The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is often viewed as a bastion of liberalism. It’s regularly excoriated by Republican politicians and pundits alike who want to pander to social conservatives because the ACLU has often led the opposition against SoCon attempts to impose their religious practices and moral values on the entire nation. Even libertarian and libertarian-leaning Republicans are often afraid to make nice with the ACLU. One libertarian who’s not afraid is former Governor Gary Johnson (L-N.M.), who met recently with the ACLU executive board and a group of staffers. From Reason:
It wasn’t until he got started on legalizing marijuana that the crowd (figuratively) lit up. A steady stream of applause followed Johnson’s declarations after that.
“I support gay marriage equality. I support repealing the PATRIOT Act. I would have vetoed the Department of Homeland Security, because I think it’s redundant. I would’ve never established the department of—the TSA agency. I think we should end the practices of torture. Period. I can understand the complexities in the following, but I think we should end the practices of detainment without being charged. There is nothing I want to see the government come in and fix with the Internet.”
Johnson also emphasized differences between himself and Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.):
“I don’t think that Ron Paul is going to win the Republican nomination. For the most part, we are talking about the same message, but we do have differences. And when he drops out, or finds an end to the Republican primary, I don’t see this agenda moving forward,” Johnson said.
“And I think it’s important to point out differences between myself and Ron Paul. I don’t support building a fence across the border, I do support gay marriage equality, I do believe in a strong national defense. I do believe in our alliance with Israel, for example. And I think military alliances are key to reducing military spending by 43 percent and still provide for a strong national defense. And I believe in a woman’s right to choose.”
The crowd went nuts over that last one.
You should read the whole article because it demonstrates precisely why Johnson could pose problems for both Obama and the eventual Republican nominee. On the one hand, Johnson built a very solid fiscal and economic record as Governor of New Mexico — which could appeal to Paul supporters and other Republicans as well as right-leaning independents who may feel disaffected if Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum wins the GOP nomination. On the other hand, there are some remarkable differences between Johnson and Paul that could help him succeed in appealing to the more left-leaning so-called “liberaltarians” and even some non-libertarian progressive Democrats and independents whom Paul has so far failed to win over.
It’s unlikely in the extreme that Johnson will win the presidential election. The electoral game is too rigged against third parties and, besides, the Libertarian Party’s dysfunctional nomination process will officially put him into the general election campaign far too late for him to assemble the kind of grassroots movement he’d need to win. But Johnson could well be a problem for both major parties. He could be competitive in his home state and throughout the Southwest, which could make the race for some pivotal swing states even more interesting than usual. In other words, he could play the role of spoiler in the upcoming general election even better than Ralph Nader did in 2000, and it should scare the pants off both Republicans and Democrats that it’s still unclear whose campaign he could spoil.