Libertarian Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson opened Politicon

With #neverTrump and #neverHillary, the Libertarian Party is having their moment

“Feel the Johnson,” “Reagan Bush ’84” and even “Feel the Bern” shirts littered the massive and aptly named Independence Hall in the Pasadena Convention Center, waiting to listen to former New Mexico Governor and current Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson.

Politicon, which host a thoroughly bipartisan collection of speakers ranging from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to Wendy Davis and Barbara Boxer, took a gamble on electing Johnson as their opening speaker. But as the 2016 election season itself has shown, the Libertarian Party, potentially on the cusp of their breakthrough moment, might be worth the gamble.

This isn’t to say that Johnson and running mate and former Maryland Governor William Weld have a logical chance at winning. They don’t; Johnson won 1 per cent of the popular vote nationally, and they’re aiming to poll at 15 per cent nationally by the end of the summer. However, 15 per cent is all they pragmatically need to make a lasting dent in the American political structure because it’ll mean that Johnson and Weld can make it to the national debate stage, a hurdle Johnson railed about without pretense.

“The Presidential Debate Commission, made up of Republicans and Democrats, have absolutely no interest whatsoever in seeing a third party on stage. It’s just that simple,” Johnson told the crowd of hundreds. “Our contention in our lawsuit [against the commission] is that if you have enough support mathematically be elected, 270 electoral votes, then you should at least be in the polls. I think you should be in the debate. That would mean that the Libertarian Party in 2012 would’ve been included in the debates and so would have the Green Party.”

Although Johnson has gained notoriety for his business dealings in the cannabis industry and his own marijuana habits, his statements reflected a standard socially liberal, fiscally conservative mentality that has mostly evaded the rhetoric of the Republican and Democratic primaries.

“There is due process in this country, but when the FISA court grants the NSA the power to surveil on 100 million Verizon users, to me that goes above and beyond,” Johnson said. The NSA was created under executive order under Truman. If I were president, again under executive order, I would turn the satellites away from civilians and on our enemies.”

When pressed about the Libertarian Party’s more controversial isolationist tenancies, Johnson answered strategically, refusing to pander while indicting the aftermath of mainstream foreign policy.

“Hillary Clinton, although well-intentioned I believe, has given rise to the Islamic State through her interventions in Syria and Libya. It all goes back to the unintended consequences of our intervention,” Johnson said. “We go and defend other countries borders when a lot of these treaties have not been actually negotiated by Congress. Many of them are executive treaties. We we really want to go to war over these Eastern Baltic countries?”

“After 9/11 there were 200 members of Al Qaeda and now there are 40,000 members of ISIS. Their recruitment [rises] because of incidents like that of South Florida, people who commit actions in the name of ISIS. But it is contained, but we ourselves have created instability because of our interventions.”

Despite the sideshow nature of the presentation of Johnson’s campaign, he remains adamant that his prominence will reverberate past the significance of the Libertarian Party.

“I would not be doing this if there weren’t the opportunity to win. But the only opportunity I have as a third party to be in the presidential debates is to be at 15 per cent in the polls,” Johnson asserted.

“I think if my name is just included in the polls, and I recognize even if that’s any third party in the polls, I’ll be on the ballot in all 50 states.”