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In an MSNBC interview, the former Governor of New Mexico was asked what he would do about the Syrian refugee crisis, specifically referencing Aleppo– the center of the catastrophic civil war. His response was nothing short of brilliant.
“And what is Aleppo?”
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Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has made waves this election season, doing far better in 2016 than his previous bid for the presidency. An NBC article has Johnson polling at 11 percent, an all-time high for his campaign. This is a stark contrast to the candidate’s popularity in 2012, where UPI reported Johnson only earned 1.2% of the vote.
Johnson’s popularity is a product of record unfavorability with the two major party candidates, a Gallup poll indicating Hillary Clinton is viewed unfavorably by 56% of people ages 18 and up, and Donald Trump disliked by 60%. US News reports that because most americans view the candidates unfavorably, they see Johnson as a “respectable alternative.” The disdain Americans have for Clinton and Trump is the only thing keeping Johnson afloat. In 2012 when Johnson faced major party candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, he did significantly worse. This can be traced to far lower unfavorable ratings, CNN reporting Obama stood at 46% and Romney at 45% unfavorable. The popularity of Johnson is only possible because of the unpopularity of those he is running against, and this makes it difficult for supporters to view his actions and policy with a critical eye.
When MSNBC asked Johnson what he would “do about Aleppo,” he responded with “what is Aleppo.” This gaffe made headlines, as the war-torn Syrian city creates thousands of displaced refugees. Failure to even know the name of the center of the Syrian refugee crisis is a microcosm of Johnson’s knowledge about foreign policy. The former Governor has no foreign policy experience, and no formidable foreign policies to supplement this inexperience. This blunder, however, has had little affect on his base. Mother Jones reported on this at a Libertarian rally in New York City, and among supporters interviewed, the “misstep did not affect their willingness to vote for [Johnson].” Supporters claimed that Hillary and Trump’s statements are far worse: “If you’re gonna judge a whole candidate based on [what they say] then you can’t really vote for Clinton or Trump…both of them have said way worse things.” His supporters claim Clinton has “said way worse things,” however, in the context of Foreign Policy, none of Clinton’s statements reveal the blatant cluelessness to major events abroad that Johnson demonstrated. Supporters of Johnson tend to give him a pass on issues like foreign policy, where the candidate is weak, because they believe he is the better alternative to the democratic or republican nominees.
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When asked if he had a comprehensive plan to combat climate change on HBO, Johnson said “no,” and when pressed on the issue, he claimed “we as consumers are demanding less carbon emission,” and that this was why “no new coal plants will open in the U.S.” The decline of coal-dependent power plants that Johnson is referring to is not, as he says, an effect of consumers’ demand for clean energy, but a product of the Clean Power Plan. This plan set carbon dioxide emission limits on an industry that was previously completely unregulated. It fostered a shift in energy sourcing from coal to natural gas. The Smithsonian reports that natural gas is a far better alternative to coal, emitting nearly half as much carbon dioxide as its dioxide-spouting counterpart. These regulations also encourage clean energy to be used as an alternative to coal, and according to the White House, under the Clean Power Plan energy produced by wind has tripled, and solar energy use has increased 10 fold.
In the same interview, Ari Melber– Chief Legal Correspondent for MSNBC– asked Governor Johnson how the energy industry, which began the global warming crisis, could also solve it without government regulation or intervention. He added that no social or economic problem has ever been solved by its cause. Governor Johnson responded “this stuff you’re saying is just way over the top of my head.”
Recently, Johnson took a more “long term” stance on climate change. Mother Jones reports that the candidate claimed “eventually the the sun would encompass the earth, so global warming is in our future.” Perhaps the American people perceived this claim less as hard-hitting realism, but rather as another example of Johnson’s disconnection with the issues facing America.
Johnson has the same cluelessness when it comes to trade. When asked by Rolling Stone Magazine if he supported the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), he said he supported it, but admitted he did not know the specifics of the agreement. The only basis he provides for his position is that he “understands [that] it is more free trade than not.” Economic policy is often seen as the candidate’s strong suit, however there is very little evidence to substantiate this claim.
In a number of issues Johnson demonstrates his one-dimensional understating of the issues that face this country. On global warming, he acknowledges its harm and the obligation we have to do something about it, but claims “the free market” will be the solution without providing any causal relationship between the two. He is pro-TPP because “he understands [that] it is more free trade than not,” without examining the complexity of the deal.
Johnson automatically combats the nation’s problems with “the free market” as a solution. He reverts to this tired tactic especially when he is poorly educated on issues (which is usually the case), and this further demonstrates the former governor’s inability to critically think about how to best solve America’s problems. This is like using one key on every lock: it rarely opens the door.
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This country faces a number of diverse and complex issues that require a commander-in-chief who is able to find effective solutions on a case-by-case basis. Gary Johnson offers the same tired solution that has led to massive job loss and skyrocketing prices of pharmaceutical drugs. A free market without reasonable regulation is what led to issues from Rockefeller’s oil monopoly in the late 1800’s to the financial crisis of 2008. With Gary Johnson’s brand of libertarianism leading this country, corporations led by unelected millionaires would replace government as the authority over the people, and what control “we the people” have over our governing would completely disappear. When profit-driven companies go unchecked, there are very real consequences.
Johnson has demonstrated time and time again his disconnection with the issues facing America. He shrouds a blatant lack of understanding by being seen as an “underdog,” and as someone who would be a far better candidate than those nominated by each caucus of the two-party system. He supports a totally unleashed free market without regard for what such a system has led to. He is hardly a “respectable alternative”: his obliviousness to major issues disqualifies him from the presidency.
This country needs a leader who is thoughtful, measured, and experienced. It needs someone who knows where the free market can operate independently, and where reasonable regulations are needed to prevent damage to the American people. It needs someone who has spent 35 years fighting for the rights of every American, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. If you are looking for a respectable alternative, get off of the Johnson train.
And head for the Hills.