Presidential candidate Gary Johnson: Republican or Libertarian?

12/13/11 Janelle Irwin
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Another political party is trying to recruit Republican presidential long-shot Gary Johnson. Last night in Clearwater, the Florida Libertarian Party introduced the man they hope will switch parties based on his belief in limited government and massive spending cuts. All in all, Johnson’s promise to submit a balanced budget to Congress by 2013 would include federal spending cuts to the tune of 43 percent and include a proposal for a Fair Tax.

“It’s been a proposal that’s been around since 2007. And I think it is as the name implies, it’s fair. It does away with the income tax, it does away with business tax, corporate tax, it does away with the IRS, it does away with withholdings and replaces it with a 23% consumption tax that ends up to be cost neutral because currently goods and services contain a 23% tax that when you make the tax completely transparent as opposed to hidden, if you will, the hidden tax goes away. Now you’re talking about a product that when you add the 23% tax will end up costing the same as what we’re paying today.”

Johnson calls himself fiscally conservative but socially liberal. He opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and supports a women’s right to choose; a key difference between him and his opponents who tout their pro-life voting records. And Johnson wants to see marijuana legalized; another point of contention with many Republicans. And if those issues weren’t enough to break his ties with the GOP, he’s also willing to work with undocumented people instead of just giving them the boot.

“When it comes to immigration, make it as easy as possible for somebody that wants to come into this country and work to get a Work Visa. Not a green card, not citizenship, but just a Work Visa because we don’t – we want to have a background check because we don’t want criminals in this country working. And then when it comes to the 11 million illegal immigrants we have in this country, let’s set up a grace period where we can document those that are here.”

Johnson said it is one of the key differences he has with the Republican candidates, even Ron Paul. He said they all want to build fences and boost border patrol. Thomas Frederiksen isn’t affiliated with either the Libertarian or Republican Parties, but he was impressed with Johnson’s willingness to welcome immigrants into the American workforce.

“I was very moved by his position on immigration because in this climate, nobody else is talking about liberalization at all. They’re all, as he said in his presentation, talking about electrifying the fence and so forth. That is particularly pertinent to me because I actually lived in Thailand for 6 years, so I know what it’s like to try to be an immigrant and live in a foreign country and the legal hoops that you have to jump through and so forth.”

But not everyone was convinced of Johnson’s ability to be president. Fred Brownbill of the Save America Foundation is a Libertarian. He dissents from his party on one issue and that is whether or not the US should consider Iran as a nuclear threat. He didn’t think Johnson addressed that issue thoroughly.

“I believe they are a major threat to this country. I think they are a major threat to the world. I don’t believe his analogy that Israel could simultaneously take out the number of targets that are needed to be taken out without American help. I know under this administration, I doubt that help would come. I’m not sure whether it would come under a Gary Johnson administration either.”

All Johnson could do was take a neutral, wait and see stance.

“Well, and so we should be vigilant. We have the military surveillance capability to see that happen if it does and we shouldn’t rule out any options if that, in fact, is something that happens. And I think it would be naïve of us to think that Israel is not going to address that issue first and in our best interest.”

And Matt Leffler, a Libertarian with We Are Change Tampa, said he liked Johnson. But he still favors Ron Paul.

“I mean, one of the questions I asked him was would you – cause Ron Paul said that he’s going to cut his salary to $50,000 which is the median average income from 400, I think it was like 4 million or 400 million, 400,000 right – so that was a question that was posed. And his answer was his answer, so.”

Johnson has not formally jumped ship on the GOP race, but said he is seriously considering running on the Libertarian ticket. Johnson was Governor of New Mexico until 2003 after serving two terms. He said he realizes his chances of success are diminishing, but he doesn’t plan to give up on sending a message to voters.

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