Gary Johnson was born in Minot, North Dakota and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Johnson was raised a Lutheran and while one presidential candidate website claims that he is non-practicing,1 another says that Johnson, “throughout his life has lived according to those Christian principles.”2
I would submit that the former is closer to correct. Here’s why:
Johnson’s political positions have held strong against religion in politics. While his former presidential opponents Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich would regularly pontificate about the virtues of asking God for guidance, Johnson was saying things like:
As much as I hate the fact that the ACLU would tell a community that they can’t hang a Christmas tree in the lobby and play Christmas music in a public building, isn’t that why we became the United States of America? Isn’t that why we broke away from England?3
I do remember one of the Christian conservative leaders in New Mexico talking to me and said, ‘You know Gary, it isn’t so much that I disagree with what you’re saying about drugs, its that God disagrees with what you have to say about drugs’. And I wanted to ask him at the time, with his intimate connection with God, could he just get a copy of next Thursday’s Wall Street Journal?3
With his biting sarcasm and the obvious tone of ridiculousness he expresses in reference to his fellow lawmaker, one could reasonably assume that Johnson thinks religious zealotry is kind of stupid.
Politics of an underdog
Johnson’s most famous political position is that on the federal budget. During a national Republican presidential candidate debate, Johnson repeatedly said:
[If elected], I promise to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013.4
While somewhat radical all by itself, this is certainly not Johnson’s only radical political position. As a two-term New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party and Republican Party presidential nominee, Johnson’s got the political spectrum covered. Check out his political positions Wikipedia page for an in-depth look.
Suffice it to say, Johnson is a libertarian. He supports the decriminalization of recreational drug use.5 In fact, Johnson admits to using medicinal marijuana for three years after a paragliding accident.6 He advocates major military cutbacks, the cessation of all foreign wars, and has even said that if he were president, he wouldn’t back Israel if they initiated a war.7
Furthermore, Johnson strongly favors a limited government and would like to see government spending cut in virtually every area from entitlements to military to education.8 He’d also like to see all foreign aid completely cut off.7 Johnson has endorsed gay marriage as well, saying:
As I have examined this issue, consulted with folks on all sides, and viewed it through the lens of individual freedom and equal rights, it has become clear to me that denying those rights and benefits to gay couples is discrimination, plain and simple.9
While this is certainly not the type of positions we are seeing from mainstream political candidates, particularly Republicans, Johnson still decided to run for president in 2012 as a Republican.10 It is unclear if this was some sort of ideological shift for Johnson. More likely, however, he felt that he would get more national attention and a more widely-accepted platform from which to voice his views.
Johnson later dropped out of the race to become the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate.11 He probably went back to his Libertarian ways because of the rampant attempts by Republicans to control the way in which individuals live their lives. He said, after a scandal in the Romney campaign over the firing of a gay staffer:
It speaks volumes to the intolerance that continues to be present in the Republican Party.11
- Johnson’s Religion. 2012 Presidential Candidates. [↩]
- RLCNH Forum, Featuring Gary Johnson. Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire. [↩]
- Gary Johnson on freedom of religion. The Examiner. [↩] [↩]
- If Elected, Gary Johnson Promises a Balanced Budget by 2013. Fox News Insider. [↩]
- Gary Johnson On Legalizing Marijuana. The Huffington Post. [↩]
- Gov. Gary Johnson: I Smoked Marijuana from 2005 to 2008. The Weekly Standard. [↩]
- Gov. Gary Johnson, LP presidential candidate, on Foreign Policy. YouTube. [↩] [↩]
- 2012: Year of the Libertarian? National Review Online. [↩]
- Gary Johnson on Obama’s Gay Marriage Remarks. Reason. [↩]
- Gary Johnson, Republican Presidential Candidate. GQ. [↩]
- New Libertarian Nominee Gary Johnson Slams Republicans For Gay Staffer Flap. The Huffington Post. [↩] [↩]