The biographies historians would write about a President Gary Johnson in the textbooks of the future would almost sound like fiction.
He once climbed Mount Everest with a broken leg and crowd-surfed at a campaign event. A few years ago, he made national news when he talked about dog poop at a presidential debate. Oh, and he’d be the first independent candidate ever to win a general election in the United States.
Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s 2016 nominee, may have a better shot at making history this year than ever before. With presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, continuing to divide their parties and prove unpopular in the polls, scores of voters — especially young ones — are searching for another option. Johnson wants to be that alternative.
This isn’t the first time he’s run for president: In 2012, he first ran as a Republican and then as a Libertarian. He received about 1.3 million votes, or about 1 percent of the popular vote. This time around, Johnson stands to get a greater share of the vote. Millennials, or people between 18 and 34, now make up about a third of the electorate. And not only are they huge in number — they’re also the most politically independent generation yet. A 2014 Pew Research Center study found half of millennials say they’re independent instead of identifying as Republican or Democratic.
International Business Times sat down with Johnson for an exclusive interview Thursday in New York City. Watch the video above and read below for a transcript of his remarks.
IBT: I’ve recently begun looking into where young Bernie Sanders voters might go in November if he’s not on the ballot. I did actually do this huge poll of young people recently ... a lot of them told me they were considering you and voting for the Libertarian party. I just wanted to hear more about what your strategy might be like or what you think about young people?
Johnson: Well, first of all, I have never liked telling anybody what they should do, but I do present myself as that possibility, and really speaking with a broad brushstroke, I think most Americans — and that isn’t just millennials, but that’s most Americans — I think are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or socially conservative but they really don’t care, and, you know, I don’t care either — as long as they don’t force that on me. Let me make my own choices in my own life. As long as those choices don’t put others in harm’s way.
And then I think that our military policies of intervention — boots on the ground, dropping bombs, flying drones that are killing thousands of innocent people — I think that military policy has made the world less safe, not more safe.
That’s a very broad brushstroke, but how’s that for starters, right?
IBT: That’s great, and you kind of jumped right to the end of my questions here. I know right now everybody is thinking about foreign policy. I’m wondering, what makes you qualified to handle that sort of thing?
Johnson: Oh, what makes anybody qualified to handle that sort of thing? But, that said, I reject the notion that Libertarians are isolationist. We’re noninterventionist. How is it that politicians determine that they know better than the countries involved? So let’s stop getting involved in other countries’ affairs. That’s what has us in the situation that we’re in today. We constantly pick sides. And as atrocious as the prior dictator was, we come in, we side with the new dictator, that ends up being just as bad or oftentimes even worse.
IBT: I know that after these Orlando attacks ... I know that a lot of major lawmakers have come out with very strong proposals on how to deal with that. I know Donald Trump has proposed in the past temporarily banning Muslim immigration, I know there’s a lot of buzz around Hillary Clinton not using the right terms to describe radical Islam or not. Do you have a take on that situation?
Johnson: Well, that this is a horrible, horrible act of violence and this is an individual, that evil, evil individual — I mean, how I look, I can’t say anything that’s not horrible about the person that did this. That said, look, we shouldn’t be banning immigration. Like, this is a horrible situation. I’m looking to get elected president of the United States. I really enjoyed the job of being governor of New Mexico, and as governor of New Mexico and as president of the United States, I would really be curious what the FBI has to say about this. I mean, I’d love to get the upfront on the fact that they interviewed him three times. Why wasn’t he tagged? And I’m sure the FBI is obviously dealing with this every minute right now since this has happened. But I would be curious regarding that.
Bill Weld, my running mate, has suggested 1,000-person task force, and by the way, I’m for smaller government, but that’s also smarter government. So should we be doing things differently and perhaps not doing other things that aren’t working well. Let’s not do things that aren’t working but let’s look to what might work, which would be setting up a task force, a hotline, to report this kind of — in this case, the wife — maybe there would have been people that would have come forward, but because the FBI interviewed this guy three times, I don’t know if it would have worked in this particular case. But we need to be smart about this. We need to try and prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.
IBT: OK. Kind of switching tracks a little here. I’ve been researching you like crazy the past few days, and I’ve read a lot of profiles from various years saying that that year was the year for the Libertarian party — that was like the most breakout year that there could be. My question for you now is, is 2016 the most breakout-y year yet?
Johnson: Well, I think so. I think that — just do the math on the fact that 43 percent of Americans are independent, 30 percent are Democrats, 27 percent are Republican. So Trump support, or Trump's nomination comes from about 13 percent of the electorate. Pretty staggering. Hillary’s nomination comes from about 15 percent, 16 percent of the electorate. I think the two-party system may be doomed this election.
I think most people are Libertarians. It’s just that they just don’t know it.