Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has had quite a rapid political evolution. It was just four years ago that he sought the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, only to quit the race and the GOP soon after, becoming the Libertarian Party’s national nominee.
In 2016, Johnson will carry the Libertarian banner once more, and in a curious twist, this time, he’ll do so by reaching out to supporters of a self-described Democratic Socialist.
Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson says he agrees with most of Bernie Sanders’s positions, pitching himself as an alternative to the Democratic presidential candidate.“Of course I side with myself 100 percent of the time, but interestingly, of all the presidential candidates, I next side with Bernie Sanders at 73 percent,” Johnson said Tuesday on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”
The former governor again emphasized he likes “73 percent of what Bernie says,” including the senator’s support for abortion rights and marriage equality, and Sanders’ opposition to “military interventions.”
Let’s pause to appreciate Johnson’s specificity: some may have been tempted to just round up to 75 percent as a more familiar number, but not the Libertarian nominee. No, he agrees with 73 percent of Sanders’ platform. [Update: Johnson says he arrived at the figure through this website.]
As a political matter, the strategy appears almost plausible. Johnson can read a poll as easily as anyone else, and he no doubt realizes that Republicans have quickly consolidated around Donald Trump – and the remaining #NeverTrump stragglers wouldn’t have any interest in the Libertarian ticket. In the Democratic race, however, some Sanders supporters say they don’t want to back Hillary Clinton, no matter the consequences, and Johnson figures it’s worth making himself available to these voters as a viable alternative. Ergo, he likes “73 percent of what Bernie says.”
But will any of this outreach actually work?
Johnson may soon be disappointed by the gambit. For Sanders supporters who care even a little about progressive policies, the Libertarian nominee offers a misguided pitch. Sanders, for example, is a staunch supporter of a minimum-wage increase, while Johnson doesn’t believe the minimum wage should exist at all. Sanders criticizes the NRA and supports expanding current restrictions on guns, while Johnson wants the opposite.
Perhaps most importantly, Sanders believes the climate crisis is one of the most pressing issues – if not the most pressing issue – on the policy landscape. Johnson opposes efforts to combat global warming.
Johnson may see “73 percent” agreement with the senator, but it appears that other 27 percent is a pretty big deal.
It’s possible, of course, that some of Sanders’ most ardent backers aren’t concerned about candidates’ issue positions, but those totals are probably quite small. If Johnson is looking for a significant number of voters to support his candidacy, he’ll probably have to look elsewhere.