Last week, I was fortunate enough to hear about a campaign event at the Aloha American Legion Hall that featured former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. The event was hosted by the Oregon Libertarian Party and the Johnson campaign. I wanted to go hear a presidential candidate in person and this was my first opportunity to do so this election. So Sunday August 4th, I did just that.
Both President Obama and Governor Romney have visited Oregon, but both events were not open to the public as they were over 500 dollar a ticket fundraisers. I do not know if Mitt Romney made any other stops before leaving Portland, but President Obama at least made a visit to a local restaurant to have a quick bite to eat and mingle with customers. Those events are great if you can afford the tickets, but most of us have other things in life we could be doing with that money that is far more important than paying for tv ads in swing states.
I went with a couple other interested friends and we arrived about a half an hour early. To our surprise, Governor Johnson was right next to the door greeting the early arrivals. In all my years attending events with presidential candidates (of all parties) voters always end up waiting on the candidate. They always run late. Johnson was there already chatting and mingling with voters. We chatted for a little bit about what brought us to the event, and about the influence of SUPER-PACS and disgusting role money has in contemporary politics.
The Johnson event was well attended, the meeting hall was filled. Great event, for only having facebook advertising. A woman by the name of Sarah Taylor is the social media/internet guru for the Oregon campaign, she did a good job at getting the word out. I don't recall seeing a notice in the local traditional media outlets, but that's not surprising. We were told that Governor Johnson would be meeting with the big Oregon newspapers on Monday the 5th of August before he left the state.
The chair of the Libertarian Party of Oregon and the Johnson Oregon campaign Coordinator spoke to the crowd about the importance of getting the word out about Gary. A retired General introduced Governor Johnson and spoke to his tremendous character and commitment to a better America. Governor Johnson took the podium and laid out his vision of the next four years if elected.
He hit a lot of his basic campaign stump speech. 750 vetoes as Governor of New Mexico. Talked about the Fair tax and other issues. He also stated that in order to balance the federal budget he would cut the budget by 43%. Some people were taken aback by how large that figure was, but most were fine with it. After all, this was a libertarian audience. Johnson said all troops from Afghanistan and Iraq would be immediately recalled. The Patriot act would be tossed away. Homeland Security, and a few other federal agencies would also be abolished. The ramifications for the TSA were cheered by all in the audience. No more IRS if you do away with the income tax and replace with a consumption tax. He covered the gambit of federal issues.
The line that resonated with me the most was this: "We have a crony capitalism, where loopholes are for sale if you are rich enough to buy them". In college the last few years many of my "uber-liberal" sociology professors have been saying the exact same thing! There appears to be hope for this country if people of varying political ideologies can see the same problem. Money in politics has gotten way out of hand. The 'rich' run the system to benefit it for them.
After his talk, he opened it up to questions. He handled himself pretty well, could have had some stronger answers, particular when social conservatives asked him about gay marriage and abortion. His equality answer was pretty spot on. The 14th amendment and equal protection clause support gay marriage. He also explained the myriad of laws that would have to be amended to get the government out of marriage would be immense, and that we have more important issues before us as a people to concern the time of our lawmakers. He was pressed on abortion by someone behind me at another table. He just needs to come out and say he is pro-choice. He sorta muddled his answer. It was really confusing. When he framed it within the context of how he and Ron Paul differ on issues, he says Ron Paul is a social conservative and I am not. That is way simpler, then the answer he gave the guy who asked about abortion.
Speaking of Ron Paul, many of his Oregon supporters were in the room. He applauded Ron Paul's efforts to work within the GOP to change. He hopes there is some success. Though he said little will probably change. My cousin, who is a Paul supporter laid it out to me like this. Ron Paul folks were told they have to follow the rules of the GOP. They did that and got people to show up. The very same people who told them to follow their rules, broke their own rules in order to prevent Paul supporters from taking over their party and delegate slots legitimately. It is this aspect of the party that Johnson feels Paul doesn't get it. If the people who make the rules never feel compelled to truly follow them, you'll never get anywhere in such an organization. Just look at the horrible Oregon GOP district convention stories from the last few months.
As of right now, there is no talk of Paul endorsing any other presidential candidate. Which is a shame, because Paul could put a lot of feet on the ground for Gary Johnson, help raise his profile and possibly get him into the debates this fall. I fear though, there is a lot of vanity involved in the Paul campaign and him handing the fight over to another would probably hurt book sales.
I was able to ask one question. It concerned space policy. I asked what Johnson felt the future of American space policy should be. He gave what I think was a half sarcastic and half serious response. He said ( me here paraphrasing as I did not write it down), 'One day our sun isn't going to be here and our focus should be on ensuring the survival of the human race after the planet is gone...that's a few million years from now. Let us let future generations worry about that. It will be hard for NASA to do much when we cut 43% of the budget to get rid of the deficit." As a space policy person. It concerns me a bit that someone who wants to be president hasn't seen the importance of having a fully funded space program. I did see some hope for him when he stated that government is probably a big barrier right now to private space exploration companies and that a reduction in regulation may help them advance. It is hard to say if he has done much thinking about space policy.
Governor Johnson has a lot of good positions on social issues. Legalization of marijuana is sure to get him votes here in Oregon. He has come out in support of Ballot Measure 80, which would do just that here in Oregon. The federal governments raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and the failure of Dwight Holton in the AG primary in May has energized these advocates. It will be interesting to see how much crossover voting there will be between the two different campaigns. When we start talking fiscal issues, that is where he and I depart down different roads.
Governor Johnson, I feel he is an earnest and compassionate individual. Before going to his talk, I visited ISTANDWITH website and Johnson, Obama and Stein were my top three candidates all between 78-89% in agreement. I did not agree with Mitt Romney on enough issues to even get a % we agree on. If I was able to choose who would be in the debates this fall, I would want all my top three in the debate to help me make up my mind.