GJ Head Shot 7

The elephant in the room

Tonight at 6pm Pacific/9pm East­ern time, nine GOP pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls will take the stage in a live ques­tion and answer ses­sion intend­ed to famil­iar­ize Amer­i­cans with the can­di­dates. This will be the sev­enth so-called debate in the 2012 pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry sea­son, and the sec­ond to include Gov­er­nor Gary John­son, who appeared in the first of these debates back in May but who has not been per­mit­ted to par­tic­i­pate since. In a sur­prise (but wel­come) deci­sion on Sep­tem­ber 20th, Fox News invit­ed John­son to par­tic­i­pate in the debate over the objec­tions of the Flori­da Repub­li­can Par­ty, a co-spon­sor of the event.

John­son was the Gov­er­nor of New Mex­i­co from 1994 to 2003, a repub­li­can elect­ed and reelect­ed in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly demo­c­rat state. Unlike some repub­li­can gov­er­nors elect­ed to lib­er­al states, he was uncom­pro­mis­ing on fis­cal pol­i­cy, using his guber­na­to­r­i­al veto over 750 times in his eight years in office. This proves two things about vot­ers that seem to be for­got­ten in today’s polit­i­cal cli­mate: that vot­ers will back a can­di­date they believe has integri­ty even over one with whom they agree on pol­i­cy issues (with­in rea­son, of course) and that vot­ers are hun­gry to escape from the unholy alliances that par­ty pol­i­tics force.


The first of these may be self-evi­dent. Of course peo­ple will vote for a can­di­date they trust even with some dis­agree­ment on the issues. I’m pay­ing atten­tion to repub­li­can can­di­dates this year not because of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s pol­i­cy deci­sions (although sev­er­al have been stinkers) but because he has betrayed my trust. I vot­ed for Barack Oba­ma in 2008, sup­port­ed him, read one of his books, argued with friends and fam­i­ly mem­bers that he’d be a good pres­i­dent, cel­e­brat­ed his vic­to­ry, and watched proud­ly as he was inau­gu­rat­ed. I was dis­ap­point­ed to see him start his term by spend­ing his polit­i­cal cap­i­tal on get­ting his stim­u­lus bill passed. I’d have rather he took on health care first, as keep­ing Amer­i­cans healthy will bet­ter allow us to weath­er the reces­sion, which is more impor­tant than end­ing the reces­sion ear­li­er. This dis­ap­point­ment was dwarfed by the rev­e­la­tion that the recip­i­ents of fund­ing under the stim­u­lus bill mapped almost per­fect­ly to the list of top Oba­ma cam­paign donors and fundrais­ers. This is the biggest and most bla­tant exam­ple of graft in our nations his­to­ry. $2,600 tak­en from each and every man, woman, and child in the Unit­ed States was stuffed into the pock­ets of Oba­ma’s cor­po­rate back­ers.

That Oba­ma’s pri­or­i­ties did not match mine was a dis­ap­point­ment that was easy to for­give. That he is so open­ly cor­rupt is an offense that has almost cer­tain­ly cost him my vote in 2012.

##Strange bed­fel­lows?

The sec­ond thing that John­son’s pop­u­lar­i­ty in his home state indi­cates is that the posi­tions on issues drawn across par­ty lines are at best arbi­trary and some­times con­tra­dic­to­ry, and that peo­ple respond to polit­i­cal con­sis­ten­cy. Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty pro­pa­gan­da has been point­ing out for decades that eco­nom­ic lib­er­ty need not be mutu­al­ly exclu­sive to civ­il or per­son­al lib­er­ty. I’ve sus­pect­ed for some time that there would be a lot more Log Cab­in Repub­li­cans if the GOP would aban­don some of its posi­tions that frankly fly in the face of its stat­ed val­ues. How many peo­ple align close­ly with repub­li­cans’ fis­cal poli­cies but can­not bring them­selves to vote repub­li­can because they are — or have friends who are — gay or female? Peo­ple will often grit their teeth and bear high­er tax­es, but they get angry around issues like abor­tion, mar­riage, and mil­i­tary ser­vice. The math is pret­ty sim­ple: would I rather pay more in tax­es and see some pro­grams I don’t believe in con­tin­ue, or let my gay friends in com­mit­ted rela­tion­ships find out I vot­ed for a can­di­date that wants to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion to out­law same-sex mar­riage? Or let any of my friends find out I vot­ed for a can­di­date that wants to get between a woman and her doc­tor? It’s a choice I don’t like mak­ing. Liv­ing in the Bay Area I prob­a­bly have more open­ly gay friends than the aver­age Amer­i­can, but every­one every­where knows women. It’s hard to believe that I’m the only one who resents hav­ing to choose between my wal­let and the well-being and free­dom of my fel­low Americans.

