Gary Johnson Channels Student Support

Barack Obama isn’t the only politician who has learned the value of the support one can gain from college students. Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico who recently announced his candidacy in the 2012 presidential race, has stated that he is counting on, and has received a strong showing of support from college students who are “volunteering everywhere for whatever they can do.”

The Cato Institute and the Tea Party are two other sources of support for Johnson, who called his campaign “not Washington driven in any way.” However, the candidate had some reservations about the latter, calling the group “a mixed bag,” while allowing that “based on being about the check book and cutting spending and saving this country when it comes to financial collapse, I’m a Tea Partier.”

Johnson, known for his stalwart advocacy of libertarian views similar to those of Ron Paul, is more concerned for the Republican Party than he is at running against a candidate with a comparable platform. “I would have endorsed him last go-round” Johnson said of Congressman Paul.

“I’m running as a Republican. I’ve been a Republican, and will remain a Republican,” Johnson explained of his true focus, “I’m trying to grow the Republican Party. The Party needs to grow its base and include libertarianism and the Tea Party to be able to be successful in the next election. It must get beyond what can be perceived as a very narrow base.”

Governor Johnson’s sentiments are shared by Blayne Bennett, communications manager of political group Students For Liberty: “The libertarian ideology is definitely on the rise, and both parties should be cognizant of it…students are finding refuge in a philosophy that is both compassionate and logically sound.” According to the group’s Vice President Clark Ruper, “Students today have seen the failure of the status quo and are upset by the lack of any substantial difference between Republicans and Democrats.  More and more are embracing libertarianism as an alternative.”

It would seem Gary Johnson intends himself as the very same alternative that students are looking for. “There’s an awareness right now that I’ve never seen in my lifetime across the country, and certainly in college campuses.”

The politician has been on the road campaigning for the first time in 16 months, visiting “countless” college campuses and espousing a fiscally conservative view not often readily accepted by the, albeit shrinking, liberal majority found in most institutions of higher education. Indeed it is not difficult to see why Johnson’s fundamental commitment to reducing the country’s $14 trillion deficit is attracting to students: the core question of “what [government] can and should provide” calls into question, among other things, government censorship, internet restriction and taxation, the protection of civil liberties and expiration of the Patriot Act, and drug policy reform (including the ever popular legalization of marijuana)—all issues likely to draw passionate responses from politically inclined students.

Johnson will appear in one of his first major televised appearances since announcing his candidacy in the Fox News Republican Presidential Debate tonight at 9:00 EST.

–Adam I. W. Schwartzman