Referring to himself and his running mate William Weld, Johnson told MTV News, “We survived the convention! That was a big deal. There were a lot of people saying ahead of time that they looked forward to supporting me, but [they told me] you do have to survive the convention.”
This sentiment is understandable, as the Libertarian Party convention is not a typical political event. Just this year, a candidate for party chairman performed a striptease onstage. Additionally, Johnson beat the following candidates for the presidential nod:
1. Austin Petersen, who favors who favors “free banking,” in which banks and private enterprises would issue their own currency. He has also said multiple times that he wants “to live in a world where gay married couples can protect their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns.” Don’t we all.
2. John McAfee, a software developer most famous for creating extremely popular anti-virus software and then moving to Belize, focusing his energy on extolling the virtues of bath salts, maybe murdering his next-door neighbor over his neighbor’s complaints about McAfee’s dogs, and then moving back to the United States to evade Belizean police.
3. Darryl W. Perry, who accepts donations only in Bitcoins, AltCoins, precious metals, airline miles, and hotel points. When asked at the convention debate whether it should be a crime to sell heroin to children, Perry argued that five-year-olds should be able to inject heroin without adult supervision.
Johnson, by far the most “mainstream” of the bunch, was also the most-booed candidate at the convention. He was heckled for supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for saying he believes that drivers should be licensed, and for arguing that, while all drugs should be legalized, perhaps they should be kept away from children. Still, Johnson’s unorthodox approach to libertarianism just might be what helped him win the nomination, in the most visible election for the party in years. And he’s not worried about the jeers: “Libertarians are not alone in having divisions among their own party,” he said. “I do speak on behalf of libertarians because I am the nominee.”
Johnson sees himself as a ready alternative to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (whose nomination he says he foresaw months ago), but he’s particularly interested in attracting Bernie Sanders voters. “Bernie’s got a lot of libertarian in him” on social issues, Johnson said. “There’s enough of a tie-in to potentially attract his supporters.”
T. Becket Adams, a reporter for the Washington Examiner, agrees. “[Johnson] stands a good chance of winning over some disaffected conservatives and liberals,” Adams told MTV News, “the so-called social conservatives and members of the Occupy crowd.” Adams noted, however, that Johnson’s policies won’t be what attracts voters. “Some voters will flip to Johnson in protest of their party's nominee, not because they care about his positions on Bitcoin and auditing the [Federal Reserve]. I don't think it's whether he's ‘libertarian enough’ so much as it's ‘can he appear less corrupt/loathsome?’ that'll matter most.”
Granted, the former New Mexico governor might have less success with social conservatives — first, for his selection of the very, very liberal former Massachusetts governor William Weld for his running mate, and second, for saying during the Libertarian Party debate that bakers should not be able to refuse to create wedding cakes for same-sex weddings. But Johnson is unconcerned. “I don’t want to be any part of discrimination whatsoever,” he told MTV News, adding that in many cases, permitting someone to refuse wedding services to same-sex couples would require changing state law.
Johnson’s now focusing on ensuring that his name will be listed on ballots in all 50 states — a major challenge. And he admitted, “It’s hard! It’s hard to be a part of a third party. Democrats and Republicans have colluded to make it very difficult to get a third party on the ballot.”
He’s hopeful, though. He’s even given up marijuana for the rest of his campaign and, presumably, his term in the White House. For Johnson, it’s time to get serious.