When Donald John Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election at the Trump Tower to an audience of about a thousand supporters on a blustery New York morning on June 16, 2015, no one could’ve anticipated the impact that he would have on this election cycle. No one (aside from Ann Coulter) could’ve even envisioned Mr. Trump winning the GOP presidential nomination. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time – even Mr. Trump himself -, there was a leadership void within the Republican Party that was crying out to be filled.
The billionaire’s no-nonsense style, outsider status, business savvy and keen political instincts drew in the support of blocks of politically frustrated middle class conservatives, tea partiers and Ron Paul’s orphaned paleolibertarians, who were all looking for a champion to lead them and give their struggle a voice. In the following months, these disparate groups of voters organically coalesced into a powerful coalition which has propelled Mr. Trump’s candidacy from the fringes of the race to the summit of the Republican nomination leaderboard with surprising, albeit controversial, ease.
And to think, the teetotaler wasn’t even certain about running as late early 2015. There were real fears that similar to the general elections of 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, Mr. Trump would not make a bid for the nomination despite giving indications that he might.
His giddying ascension in the polls has been met with incredulous wonder by the media and more established candidates who have long fallen to the wayside. His combative performances in the debates left his opponents tongue-tied, much to the delight of his supporters. His controversial off-the-cuff deliveries and political incorrectness are viewed proudly by his legion of followers. His war cry, Make America Great Again, has galvanized even the elderly to attend his lively rallies.
Mr. Trump’s in-your-face style has drawn a lot of flak from all corners, but only a fool would doubt that there is a method behind his apparent madness. As the former reality TV star has demonstrated repeatedly throughout his career, his audacity is always accompanied by a ferocious intelligence.
There is simply no denying that Mr. Trump has changed the face of American politics forever. And the prospect of a businessman being elected to the White House has rekindled century-old memories of the Roaring Twenties when entrepreneurs such as Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the Oval Office.
Mr. Trump’s nationalist populist brand of politics captured the imagination of the nation, and powered his victory in the Republican primaries. However, will the charismatic real estate tycoon be able to use an identical approach in his White House run, or will he pivot to the center and reign in his explosive personality? Will he be able to unite the party’s fractured base and win over the agitated social conservatives? Will Miley Cyrus move out of the country if Mr. Trump is elected?
In politics, compromises are frequently seen as a sign of selflessness which places the greater good of the country ahead of principled, yet divisive stances. Some would even venture to suggest that partisanships are shortsighted and the surest way to hinder progress, and represents the greatest challenge to national unity.
And yet, between 1995 and 2003, during his tenure as governor of New Mexico, Gary Earl Johnson vetoed almost 800 bills (including line items) sent by the state legislature which led to arguably the state’s worst ever legislative gridlock. But his principled stand also massively reduced government spending, decelerated spending growth and wiped off the state’s budget deficit. By the end of his term, the treasury even reported a $1 billion surplus – all achieved without raising any taxes!
The son of a public school teacher and a government servant has always been viewed as too principled for politics. But as he had demonstrated during his two terms as governor, his methods work. Not all the time mind, as evidenced by his failed school voucher proposal and calls to decriminalize marijuana and reform drug laws, but the results speak for themselves.
However, while Gov. Johnson has intimated to friends of his desire to run for office from a very young age, he was very practical about the path he would take. While studying at the University of New Mexico, Gov. Johnson started a handyman business as means to achieve financial independence. After graduating with a degree in political science in 1975, his company, Big J Enterprises, expanded into remodeling and renovation, and eventually, construction.
His company grew rapidly and quickly, but managing it proved to be increasingly more difficult for the hands-on business owner. Ever the problem solver, Gov. Johnson took night classes on time management in 1987 to better equip himself to handle the challenges of managing a multimillion dollar company. It proved to be a catalyst for Gov. Johnson, and forced him to reassess his life, both professionally and personally. He became more goal-oriented, leading to some calling him the most disciplined individual they've ever known.
This probably explains why after being rebuked by the state Republican leadership in 1993, the young upstart still went on to contest the GOP primaries the following year; or his decision to leave the Republican Party in 2011 to seek a presidential nomination under the Libertarian Party ticket; or why he is so confident that a third party candidate (himself) will finally achieve the 15% national polling threshold in 2016 and qualify for the presidential debates for the first time since 1992.
Gov. Johnson is an ardent believer of liberty, individual rights and small government. He is against military intervention and high taxation. He is convinced that existing drug laws and policies are doomed to failure. Gov. Johnson is also a strong proponent of personal responsibility. He believes that anyone in the country can make their own fortune with hard work. In a 2000 interview, Gov. Johnson stated that “anybody that wants to be an entrepreneur in this country can make an absolute fortune. Even somebody who cleans houses… If I started a business tomorrow just cleaning houses by myself […] I think I could make $100,000 a year. You clean four houses at $100 a day. I know what these people do when they come in and clean. In three hours I could do what they do. I just don't buy into the notion that anybody can't still make it today if they are willing to work hard.”
One thing is for certain though. If Gary Johnson were to somehow be elected president, the triathlete will be the fittest president in American history.
CNN Libertarian Presidential Town Hall
June 22, 2016