Of course there is room for rea­son­able peo­ple to dis­agree on these issues and it’s not my inten­tion to make a case for my posi­tion on social or civ­il issues here. I want only to make it clear that despite what the main­stream of two-par­ty pol­i­tics in Amer­i­ca are say­ing, the desire to rein in gov­ern­ment spend­ing and the desire to rein in gov­ern­ment intru­sion into per­son­al affairs are not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive or in any way incom­pat­i­ble. I believe that the major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans dis­like hav­ing this choice foist­ed upon them, and that the split between democ­rats and repub­li­cans in the coun­try is large­ly around which set of lib­er­ties a giv­en vot­er is less will­ing to give up.

##Who ben­e­fits?

That almost all can­di­dates espouse one set of lib­er­ties and eschew the oth­er with lit­tle or no ide­o­log­i­cal con­nec­tion between the sets of issues that would war­rant the divi­sion is no acci­dent. If politi­cians actu­al­ly solved prob­lems and made our nation a bet­ter place, peo­ple would stop feel­ing des­per­ate for bet­ter politi­cians. There would be few­er sell­ing points for politi­cians and issues with which to black­en an oppo­nen­t’s rep­u­ta­tion. Peo­ple would pay more atten­tion to the con­duct of politi­cians and they would be forced to become account­able to their con­stituents rather than their donors or their pri­vate agenda.

If that seems pollyan­naish, con­sid­er how many polit­i­cal cam­paigns are run almost sole­ly on scare tac­tics. Amer­i­cans large­ly don’t vote for any can­di­date, but against the one they fear will do more harm. The mes­sage from can­di­dates in almost any race seems to be, «don’t wor­ry about what I’ve done or might do, do you real­ly want that mon­ster in office?» As a result, politi­cians know that it does­n’t mat­ter what they stand for. They must sim­ply stand against some­thing, and then do what­ev­er they like when they get into office.

By con­trast, lis­ten to the Nixon-Kennedy debates. Count the num­ber of times that each actu­al­ly says kind words about the oth­er. Lis­ten to the num­ber of times each said they agree with their oppo­nent about the sub­stance of the issue, and dis­agree only about the method of address­ing it. These politi­cians were play­ing a game, of course, but a very dif­fer­ent game than that which is played in today’s polit­i­cal realm.

##The sen­a­tor is wear­ing no clothes

No, don’t take that lit­er­al­ly. With very rare excep­tions the men­tal image of any of our elect­ed offi­cials naked is trau­mat­ic and I don’t wish that on any of my readers.

While politi­cians are telling us about their new clothes, the fact that they are elect­ed large­ly because of who they aren’t (or at least aren’t per­ceived to be) means their cam­paign promis­es are always emp­ty. Nowe­here is this more obvi­ous than in the cam­paign lead­ing up to the 2012 pri­maries. Even with­in one par­ty, the debates have large­ly been about scar­ing vot­ers from vot­ing for the oth­er guy or gal.

Obvi­ous­ly it’s not this easy, but it seems obvi­ous that a can­di­date run­ning on a plat­form of hav­ing cake and eat­ing it too per­son­al and fis­cal free­dom would be tremen­dous­ly appeal­ing. But it would only take one politi­cian with suf­fi­cient­ly high a pro­file to ruin the game for all the rest of them. It’s sad then but not too sur­pris­ing to see Gary John­son’s own par­ty try to keep him out of the debates, as they have in Florida.

I’m not a fan of Fox News — even the excel­lent Wall Street Jour­nal has gone down­hill since Mur­doch took it over — but they get my con­grat­u­la­tions and thanks for stick­ing to their guns and insist­ing on invit­ing Gov­er­nor John­son to tonight’s debate. In what­ev­er oth­er ways I may find them want­i­ng, Fox has done the coun­try a favor by giv­ing Gary a podium.

##Who is Gary Johnson?

