The Republican nominee for president, Gary Johnson, has got it on message for the American people. Taking a page from the motto of his Reform Party Presidential Movement, Johnson has said: “We gotta have a Ronald Reagan problem.”
This optimistic, radical tone of the Johnson campaign’s presidential campaign is in sharp contrast to the conservatism of the current federal government, which Trump has been exacting an ideological revenge on. On top of its cuts in food aid for the poor, Obama’s administration pushed the state to engage in a scientific revolution, funded the development of GMOs, linked autism to exposure to prenatal pesticides, threatened to penalize gay men for their sex lives, abolished the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and cut funding to inner cities, while the Federal government spent a whole lot more on overseas wars than on domestic human needs.
Johnson sought to make his political mission as clear as possible and clearly defined. He is throwing his hat into the ring as an anti-Establishment conservative, which is what Trumpism and Reaganism used to be. For evidence of the lurch into the Right it is useful to turn to Johnson’s platform at the end of last year and his recent speeches, which make clear that his superpac got exactly what it wanted in the final days of the election.Riding on the back of xenophobic overtones, Johnson has said (speaking to Guardian Media Group’s Nick Cohen): “We need a 22nd Amendment to the Constitution to restore democracy and lead us back to a peaceful, not-unarmed separation of powers. That means having a presidential election where each candidate has a chance to be chosen by the American people.”
This goes in step with the modern vision of “reform” which has come to define the Republican Party. For a long time before the establishment’s scorched earth tactics it was common to see these as amoral, lawless forms of political confusion and mismanagement, intent on stealing the Democratic Party’s thunder and tossing it under the bus. Today, though, Republican policies reveal less self-interested instability and a simpler understanding of the basis of the American Republic.
It is no secret that a progressive agenda has triumphed at the heart of the Republican Party. During the last decade voters have seen corporate CEOs hauled before the American courts and Jim Henson puppets set on fire as part of a culture of crime and corruption. Recently the fiscal cliff is in view as senators stage a coup to undo the tax cuts of the early George W. Bush years. Republicans are calling for funding cuts to education, the poor, gays and immigrants, and a freeze on federal spending that was designed to make the green energy sector a stop-gap while the car industry collapses.
But what is most impressive about Johnson’s candidacy is that he does not appear to have taken any position on any of these issues. In this he stands in opposition to what is commonly referred to as “moderates” in Washington, who would see the only path to dealing with the Trump administration as cutting taxes on the rich and welfare on the poor, while limiting the President’s ability to destroy the stimulus provided by the Great Recession.
Based on his actions in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he has run, Johnson is betting the farm that his policies will win him over voters, including those on the Right who have been willing to work with Obama. If so, then his politics will blossom into a comprehensive movement that is likely to gain momentum only as the 2016 elections approach.