Musings: Gary Johnson thanked me

I’ve never hidden my political leanings, quite the contrary.

When I started covering the Chadds Ford area 15 years ago next month, I was upfront. People were naturally curious about this new guy reporting on local government and politics, and I spelled it out in two simple sentences: “I’m a Libertarian. Republicans and Democrats are the same to me.”

Some people got it. Even if they didn’t like the fact I wasn’t one of them, they understood, and, I think, even appreciated the candor.

By not favoring either of those other factions, I can write a story without bias and I believe I’ve demonstrated that in my reporting. My stories on politics are straightforward, without any left or right bias. I’ve put my opinions on the opinion page, not the front page.

Other people, however, still can’t wrap their brains around anything dealing with government or politics that’s not part of the bipolar left/right political model.

That’s a shame, because so many of them don’t understand what government is or is supposed to be here in the United States. And they vote out of that ignorance.

Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party candidate for president, addresses a crowd of Libertarians, independents, disaffected Republicans and a few Bernie Sanders' supporters at Chickie's and Pete's.

Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party candidate for president, addresses a crowd of Libertarians, independents, disaffected Republicans and a few Bernie Sanders' supporters at Chickie's and Pete's.

While I’ve always known that and take it as a matter of course, it was driven home again last week when I braved Philadelphia traffic and went to a Gary Johnson event.

Johnson is the Libertarian Party candidate for president. He was in the city for the Democratic Party convention — as he was a week earlier in Cleveland for the Republican convention.

His campaign people scheduled an event for him at Chickie’s and Pete’s on Packer Avenue. The word was that he would be there sometime between 4 and 6 p.m. However, a security jam-up at the Wells Fargo Center, where Johnson was scheduled to do an interview, delayed his arrival.

The crowd was about one-third Libertarian and one-third independents. The rest of those waiting were mostly Republicans who abhor Donald Trump, and a few Bernie Sanders people who were livid over how the DNC rigged the nomination for Hillary Clinton. Their anger came through during a question-and-answer session after Johnson’s opening comments, which included a profuse apology for his being late and a joke about the 2016 election:

“This is a crazy election,” Johnson said. “Do you want to know how crazy it is?”

About half the room responded in unison, “Because you could be the next president.”

Johnson spoke about the need to end the wars overseas that make us less safe because they open us up for terrorist attacks, and ending the war on drugs that also makes us less safe, especially for people of color who are arrested on drug charges far more than whites despite the fact that there’s virtually no difference in the numbers of users.

He stressed the need to balance the federal budget, and affirmed his commitment to the Libertarian “non-aggression principle,” which says no individual, group or government has any right to initiate an act of force.

Then the questions started. The one with rancor came from one of the Sanders’ supporters, who demanded to know what Johnson would do to make sure votes were counted properly.

He began answering by saying what he did as governor of New Mexico to make sure elections were legitimate, but the woman just got louder. What she really wanted to know was what Johnson would do as president to make sure the Democratic Party was fair in tabulating votes in the primary election.

At this point Johnson could only respond by saying that was something outside the purview of the presidency, that the issue was an internal party matter.

It’s bothersome to me (an understatement) when I hear people wanting something from government that a government can’t rightfully do. Ignorance of the law is no excuse in court and ignorance on the limits of government is no excuse when it comes to voting, as far as I’m concerned.

The candidate maintained his humor and down-to-earth “everyman” demeanor throughout the evening. (If a movie were to be made of the 2016 election, Johnson would have to be played by a Jimmy Stewart type.)

After spending the day campaigning, being interviewed by numerous media outlets, and being late to his own event, he was tired and hungry but stayed with the crowd, answering more questions and allowing himself to be included in selfie after selfie photograph. He even had time for a short story from me.

“Gary, I’ve identified as a Libertarian since 1969, two years before the party was founded, and when I lived in Delaware, I spent five years as the media coordinator and two years as the vice chairman of the Delaware LP.”

He paused, gave what I’ll describe as an understanding smile, and said, “Thank you for your work.”

That pat on the back doesn’t change how I feel about his candidacy. I see areas where he’s strong and areas where I wish he were stronger. I was going to vote for him before that day, and I’m still going to do that.

Between Trump and Clinton, Johnson is the only candidate who seems sane and honest. He’s certainly the only one that reflects a core principle. And, as a two-term governor of New Mexico, he’s the only one of the candidates who has actual experience governing.

I have no illusions. One of the other two will likely be elected the next president. But the political discourse in this country needs to be elevated to include discussions on peace, free-market solutions, and constitutional limits on government.

As things stand now, we are not a nation governed by laws, but a nation governed by political whim and expediency.

* The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to: editor@chaddsfordlive.com

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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