There are plen­ty of sources of infor­ma­tion about Gov­er­nor John­son that will do a bet­ter job of illu­mi­nat­ing the man’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions as a can­di­date. His own cam­paign web­site http://www.garyjohnson2012.com/ isn’t a bad place to start. But here is a quick run­down of what I see as his strengths:

  • He is seri­ous about bal­anc­ing the budget
  • Pro-choice
  • Believes that impor­tant social issues such as legal­iza­tion (or not) of mar­i­jua­na and the def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage should be left to the states
  • Sup­port­ed end­ing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
  • Will end Amer­i­ca’s hos­til­i­ties in wars we’ve already won
  • Will­ing to use the pow­er to veto
  • An endurance athlete

This last may not seem like a pres­i­den­tial qual­i­fi­ca­tion to some, but it goes to his char­ac­ter. It takes more than tal­ent or nat­ur­al strength to com­plete triathlons, climb moun­tains, or run 100 miles in 30 hours. It takes guts, deter­mi­na­tion, com­mit­ment, and long-term focus. It requires a bal­ance of tenac­i­ty and flex­i­bil­i­ty to com­plete the kinds of events Gov­er­nor  John­son enjoys. One has to be will­ing to adjust one’s plans, tac­tics, and strat­e­gy on the fly, some­times sac­ri­fice less­er goals while at the same time refus­ing to give up even in the face of pain, exhaus­tion, and even injury. A bro­ken leg (healed only six weeks) did not deter him from sum­mit­ing Mount Ever­est. These are the kinds of qual­i­ties we absolute­ly should want in a leader.


Mono­chro­mat­ic Out­look has nev­er before endorsed a polit­i­cal can­di­date for any office. It is not a good habit to get into. It’s the sort of thing that can col­or read­ers’ trust. Ulti­mate­ly it is more desir­able to encour­age read­ers to do your own research and make up your own mind. That does not change: please don’t base your vote on my say-so. An endorse­ment here is no more or less than a request that you direct your research in a par­tic­u­lar direc­tion before com­ing to a deci­sion. That said, Mono­chro­mat­ic Out­look endors­es Gary John­son for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca in 2012.

He is some­what of a dark horse can­di­date in this race, but the pri­maries don’t start for over three months. The race real­ly has not yet begun. Tonight’s debate has the poten­tial to put Gov­er­nor Johsnon on the map and I encour­age any­one strong­ly to watch the debates, even if you haven’t fol­lowed the race at all up until now.

I won’t say any more about Oba­ma here, but I will men­tion the field of GOP can­di­dates. Oth­er than Gary John­son, the repub­li­cans are pret­ty unin­spir­ing. Near­ly all of them have declared their willling­ness to ignore the Con­sti­tu­tion on mat­ters relat­ed to abor­tion, and near­ly all of them have declared an inten­tion to vig­or­ous­ly pro­mote the alter­ation of the Con­sti­tu­tion to pre­vent and nul­li­fy indi­vid­ual states’ deci­sions regard­ing the def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage. Sad­ly, even Dr Ron Paul, large­ly seen as the lib­er­tar­i­an can­di­date (due in part to the fact that he was the 1988 Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty can­di­date for Pres­i­dent) falls in his col­umn. Most have no plan to address the health care cri­sis except to scrap Oba­macare — it needs to be done, but we also need to make some kind of changes. It’s not enough for the GOP to be the par­ty of no ideas pit­ted against the Democ­rats’ par­ty of bad ideas. Rick Per­ry and Mitt Rom­ney deserve some acknowl­edg­ment for under­stand­ing the rela­tion­ship between the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment and the states as pre­scribed by the Con­sti­tu­tion, but each has seri­ous short­com­ings as a can­di­date. Michele Bach­mann made a very favor­able first impres­sion which she has stu­dious­ly torn down, end­ing in the most recent deba­cle where she pas­sion­ate­ly came out in favor of cer­vi­cal can­cer and against med­ical sci­ence all at once. It seems one might nev­er meet a nicer guy than Jon Hunts­man but I’m not crazy about his posi­tions on the issues.

All told, it is my opin­ion that if the Unit­ed States does­n’t elect Gary John­son to the pres­i­den­cy the coun­try is going to hell. It only remains to deter­mine in which hand­bas­ket we’ll ride.

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