Having gotten a first-hand report from a close friend about a meeting Gary Johnson held with a number of prominent Bay-Area libertarians last weekend, this seems like a good time to inject an optimistic counter to the pessimism engendered by Johnson’s Weekly Standard interview.
My source in San Francisco tells me Johnson was actually quite adamant about foreign policy and even Israel in particular. As to the quote that seems to be an endorsement of humanitarian intervention, that sounds like rather a stretch. To take the example of a counterfactual, if America had opened the doors unconditionally to European Jews fleeing Hitler, that would have had “a positive impact on the situation” while avoiding war.
I have to say I’ve actually gotten quite excited thinking about a Johnson candidacy and what its impact could be in the last couple of days. To begin with, it could actually be a rather neat solution to the libertarian dilemma following the midterms. If Dan is right that the Republicans may grant Ron Paul the Chair of the Subcommittee on Monetary Policy precisely because it will keep him from running for President, this is a perfect opening for the torch to be passed to Johnson and put forward a relatively mainstream Republican that Rand can get behind.
Add to this a decent handful of House Republican endorsements, and also the fact that its been quite a while since we’ve heard much from Mitt Romney, who, even if he runs, his obvious phoniness could prove too much to bear. In such a scenario, Gary Johnson could become the desperate choice of the Republican establishment to stop Sarah Palin. Of course, Palin could also implode, in which case the establishment would rally to Romney to crush Johnson, but let’s leave that aside for now.
It is therefore quite conceivable that Palin could win Iowa, Johnson New Hampshire, and the battle joined. The first point that bears emphasis in this scenario is that in it, there can be no doubt that the vast majority of self-identified tea party supporters will be squarely for Palin, turning a great many assumptions upside-down. Indeed, it would not be difficult for the media to spin Johnson as a “centrist” – Catoite on economics and culturally the anti-Palin to boot. The neocons, of course, would go berserk in this scenario, which is just another reason to relish it. The Kristol machine has become so invested in Sarah Palin, on top of all the damage to their conceit as self-styled “moderates” from the Bush years, that it will be very difficult for them to pivot back from the radical conceit they’ve adopted in the Tea Party charade.
It bears emphasis, however, that none of this is to suggest that for Gary Johnson to become the moderate or establishment choice would secure him the nomination, far from it in fact. Larison has consistently argued that the Republican establishment will win in 2012 as it always does, but there are reasons to think that this coming election could prove to be the exception to the rule, analogous to the Democrats in 1972. I have long been, and remain, agnostic about which will prove right, the point is only that there are multiple reasons for uncertainty. If anything, the lack of a candidate with the resources of Romney, especially one with the “radical” baggage of Johnson, would likely redound to Palin.
Much less, therefore, will I try to forecast what an Obama-Johnson general election race would look like. But the more important thing will surely be to build a future for principled conservatism. In my despair over the apparent trajectory of Rand Paul and the Tea Parties over the past year, one point which continued to gnaw at me was why I was demanding the perfect from conservatives while being willing to accept the less-and-less reasonably good from the liberals.
More recently, David Cameron’s early start and agenda have seemed to me a fine example of the good as opposed to the perfect, but realizing this made me only despair further of any hope on this side of the pond. With many personal and policy affinities between them already, Gary Johnson may prove to be the American Cameron.