Thursday, July 01, 2010

This is still a politician I can like.

Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, continues to impress me. Not only does he seem to be a nice guy but, for a politician, he seems to have his head screwed on right. I met him several months back and while I didn't agree 100% with him, I was in basic agreement much of the time—something that doesn't happen often. He seems far more libertarian than Ron Paul, and certainly much more libertarian than the seed of Ron's loins, Randall Paul.

I later heard Johnson speak to a tea party group and lecture them on why, if they are interested in freedom, they have to oppose the war on drugs. It was a pleasure to watch these Right-wing bigots squirming in their seats. A handful of libertarians in the audience applauded enthusiastically but most the tea baggers sat on their hands, looking glum and waiting for the next speaker to bash Mexicans so their hearts would start beating excitedly again. Given the general age of the audience Mexicans may be more effective than a pacemaker at keeping them alive. I do suspect that absent the "brown menace" these people would find the "gay threat," or "the Jew conspiracy," or the "Illuminati" to rile them up. Imaginary threats are so much nicer than real ones.

Now Gov. Johnson has come out on the immigration issue. He's not as hard core on the matter as I am, but for one given to having to deal with political compromises, he supports a fairly decent position, and one that moves in the right direction. He also has some unkind words for the Nativists on the Right who are in frothing at the mouth over Mexicans. (I should note that Right-wing racism alone would be insufficient to whip hysteria about immigrants and that the matter is also pushed by left-wing labor unions who are ignorant about job creation and believe immigrants "steal our jobs.")

In a recent newspaper interview Johnson chided his fellow Republicans who say they want to cut government spending yet are hyped up over the war on terror and the war on Mexican gardeners.
"But when you listen to the rhetoric they all seem to want to stay engaged on the war on terror at an unlimited cost and they're all now talking about securing the borders when they don't seem to have any idea how much that would actually cost," he said. "Although the rhetoric sounds good, the reality of what they're saying really isn't going to reduce spending."

The Santa Fe New Mexican wrote:
In his travels he's learned that immigration is the "hot-button issue d'jour" across the country, he said. "Secure our borders?" Johnson asked rhetorically. "What's the cost? What's the benefit? ... I just don't think it's practical to put the National Guard arm-in-arm across 1,600 miles of border."

As for the idea of deporting illegal immigrants — as advocated by many of his fellow conservatives — Johnson said that in practice mass deportations "is just going to add to the insanity of spending and it's not gong to have any positive impact."

Johnson said there were more illegal immigrants in the U.S. back when he was governor. "When I was governor, I asked for a cost-benefits analysis. Are we paying out more than we're getting in, given the fact that (immigrants) do pay taxes — income tax, Social Security, Medicare. Immigrants who have used false documents to get work don't collect tax refunds, Johnson said. His administration determined that the state got more tax revenue from illegal immigrants than the state was paying out in benefits.

Johnson said he doesn't like the harsh tone he's heard in the immigration debate. "At an event the other night and some guy says, 'What we need are A-10s flying low across the border ... guns blazing.' " Johnson said. "I said, 'Really? You want to kill the immigrants? ... We are on different pages here. We really have a serious disagreement about this.' " But a couple of minutes later, Johnson said, the man apologized and said he didn't mean what he said. He said such emotional reactions to the problem "have to do with the notion that (immigrants) are taking away jobs from U.S. citizens."
Pretty good stuff, though I did find myself shaking my head at the dumbth of the reporter for referring to Johnson as a conservative. When will these morons learn? The paper also noted that Johnson says that if you want to weaken drug cartels operating out of Mexico then you should legalize marijuana—which is a good beginning, but just the beginning.

If the Republican Party ran more candidates like Gov. Johnson it would have long term viability. Right now the GOP relies on a dwindling group of rabid fundamentalists as their base. This means they have given up minorities of all kinds: gays, Hispanics, and the young most prominently. It also means they have to rely on people hating the Democrats more. The largest group of voters are independents and they don't find themselves drawn to the Republicans as much as they are disgusted by the Democrats. Barack Obama is campaigning for the GOP full time. Both parties merely give voters reasons to vote for the other party. So Johnson is a nice change of pace, he is someone who gives you reasons to vote for someone, and not just against them.