Not in recent memory have both major-party presidential candidates been so roundly disliked. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump drew a staggering 70 percent disapproval rating. Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ choice, didn’t fare much better with a 55 percent unfavorable rating.
It’s hard to believe that a country of more than 300 million people can’t come up with two better candidates. According to a CBS News poll, 11 percent of respondents, faced with the Clinton-Trump choice, answered “other” or “won’t vote.”
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee, fortuitously finds himself running for president in that neither-of-the-above electoral category. Among business leaders who value global trade, lower taxes and entrepreneurship, Johnson might just be the ticket.
Johnson is running on a hybrid platform of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism, which represents the political will of a large sector of the American people. His policy positions are decidedly pro-innovation. A vocal proponent of internet freedom, Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, talks about its direct link with tech-sector economic growth, writing, “It is no coincidence that the unprecedented innovation and entrepreneurship — and the resulting improvements in our quality of life — that has occurred in cyberspace has happened in one of the last refuges of freedom.”
Unlike Trump, who sees immigration as the threat to national security, Johnson has a welcoming, pro-business approach to opening our borders. “Not only is [immigration] a historical and energizing part of American culture and experience, it is vital to our economy,” Johnson has said, having encountered the issue directly as governor of a border state.
Johnson understands the contribution foreign-born entrepreneurs make to the U.S. economy — four in 10 Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are immigrants. But for too many politicians, fear-mongering over illegal immigration is getting in the way of sound and strategic immigration reform.
Another bright light for business: Johnson supports expansion of the H-1B work visa program, which includes allowing spouses of those visa holders to work in this country.
Unlike Clinton, who has suggested that new laws are needed to regulate the sharing economy, Johnson supports the sharing-economy model of entrepreneurism that has given rise to game-changing innovators such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. He told CNBC that other markets would gradually emulate the sharing-economy model, and called the trend “very exciting.” And while Clinton’s technology and innovation agenda tackles a lot of important ideas like additional access to spectrum and increased support for the Internet of Things, she doesn’t address how she’ll pay for these proposals.
Perhaps most important: Johnson understands that the best way to grow the economy is to let business — not government — lead. With refreshing modesty for a politician, Johnson refuses to take credit for a strong job-creation record as New Mexico governor. “I didn’t create a single job,” he has said, instead promoting his creation of a hospitable tax and regulatory climate in the state that allowed entrepreneurs and other job creators to thrive and prosper. That same philosophy at the national level, he says, would transform America into the “job magnet” of the planet.
Driven by entitlements, our national debt is so threatening that by 2025, the entirety of the federal budget will go to entitlements and interest payments on the national debt.
Johnson calls our national debt crisis, “the single greatest threat to our national security,” recognizing that we’re leaving our coffers dry when it comes to funding critical areas such as defense, infrastructure, education, research or the environment. Not to mention what it does for our children’s future.
In a June 10 op-ed essay for CNN, Johnson wrote, ”[Millennials] may be especially ready to become engaged in politics with a candidate who wants to give them a government that will leave them alone and get its finances in order, so they don’t inherit an economic collapse.”
A staunch advocate for privacy, Johnson is sharply critical of the Patriot Act, which he says has “shredded the Fourth Amendment,” and of federal agencies “determined to make our phone calls, emails, bank accounts and whereabouts fair game for their warrantless searches and monitoring.”
Trump, meanwhile, urged Apple to dismantle its own privacy protections and hack the phone used by the assailants in the San Bernardino shooting. “Act first, think later” comments like those would open a Pandora’s box, weakening security standards that could be exploited by the very people from whom our government seeks to protect us. Clinton, meanwhile, has offered consistently vague statements on data privacy, encouraging talks between government and private enterprise, while staying quiet on encryption.
Given Johnson’s pro-privacy, pro-business stance on so many important issues this election season, it’s not surprising that in the CBS poll, when Johnson’s name was added as an option, he drew a surprising 11 percent support — impressive given how little ink and airtime he’s receiving.
This could be the year when voters finally break the grip of the political-party duopoly in this country and give a third-party or independent candidate serious consideration — a change that American voters who are dismayed by the choices they face should support unilaterally.