Gary Johnson – a unique GOP/Republican Presidential candidate

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (R) announced his candidacy for President today and, on it’s face, I think he makes an interesting option- one I want to take a close look at. One of the things that the conservative movement, and the Republican Party in particular, has been lacking is an appeal to independent and ‘middle of the road’ voters. Johnson’s positions on abortion and the legalization of marijuana, while sure to be unpopular with traditional Republican voters (particularly the anti-aborion faction and staunch proponents of the “war of drugs”), I think that he may appeal to independent voters and conservative Democrats looking for a more tempered Republican choice in 2012.

Despite what many staunch conservatives will surely intimate about him, Gov. Johnson is not “Pro Abortion.” While he does support the existence of abortion as one available option, he openly apposes late-term abortions; and made it clear, as Governor of NM, that he would sign a law banning them. Johnson also supports parental notification in cases of girls under 18 seeking an abortion and he supports counseling to make all the alternatives (to abortion) clear to young women contemplating an abortion. In addition, Gov. Johnson stated that he opposes federal funding for abortion and groups like Planned Parenthood. While Johnson supports the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana (just like alcohol), he opposes any notion of legalizing any ‘hard’ drugs, saying, “their use should be dealt with as a health issue – not a criminal justice issue.”

As much as I abhor abortion and drug abuse (with its social consequences), I also believe that our nation was founded on, and made great by, the freedom to make personal choices and personal responsibility- a.k.a. the necessity of dealing with the consequences of our personal choices and actions. Furthermore, I believe that both abortion (or the lack of abortion) and what we ingest falls under the realm of personal choice. Just as I don’t believe the government has the right to tell me what kind of healthcare I need to choose (or that I must choose to buy health insurance, for that matter), what kind of lightbulbs I can buy, whether ethanol should be in gasoline, etc. I wouldn’t have supported prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s and I see the “war on drugs” as a repeat of that failed social experiment, with even more catastrophic economic and social effects than we saw from the prohibition of alcohol in the early part of the 20th Century.

I understand that both of these subjects elicit a lot of strong emotions from a lot of conservatives. However, I think making these two issues into political issues is a hypocrisy for a group of people who claim to believe in the US Constitution and it’s strict application. We “Constitutional Conservatives” decry and rail against the liberal manipulation of the Constitution’s wording to justify the expansion of the government’s power and its attack on personal freedoms. But, when it suits us and our personal beliefs, conservatives fall back on the same erroneous, and hypocritical, connivance! It’s time we game to grips with the ideas that we can not impose our own personal ideologies (especially when it comes to personal choice) onto people and that, by attempting to do so, we are driving away people who would otherwise vote (and work) with us to fix national problems that effect us all- things like the economy, government size and fiscal responsibility, etc! We, as opponents of abortion and drug use can combat both moral issues as such; without making them political issues. If we don’t, we will continue to get hung up on these issues that are, in reality, moral issues rather than political ones; and the consequence will be that we continue to drive away allies on the issues that can and should be solved through the political process. Is it worth sacrificing potential solutions on 90% of issues because of a staunch and unbending position on the other 10%- especially when they aren’t even, really, political issues? I don’t think so. And, even if you do- is it worth sacrificing all the things we could potentially accomplish, to repair and improve our nation and our economy, to continue including moral issues in the political process?

I don’t know if Gary Johnson will be a significant candidate or whether his policies will pan out to make fiscal sense. Only time will tell. There is little rational argument that legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana would be a economic improvement over the current situation that costs us billions of federal dollars annually ($15.1 billion in 2010 – US ONDCP) plus untold billions more for litigation and imprisonment, results in nearly a million Americans arrested on marijuana charges annually, creates and fuels a black market and organized crime, and an enormous potential tax revenue on an estimated annual $36 billion dollar US industry. Most of Johnson’s beliefs are right on line with most republican/conservative/Tea Party supporters, with these two exceptions.

I fear that these two exceptions may preclude man conservative voters from even taking a logical and rational look at Johnson as a serious contender. Unfortunately, though, I think this sort of biased and rush-to-judgement thinking will only perpetuate the status-quo. If we don’t begin to do things differently, start sticking to the constitution and stop trying to delve into morality through politics, conservatives will remain in the minority and the sensibility of our ideals and goals will be (once again) so diluted by the (inappropriate) moral debate, that we will not be able to effect the change that our nation so desperately needs! We can engage these moral issues in other venues (churches, community outreach, private organizations, etc.) but keep it out of our political discourse, where it doesn’t belong and is only hurting our cause- a return to personal freedom and choice, a return to personal responsibility and a smaller, less intrusive and fiscally responsible government!

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