Politics is about more than policy positions. When electing our president, we also need to choose a candidate who brings character and experience in governance.
Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, and Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, are the only candidates this year that meet all of these necessary qualifications. They are on the ballot in all 50 states. Among independent voters, they are leading in the polls over Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
As a Utahn who believes in common-sense conservative solutions, I’ve noticed a number of my friends express some interest in Provo native Evan McMullin, the former CIA agent who declared his candidacy for president in August. He seems to be a conservative, and his positions are superficially appealing to people of my political background.
But here’s why I’m supporting Johnson, not McMullin: The presidency is about more than one’s positions. Executive experience in government matters, as does honesty. And while Trump and Clinton fail on both of these tests, McMullin fails on experience. He and his newly-named vice-presidential candidate Mindy Finn, a Republican political consultant, don’t have presidential-level credentials.
By contrast, both Johnson and Weld were two-term governors. But that doesn’t mean they came to government via politics, the way Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did. Johnson was a handyman entrepreneur who grew from a one-man shop to a 1,000-employee construction company in New Mexico. He ran for governor as a political outsider, and won.
Johnson implemented a skeptical and frugal attitude toward government. He vetoed 750 bills and made the state a better place to live and work.
Weld’s first elective office was also governor. But he brought experience as an attorney at the highest levels of government, heading the criminal division of the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan. He came home to upset the Democratic lock on the statehouse in the land dubbed “Taxachusetts.” Like Johnson, he also upset the state’s high-tax reputation. That was a great benefit to another former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.
In fact, Romney has said he would vote for Weld for president.
Putting aside McMullin’s and Finn’s manifest lack of experience — unlike Gov. Romney, unlike Gov. Johnson, unlike Gov. Weld — McMullin isn’t even on the ballot in enough states to have even a mathematical chance at winning the White House. By contrast, being on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Johnson/Weld ticket allows everyone in the country to participate in a “third way” alternative movement.
By contrast, what are McMullin’s prospects? According to Ballot Access News, he’s on the ballot in grand total of 11 states — Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. The electoral votes of those states total 84, not even one-third of what a candidate will need to win. The candidates from the Green Party, the Socialism and Liberation Party, and the Constitution Party each are all on the ballot in more states than him. And his vice presidential pick will be on the ballot in exactly zero states.
Instead, the McMullin presidential campaign has all the trappings of a vanity effort seeking to raise the profile of a person rather than speaking to a principled set of beliefs.
As the presidential and vice presidential nominees from the Libertarian Party, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are representing a party in each presidential election for the past 44 years. Johnson was the nominee in 2012, and he won more votes than any prior party candidate. This year, the Johnson-Weld ticket brings a maturity and a depth of political experience that is a promising and new sign for the party.
It’s also a promising sign for our nation’s future that the Johnson/Weld ticket is speaking so successfully to young voters in America. This, too, has the potential to help Johnson/Weld in Utah, as we have the youngest average age of any state in the country.
The Johnson-Weld ticket represents the future role for a national political movement. By contrast, the McMullin candidacy is backward-looking. It yearns for a Republican Party that, in the age of Donald Trump, no longer exists. The two-party political system is failing in so many ways, and that failure is so visible in the morally and fiscally bankrupt candidacies of both Trump and Clinton.
As Johnson said in recent OpEd piece in The New York Times about the poverty of the two-party system, the Johnson/Weld ticket is “the alternative — and we’re the only ticket that offers Americans a chance to find common ground.”
Let’s elevate our politics beyond being Utah-centric. Let’s support Johnson/Weld ticket that leads not only among independent voters, but offers Republicans and Democrats the chance to find common ground in character, in principle and in experience with good, frugal government.
This column, "Johnson and Weld bring experience as well as character for Utah voters," was originally published in the Deseret News on October 14, 2016.
Drew Clark is working with the Johnson-Weld campaign for president and vice president. An attorney specializing in telecom, media and technology, he is on leave of absence from his weekly column. Connect on Twitter @drewclark or www.drewclark.com.