Inside OC: A Libertarian Long Shot to The Presidency

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The following is a story by Inside OC, a Voice of OC broadcast media partner covering Orange County newsmakers.

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, whose rising poll numbers could get him into the fall debates with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, says his party’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative agenda better reflects the electorate than either major party.

Most Americans are libertarian, “they just don’t know it,” Johnson said, brushing aside speculation of whether he’ll siphon more votes from Trump or Clinton. “This is a two-party dinosaur and we are the comet in the equation. Let’s blow it up.”

Johnson made his comments on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs program during a campaign swing through Southern California this week.

The high negatives of the Republican and Democrat standard bearers have fueled what Johnson termed “an insatiable curiosity” about the Libertarian Party. Recent public opinion polls show Johnson nearing the 15% support level that would qualify him for the debates. Johnson has contended that if nothing else, his presence on the stage would alter the tone of a negative and polarized campaign, forcing a more substantive discussion.

But he also laid out a long-shot path to election – picking off enough electoral votes in the West (he is the former two-term GOP governor of New Mexico) and/or in the East (his running mate William Weld is the former two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts) to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where he said anything might happen.

But he emphasized, “It does not happen unless I’m in those presidential debates.”

Johnson espoused views that cut across the traditional left-right divide. He advocated for small government, gay rights, gun rights, legalization of marijuana, more immigration and “cutting out the middleman” through the Internet-driven “shared economy.” He wants to replace the federal income tax with a consumption tax and eliminate the IRS.

Johnson delighted in a recent unscientific poll that showed him beating Trump and Clinton among active American military: “How can that possibly be? Maybe judicious use of the military.” Johnson said Libertarians “are not isolationist, we are non-interventionist.”

He said he would immediately withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and offer asylum to the “thousands of people” that such a move would place in harm’s way.

Johnson said he would seek Supreme Court nominees with “a view of original intent when it comes to the Constitution.” Asked if he would appoint a justice such as the late conservative Antonin Scalia to the court, Johnson said, “Well, yes.” How about someone such as liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? “Probably not.”

But Johnson said he and running mate Weld, a former federal prosecutor, would reach out to both Democrats and Republicans in choosing judges. “How about Garland for starters?” Johnson said, referencing President Obama’s languishing High Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, that Johnson said had previously been touted by Republicans.

Johnson, an extreme athlete and former entrepreneur who has admitted to smoking pot, said he would not do so in the White House: “Being president is a 24/7 job. Whoever is running this country should not be impaired.”

This edition of Inside OC has added two special airings, at 6:30 tonight (Friday) on PBS SoCal Plus and Sunday at 6:30 PM on KDOC-TV. Regular airings on PBS channels and Cox begin next Tuesday. All show times are listed at www.rickreiff.com.