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SANTA FE — Admit it. Wednesday night’s presidential debate would have been bearable with Gary Johnson added to the mix.
As it was, moderator Jim Lehrer’s instruction to the crowd to remain silent throughout the debate was unnecessary. Within minutes the crowd was comatose and so were millions of Americans nodding off in front of their TVs.
How nice it would have been to have former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson to liven the conversation with straight talk instead of carefully nuanced talking points.
The sameness of it all has practically killed political conventions. National TV networks almost totally lost interest this year. By four years from now, what once were exciting nail-biters may be down to one-night pep rallies.
Neither President Obama nor Gov. Romney got much of a bump in the polls after the conventions this year. It’s probably because no one watched enough of the coverage to form an opinion.
Meanwhile, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is receiving an unexpected amount of coverage from newspapers, magazines and blogs because there always is something interesting to say about him.
One of Johnson’s new approaches is to propose that nearly everyone has some libertarian in them. They just don’t vote that way. How many times have we heard people say they are socially liberal but fiscally conservative?
There really isn’t a place in either political party for people of that mind. Libertarians carry their views farther in both directions than most people do. But then, few Republicans or Democrats accept everything in their party’s platform.
Gary Johnson demonstrated when he was governor that he could moderate his libertarian views to the point that he was reelected to a second term by a large margin.
However, Johnson was sneaky was on drug legalization. He saved that surprise for the beginning of his second term.
New Mexicans didn’t appreciate it. They knocked him down about 30 notches in the polls but he eventually gained most of it back.
After the initial shock and the disappointment that their governor had a partially hidden agenda, Johnson moderated his stance by concentrating mainly on the decriminalization of marijuana and an end to the war on drugs. He didn’t sell either concept but he got discussions started.
Johnson’s marijuana stance continued to hurt him while he vied to carry the GOP banner in this presidential race. As a Libertarian presidential candidate, it is difficult to tell the effect because third-party candidates poll so poorly.
But a recent essay by Molly Ball in the Atlantic Monthly magazine takes a different perspective on the issue. It suggests the pro-pot stance could help him with disaffected liberals and the young vote.
Ball says Johnson is trying to raise money for a TV ad in selected states calling attention to President Barack Obama’s youthful pot habit. It asks why pot was OK then but gets one thrown in jail now.
Another angle would be to focus on the several states where marijuana legalization is on the ballot this November and encourage those movements to also support Johnson for president.
An election day showing of better than a few percent might give national impetus to the movement and spur a Johnson candidacy again in 2016.
Johnson says he’s ready.
Gary Johnson isn’t the only slightly off-beat New Mexican to run for president. Wavy Gravy was a completely off-beat presidential candidate. Wavy was founder of the Hog Farm commune near Taos in the days when such operations were very popular.
Wavy’s real name was Hugh Romney. Apparently Mitt Romney is no relation. Wavy ran for president back in 1980. He’s now 75 and still doing well.
Back in the 1970s, Wavy opened a shop across the highway from the Hog Farm called “Nobody’s Business.”
The name attracted enough attention that Wavy decided to run for president as Nobody. He and a band rented a big bus and traveled the country with a big banner proclaiming “Nobody for President.”