On the eve of the Democratic and Republican conventions, there is a third political party that is hoping to get a fair shot in the debates that will take place in the weeks before the November election.
“This should be about the issues, and it should be about a debate on what the other candidates are saying, that’s fair game,” said Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico. He spoke recently along with his running mate at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. saying that people are hungry to vote for someone as opposed to the lesser of two evils.
For that to happen, the Libertarian candidate must receive 15 percent support in five national polls.
“I think government is about transparency. I think running for office is about debate and discussion revolving issues,” Johnson said.
An assortment of national polls from the past few weeks show Johnson getting between 6 and 9 percent in a four-way race, with Jill Stein, the presumptive Green Party candidate, receiving around 5 percent. Johnson gets as much as 12 percent in polls that only include him, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Even if he does not make it to the debates, Johnson said he and vice-presidential candidate William Weld, former two-term Massachusetts governor, will keep the campaign going.
“If we don’t get in the debates, we keep active in the campaign. We raise issues that need to be raised,” he said during his visit to the National Press Club.
The Libertarians, known for favoring small government and expansive civil liberties, are the only third party in a position to secure ballot status in all 50 states.
Economy, gun control, immigration
Johnson says that his administration would demonstrate “absolute equality in leadership.”
“It’s transparent. It’s honest. I might disagree, but what I see is a process where issues are looked at first, and politics are last in the agenda if they even exist at all,” he explains.
The candidate supports the second amendment right to bear arms “more than anything” but takes a skeptical stance on any military involvement in other countries.
FILE - Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
“With the gun violence that is occurring in this country we should have an open mind regarding keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. We should have an open discussion to keep guns out of the hands of would be terrorists,” he said.
In fiscal matters, Johnson said as president of the United States he would sign on to initiatives that would lower taxes.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would eliminate income tax, I would eliminate corporate tax, I would replace that with one federal consumption tax,” he said.
Libertarians also support unrestricted competition among financial institutions and the elimination of the Internal Revenue Service.
“I’d like people to look at the fair tax as a template for how [we] would accomplish that. … If we had zero corporate tax in this country, pink slips would get issued to 80 percent of Washington lobbyists because that’s why they are there [for] to garner tax favors and tens of millions of jobs would get created in this country for no other reason than zero corporate tax and no IRS,” he said.
On the immigration side, the Johnson-Welch ticket supports a work visa program where applicants would go through a background check.
For the undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. he would set up offices around the country and help them get in the program “as longs as you’ve been law abiding.”
Legalizing drugs, heroin epidemic
Johnson favors legalizing the use of marijuana, calling it a “healthy issue and not a criminal issue.” Marijuana use is currently legal in a few states but not nationwide.
When it comes to the country’s heroin epidemic, the Libertarian candidate said there are ways to address the overdose issue.
“Open up health department labs that would actually test heroin for their consistency, their quality,” he said.
“If people could bring in their heroin dose to be tested, there would be less overdose. When you provide clean needles and a needles program, you reduce hepatitis C and HIV significantly,” he said.
Johnson and Weld believe the 2016 presidential election is an opportunity to familiarize Americans with the party’s platform, and the deep unpopularity of both Trump and Clinton raises hopes that Americans might pay more attention to the Libertarian Party.