While Gary Johnson may not be the most well-known presidential candidate in this year’s race to the White House, he is slowly making a name for himself positively albeit negatively.
Last Friday, on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe” he was asked what he planned on doing about Aleppo, and mistakenly replied “What is Aleppo?” leaving those in attendance particularly confused and shocked as if he had just admitted he didn’t know who Elvis Presley or the Beatles were.
Twitter lit up with the trending hashtag #WhatIsAleppo and the evening news delighted to criticize someone who wasn’t Clinton or Trump. The former New Mexico governor and the Libertarian candidate for President, was quick to make amends for his blunder. He issued a very humble and wholehearted apology – one of the few human moments we’ve seen in this campaign.
Many have speculated this to be the end for Johnson, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. With strong support among veterans, endorsements from both Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger and the only candidate to actually pull off both a suit and sneakers, he is steadily rising in popularity.
Besides, personally speaking I’d rather take Johnson’s Aleppo gaffe over Trump’s constant fact-check failures or his praise for Vladimir Putin. I’d also take it over Hillary Clinton’s failed foreign policies, questionable ethics or her desire to engage in proxy wars with Vladimir Putin.
Not everyone is a fan though. Johnson has been criticized by members of his party for not actually being “libertarian” on all the issues. Fellow Libertarians have criticized him on his positions regarding TTIP or calling religious freedom “a black hole”. However Johnson has not let this slow him down. Along with his running-mate Bill Weld, he is campaigning on the idea of “Make America Sane Again”. That’s going to require a lot of work for someone who is only polling around a mere 10%.
Gary Johnson is actually trying to get his message forward and into the debates. Unlike other Third Party candidates like the Green’s Jill Stein or Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, he’s actually succeeding. His message can actually relate to Americans unlike the Greens with their “ecological wisdom” or the Constitutional Party’s message of dominionist theocracy.
The Libertarians even have the impressive feat of being the only Third Party option on the ballot in all 50 states. His appeal is simple, in the words of his running-mate Bill Weld “…government out of your pocket book and out of your bedroom”. An easy principle that most Americans could find themselves getting behind.
A simple axiom isn’t enough though. If Libertarians did win the election it would be quite complicated to get anything done. The party barely holds any real political office. Most elected Libertarians are on the local level (145 as of August 2016 to be exact).
Johnson would have to find his way to reach out to both parties. A task especially hard when the Democrats have been moving progressively to the Left and more supportive of state intervention no matter what the crisis. While some Republicans may bend toward a more libertarian viewpoint on criminal justice reform and LGBT related rights, it is harder to get convince Democrats on the appeals of liberty through free-market capitalism.
Gary Johnson’s strongest point is the same as Donald Trump’s. That is they both have an appeal to people who feel as if they have no one else to turn to. Trump’s people are mainly the white working class who feel threatened by immigration. Johnson’s people are those who are concerned for their nation, but also for their constitutional rights, their civil liberties and their economic freedoms.
Johnson also promotes himself as a man who sticks to his principles, unlike so called “grassroots” politicians like Bernie Sanders, who was quick to sell-out and endorse Hillary Clinton, even after leaked emails seem to support evidence of efforts to make sure that things came out swinging in Hillary’s favor.
With less than two months until the election, Gary should start pulling his weight. If he can garner enough percentage to be in the debates, there’s no doubt he could give Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump a run for their money. Especially in a generation that is socially more accepting than their forebears and questionable of government involvement in anything, yet alone the economy.