The presidential election is getting so much attention that neighbors are beginning to talk. Here’s how I expect a visit with one of my neighbors — who was also a delegate to our neighboring Republican Party precinct — would transpire:
My neighbor: "Hello and come in, Drew, I've been looking forward to our visit."
Me: "That's very kind of you. How's the family?"
"They're all downstairs. But before I call them up here, I have a question about politics."
"Uh-oh. Sounds serious."
"At the state caucuses in March, we were both elected delegates by our precinct for the Republican Party state convention. We both favor practical, pro-immigration and free-market conservatives. On a national level, now that the Republican Party has nominated Donald Trump, I don’t know what to do. I've been a life-long Republican!"
"You're not the only one. From what I'm reading in the Deseret News, it looks like Utah might become a 'swing state' for the first time in more than half-a-century. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both gotten into the act with op-ed articles pandering to Utahns."
"So here's what I wanted to ask: Who is this Gov. Gary Johnson who's running for president? I see you've been posting on Facebook practically every day. What’s he all about?"
"Well, Gary Johnson is the former Republican governor of New Mexico. With his running mate, Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts, the Libertarian Party candidates have more real-world political experience than either of the two other tickets. And unlike Donald and Hillary, Gary is straightforward and honest: He says the same things in Utah that he says everywhere in the country."
"You know that I won't support Donald. Just like Mitt Romney said: His policies would be a prescription for recession and instability, and his character and temperament are unsuited for the White House."
(Smiling) "And you wouldn't consider backing Hillary?"
"Come on, I'm not crazy! I can't think of a single issue — except for the need to be welcoming to immigrants — on which I'm with her."
"I’ll tell you, though: you can't know how much of an inspiration you were to me in my political journey. At the March precinct caucus elections — when Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich were real possibilities — I was so moved by your speech pledging that if Trump were nominated, you would seriously consider quitting the GOP."
"Yes, and now I have to decide where to go. You seem to have gone all-in with Johnson and Weld. Do they have a chance at winning?"
"Surprisingly, they do. Johnson-Weld are now at 13 percent in national polls, and have been as high as 26 percent in Utah polls. They will be on the ballot in all 50 states. And if they get to 15 percent nationally, they'll be on the presidential debate stage. It will change who we see as ‘mainstream.’ Don’t forget that as long as Johnson-Weld wins at least one electoral vote, the 12th Amendment calls for Congress to choose the president among the top-three electoral vote winners. If no candidate gets 270 electoral votes, all bets are off.”
"Yes, I want to see him debate. But don’t the Libertarians have somepretty marginal political views? For a conservative BYU guy like myself, I’m really pleased that former CIA agent Evan McMullin is getting into the presidential race here in Utah. What do you think about him?”
“We have friends who speak highly of him. But he’s never held elected office. That’d be like tasking a graduate student with becoming university president. I think that being a positive and successful governor is simply the best preparation for success in the White House.”
“I’m not there yet with Johnson-Weld. I think that the lesser of two evils is still evil. A voter should also chose the best possible candidate, whether they have a chance of winning or not. Our country can’t survive unless more people are willing to stand up for what is right.”
“I’m with you, neighbor. Do you know what Gary Johnson said at a CNN town hall: ‘A wasted vote is voting for somebody that you don't believe in, and if we are going to continue to vote for the lesser of two evils, that's still evil.’”
“So why should I vote for Gov. Johnson and Gov. Weld?”
“Personally, I'm probably a conservative with Libertarian leanings. But nationally, the Republican Party faces ruin. The Libertarian Party offers the best vehicle to support constitutional government. Politics is about making reasonable compromises while standing firm and refusing to cross a line and cast votes that would stain our conscience. Johnson and Weld are principled leaders of character. They can and are drawing support from both Republicans and Democrats. They can win in Utah, and they can win this thing.”
This column, "A visit with my neighbor about politics, presidents and Libertarian Gary Johnson, originally appeared in the Deseret News on August 28, 2016.
Drew Clark is working with the Johnson-Weld campaign for president and vice president. He is an attorney specializing in telecom, media and technology. He is on leave of absence from his weekly column in the Deseret News. Connect on Twitter @drewclark or www.drewclark.com.