Gary Johnson at rally in Des Moines, IA on 9/3/16.
Gary Johnson at rally in Des Moines, IA on 9/3/16.
Gary Johnson at rally in Des Moines, IA on 9/3/16.

After attending his rally in Des Moines on Saturday I wanted to share some thoughts about former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson.

First it is pretty clear to me that of the independent and “3rd Party” candidates he has the most support in Iowa. The gym at Grand View’s Wellness Center was pretty full and I guesstimated there was about 600 people there. Some reported 400, fine… Whatever the number it was impressive considering this was a rally for the Libertarian ticket.

Second, Johnson is a likable candidate. He’s kind. He appears to be very down-to-earth. He’s appears to be humble. I say appear because I’ve not met the man personally, but I am basing this on speeches that I’ve heard in the past, TV appearances I’ve seen and this latest rally. He also has a great sense of humor.

Third, he has a number of positions that I agree with. There isn’t much that I can find fault with in terms of his tax proposals and fiscal policy. On education he has one of the best positions of all of the general election candidates.

Fourth, in terms of experience the Libertarians are fielding the most experienced ticket among the general election field. No other party can boast of having two former governors on their ticket. Johnson served as Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. His running mate Bill Weld served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. The amount of experience is impressive especially when you consider this is a 3rd party fielding the candidates not the Democrats or Republicans.

Since deciding I could not hold my nose and vote for the Republican nominee Donald Trump, and since there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell I’ll ever vote for the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton I really hoped the Libertarians would produce a candidate I could get behind.

I was disappointed. While I have various disagreements with Johnson and many I would be able to look past, but here are four fatal flaws Johnson has that I believe makes it difficult for conservatives, like myself, to vote for him.

1. Character.

It would be hypocritical of me to criticize Donald Trump regarding character issues and not point out that Johnson has some problems in that department as well.

I want to be clear. I’m not looking for a perfect candidate. I recognize that we are not electing a pastor. Those who use the “we are not electing a pastor” argument I hope recognizes that good character is paramount in anyone who leads us.  Again, I’m not looking for perfection because there is no one who is without sin.

A couple items from Johnson’s life. He was divorced in 2005 That is not unique among presidential candidates or even Presidents. He, according his late ex-wife Dee Johnson as reported by The Albuquerque Journal, was responsible for the split, and he was dating during their initial separation.

“I love her. I always will. We have just grown apart for what I consider a long time. I’ve been going from one adventure to another and I’ve been doing it by myself,” Johnson told the Journal. They had been married for 28 years. He is now is in a long standing “domestic partnership” with Santa Fe real estate agent Kate Prusack. They have been engaged since 2009. She told the Daily Caller in 2011 that they had been too busy to get married. Apparently they still haven’t found the time in the last five years.

His use of marijuana bothers me. Granted I know he initially started using it medically after a bad paragliding accident to handle the pain from broken vertebrae, etc. It’s arguable how much marijuana impacts a person compared to say alcohol or some other pain medication. It’s arguable how addicting it can be. Those are discussions worth having.

The idea of legalizing marijuana and drugs is a mixed bag for me. I see good points with a varying points of view. I think there needs to be sentencing reform. I don’t think we need to throw addicts into prison. Decriminalizing would have a drastic impact on our southern border with drug cartels. Having 20 years of youth ministry experience with 13 years of experience working with high-risk youth many who were drug involved I’m concerned about the societal cost if drugs were suddenly decriminalized however.

His position is something I can deal with and believe we need to have a conversation about how we’ve approached “the war on drugs.”

What bothers me about his use, at least his recreational use, is the blatant disregard for New Mexico and Federal law. It gives me little comfort that he stopped using while running and has pledged not to partake as President if elected. If he can disregard this law that he disagrees with what is to stop him from ignoring other laws he doesn’t agree with?

2. Immigration.

It’s mind boggling to me that a self-described libertarian would engage in political correctness by saying that the term “illegal immigrant” is an incendiary term. Really, did they immigrate here legally? If not they are here illegally. While I don’t think that means they are criminal in the sense others are, I think calling them “undocumented” is just putting lipstick on a pig.

Whatever.

While in Des Moines Johnson discussed the need for a better immigration system. I don’t disagree with that. I think we need immigration reform. I don’t think you can have that conversation until you legitimately have taken action to secure the border. This is a national security issue and it is one that Johnson doesn’t seem to be taking seriously.

Johnson stated that border crossing arrests are at an all-time low. Just because arrests are down doesn’t mean we’ve actually seen a decrease in those crossing our southern border.

His website on this issue reads “instead of appealing to emotions and demonizing immigrants, we should focus on creating a more efficient system of providing work visas, conducting background checks, and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes, obtain proof of employment, and otherwise assimilate with our diverse society.”

How is he really different on Hillary Clinton on this issue?

3. He’s all for individual rights except for the unborn.

Here is a fundamental disconnect I see with many libertarians. I even saw it in Johnson’s speech in Des Moines on Saturday. He championed people exercising freedom as long as it didn’t adversely impact anyone. He then said he was pro-choice a few minutes later reenforcing what he said during the Libertarian presidential debate.

What does he think abortion does? He expressed concern about the loss of innocent life in the cases where the state gets the death penalty wrong. With abortion 100% of the babies aborted are innocent, and they are adversely impacted.

Does he not see the problem with his position?

Not only is this bad public policy it’s horrible logic and to say he personally believes in the sanctity of life does not mean a thing.

As Governor he signed a late-term abortion ban and a parental notification bill into law. I have to wonder if he would still sign such a bill today. He has said he supports abortion until the “viability of the fetus.” With advancements in neonatal care how does that impact his positions?

His website reads:

Gov. Johnson recognizes that the right of a woman to choose is the law of the land, and has been for several decades. That right must be respected and despite his personal aversion to abortion, he believes that such a very personal and individual decision is best left to women and families, not the government. He feels that each woman must be allowed to make decisions about her own health and well-being and that the government should not be in the business of second guessing these difficult decisions.

Gov. Johnson feels strongly that women seeking to exercise their legal right must not be subjected to prosecution or denied access to health services by politicians in Washington, or anywhere else.

So the Supreme Court bestows rights and makes laws? Does he believe taxpayers should fund abortion for low-income women so that they are not “denied access”?

He could have actually positioned himself better on this issue if he had stated he was against taxpayer funding of abortion including Planned Parenthood. That would set him apart from both Trump and Clinton that and pointing out the fact he signed a late-term abortion ban into law could have helped him gain some inroads with pro-lifers. His insistence to run to the left instead of actually taking a centrist position that he claims to have makes me wonder if he still supports things like late-term abortion bans.

4. He is clueless on religious liberty, seriously clueless.

I never thought that a libertarian would be so utterly clueless about religious liberty.

It’s bad enough he’s pro-gay marriage. That position doesn’t surprise me and I don’t think any occupant of the White House will do anything on this issue during the next four years. At the very least I thought a libertarian would understand the need to protect a person’s religious conscience. The Constitution protects our freedom of religion, not just freedom of worship, which includes our conscience. I didn’t think a libertarian would be ok with the government compelling someone to bake cakes or make flower arrangements when they believe doing so would violate their conscience.

Calling religious liberty “a black hole” emphasizes to me that he is clueless on the issue which considering he signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act as Governor is pretty remarkable. In a recent interview he was unable to describe the differences between the RFRA bill he signed as governor and the Indiana RFRA bill he criticized.

Incredible.

Johnson could have been a great choice for conservatives who are Never Trump, but he blew a grand opportunity and could have easily addressed at least three of these flaws.

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