I see in the news today that Gary Johnson intends to run for president with the Libertarian Party. I think this is good news. Johnson has vastly more standard political credentials than the average LP candidate, and therefore more respectability with the news media. He also has vastly more libertarian bona fides than the previous candidate, Bob Barr, and should be less divisive within the LP fold. I expect he’ll get their nomination.
[When writing within libertarian circles, one has to put in the standard disclaimer stuff. We don’t expect him to win, or even to really shift the tone of the debates. I don’t see that “Libertarian Party” is an oxymoron as some people do, because when a candidate runs without hope of winning what’s important is that the message gets out, the positions become more visible, and the cultural impact is ultimately what matters. Slow and steady, and all that. As one small sliver of general libertarian outreach, the LP is an overall positive force. I was a Libertarian Party member many years ago but have not been since that membership lapsed and don’t expect to renew it, in case you were wondering.]
That said, there’s yet another good thing about his candidacy: he’s from New Mexico. That means very little in American circles, but in the broader spread of libertarian ideals, that helps. Why? Well, New Mexico is one of the more familiar states to Mexicans. In fact, El Diario has an article about Gary Johnson today. It’s basically just a translation of the first circulating American piece, but even so it’s news about libertarianism, and it presupposes that readers will know what that means. This does not happen much in Mexico. I expect further coverage, at least from El Diario, which represents Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, and regionally represents northern Mexico. Northern Mexico, by the way, is a far more independent region than the rest of Mexico, a place more culturally fertile for the near-term spread of libertarianism.
All countries could use a good hearty dose of libertarianism, but Mexico ought to rank very high on the list. Right now the Drug War is a literal term there, as you’ve no doubt heard. As I’ve written elsewhere, the only way out of the violence is legalization. Earlier Mexicans moves towards legalization were canceled under U.S. pressure, but I think ultimately not even U.S. pressure will be strong enough to hold back the tide. To hear that a semi-respectable candidate in their pushy northern neighbor urges the legalization of marijuana and many other libertarian positions can only help.
Whether we know it or not, what the U.S. does is highly visible to foreigners. Most educated Americans know nothing about Mexico or Mexicans, but educated Mexicans are much better informed about us. Gary Johnson will be a very visible candidate there, especially in contrast to the two major party candidates. Many Americans don’t know and many Mexicans do know that Obama presides over record deportations. Whoever the Republican candidate ends up being—whose name will not be Ron Paul—he will be strongly anti-immigration. They will know this. Gary Johnson’s position on immigration is much better, and they will know this too.
Will it get him more votes? That’s the wrong question to ask. Will it spread the libertarian message? That’s the right question, and the answer is yes.
On a completely irrelevant note, I once found a cave in the Organ Mountains in southern New Mexico with the name “Gary Johnson” among many others scratched onto the wall. I’ve always wondered if it’s the same one. This Gary Johnson is an avid athlete and has climbed Mount Everest, so maybe it is.