in 1996 I learned firsthand that the Libertarian Party is not a serious national political party.  At the home of CATO founder Ed Crane, I spoke with the then-chairman of the Libertarian Party.  I asked him if the LP would endorse Steve Forbes were he to win the Republican Party nomination, since Forbes was running on a very clear set of libertarian policies.  Without hesitation, the LP chairman said no, because the Libertarian Party needed always to define the boundary.

    Sad to say, the Libertarian Party doesn’t want to be taken seriously.  At their most recent nominating convention, they permitted a bozo wearing a rubber boot on his head and some  potbellied Chipppendales male stripper wannabe to take the stage.  Gary Johnson’s descent into madness is a perfect reflection of the LP’s lack of seriousness – and I so wanted to vote for Gary Johnson after I heard him speak at CPAC in 2016.   I didn’t care that he didn’t know Aleppo off the top of his head – heck, why ask any libertarian about foreign affairs anyway?  But what killed me was his declaration that freedom of religion means that if marriage is on the menu, then by law the church must offer it to all who order it.

    • #23
  24. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    Did Steiger ask him if he knows what a leppo is yet?

    A miniature leaopard. Everyone knows that.

    The sixth Marx brother.

    • #24
  25. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Let me get a few things out of the way before I comment:

    I voted for Gary Johnson in 2016.

    Gary Johnson is an idiot.

    And the Libertarian Party is an absolute embarrassment.

    And with that said, James, your repeated haranguing of Gary Johnson comes off as petty to me, and this post is no exception.

    So Johnson may have had additional/ulterior objectives in running than actually winning the presidency. But so do countless other candidates, especially in the Republican party. Common goals for Republican vanity candidates seem to include a) getting a gig on FoxNews, b) nabbing a Cabinet seat, or c) raising your speaking fee on the circuit. 

    On the Democrat side, I don’t think Bernie Sanders ever really believed he had a chance of winning the nomination, let alone the presidency. Yet progressives across the country are thankful for his candidacy because it gave a loud (and spittle-flecked) platform to their views which would have otherwise been swept quietly under the rug by the Hillary machine.

    The fact that our system allows less-serious candidates to hog attention and resources is simply one of the prices we pay for not having top-down elections in which party bosses call the shots. It’s akin to how our freedom of opinion allows even former Armed Forces members to criticize our foreign policy in the middle of an ongoing war – it hampers the cause in the short term, but the benefits of a free and open process and the need for even more robust debate make us stronger.

    So in my opinion, the correct response is just to sigh and deal with the vanity candidates, not to use the phenomenon as an excuse to again excoriate a fairly harmless politician whom you seem to personally have particular animus towards.

    • #25
  26. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    It also strikes me that nearly all of the accusations leveled against Johnson in this post could be leveled against Donald Trump’s campaign in 2015/2016: it was obviously ego driven (and he also really wanted to hear his name on political talk shows), his policy preferences were obviously not well thought-out, in many cases they were directly contradictory to either his previous positions or to other contemporary positions, and he also took on the role of a spoiler early on.

    So I don’t see any defense of Trump’s campaign (especially back in 2015) that doesn’t equally justify Johnson’s.

    • #26
  27. LibertyDefender Member
    LibertyDefender
    @LibertyDefender

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Let me get a few things out of the way before I comment:

    I voted for Gary Johnson in 2016.

    Gary Johnson is an idiot.

    You knew that Gary Johnson was an idiot when you voted for him.

    You knew that given his definition of religious freedom, he cannot be considered a principled libertarian.

    You knew that your vote for Gary Johnson would make Hillary Clinton’s election that much more likely.

    Why on earth did you vote for Gary Johnson?  You don’t even get to send virtue signals with that vote.

    If it’s any consolation, I think you should be slightly less embarrassed than anyone who voted for Evan McMullin.

    • #27
  28. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    Mendel (View Comment):

    So I don’t see any defense of Trump’s campaign (especially back in 2015) that doesn’t equally justify Johnson’s.

    I have the justification.  Trump’s campaign was about fighting.  And everyone likes a fighter. Therefore Trump is justified.

    • #28
  29. LibertyDefender Member
    LibertyDefender
    @LibertyDefender

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):

    Mendel (View Comment):

    So I don’t see any defense of Trump’s campaign (especially back in 2015) that doesn’t equally justify Johnson’s.

    I have the justification. Trump’s campaign was about fighting. And everyone likes a fighter. Therefore Trump is justified.

    Testify, brother.  (I wish I’d realized as much during the primaries.)  Specifically, Trump’s campaign was about fighting the Democrat=Media Complex.  Every Republican Party candidate in my lifetime has been subjected to vicious smears that either originated with the mainstream media, or were faithfully reported without question by the media, and those candidates never fought back.

    Trump fights the fake news Democrat-Media Complex.  God bless him for it.

    • #29
  30. dnewlander Coolidge
    dnewlander
    @dnewlander

    James Of England (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    James Of England (View Comment):

    As always, if you don’t like a topic, feel free not to read it. Defenses of Johnson are welcomed, though.

    Fat chance of that from me.

    Did Steiger ask him if he knows what a leppo is yet?

    I’ve really enjoyed the respectful tone of NM political radio. They weren’t interested in being a jerk to him, just gently exploring his ideas.

    That’s because his name isn’t “Susana Martinez”. They’re all focused on ridiculing her, and her Secretaries of Education. (As though it’s the PED’s fault APS is possibly the worst school district in the country outside of Detroit and Los Angeles.)

    Digression, please continue discussing Gary Johnson’s numerous character flaws.

    I think the only notable thing he did as governor was hang gliding off of Sandia Peak.

    • #30
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