An October 3 Washington Post article seems intent on casting Libertarian Gary Johnson in a negative light based on his performance as two-term governor of New Mexico.
But for those who think government is too big, their portrayal showed Johnson to be the penultimate outsider who resisted unrelenting pressure from special interests and their legislative allies, earning the nick name “Governor No.”
The article quotes a New Mexico legislator who called Johnson a “know-it-all dictator,” while describing the governor’s behavior as the polar opposite of one who wishes to rule over the lives of others. The name-calling legislator was complaining that Johnson “just doesn’t listen” in response to pleas for more taxpayer dollars demanded by special interests.
From the article:
“In a year of widespread discontent with the major-party contenders, Johnson pitches himself as a logical alternative who can bridge divisions by embracing conservative fiscal policy and left-leaning social policy.
“That pitch has proved attractive to a … significant sliver of voters, particularly young people, peeling support away from Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. Both campaigns fret that Johnson’s presence on the ballot could tilt a tight race.
“At the center of Johnson’s candidacy is his tenure in Santa Fe, where he was quick to use his veto pen and argued that government should provide only the most basic of services, such as building highways.
“But Johnson ended up unnerving lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who complained that he rarely took their ideas seriously.
“When the vetoes started to pile up that first year, legislators tried to make amends by inviting him to participate in discussions about how they should spend money, according to legislative notes in the state Capitol. Johnson’s reply, again, was ‘no.'”
“The first time the legislature sent a budget to Johnson’s desk, Ingle said, lawmakers thought they had done well by allotting only “a couple hundred-thousand dollars” more than Johnson’s goal of $2.8 billion.
“Johnson vetoed it.
“’We couldn’t believe it,’ Ingle said. ‘But I said, at least he told us what he was going to do. This man is honest.’
“Annual summaries compiled by nonpartisan legislative aides during that time describe Johnson’s relationship with the legislature as ‘rocky’ and ‘strained.’ Over eight years, he vetoed more than 700 bills.”
“But Johnson alienated his fellow Republicans with a push to legalize marijuana use. He referred to the war on drugs as a ‘miserable failure.’
“It was a rare break from tradition for Johnson.
“Rather than simply issuing directives, he had to work with the legislature to try to get his way. He could not get legalization through the legislature, but …won approval for a measure that allowed the release of nonviolent, low-level drug offenders if prisons became overcrowded.
“By the end, Johnson praised himself for delivering a tax cut worth at least $60 million, expanding the highway system and repealing a gas tax. He left with a $1 billion state surplus.”
“Johnson is now armed with endorsements last week from the Detroit News and the Chicago Tribune, but his New Mexico record remains his biggest boast. Looking back, he seems to have satisfied his big question about how an honest man could fare in politics.
“I was really naive. I didn’t realize politics would be so partisan,” he said.
“’But I don’t think you would find anyone who would say I wasn’t thoughtful about every decision I made,’ he added. ‘I gave a reason, I had logic and a process. Would I be any different as president? No.’”