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Gary Johnson, The 15 Percent, & A Fight For Recognition

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Depending on what news network you choose to indulge in, you’ve likely been exposed to a hefty amount of political advertising and not-so-subtle agenda pushing for either Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, or Hillary Clinton, the accompanying Democrat.

What you likely won’t see, however, is much information on Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico. This is because, by virtue of being a third party candidate, Johnson is typically cast aside as a viable candidate and largely ignored by political pundits on every news source from MSNBC to Fox.

And, with the lack of major news coverage and a distinct “Democrat” or “Republican” label associated with his campaign, Johnson hasn’t yet garnered the necessary 15 percent in national polls to be included in the nationally televised Presidential debates. And that, my friends, is a crime.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, an organization funded and created by the two major political parties who happen to be included in every debate, established the 15 percent rule in large part to stomp on the throats of third party candidates. The rule, which has been named as the primary reason the US has not–and perhaps will not–see a third party candidate in the White House anytime in the near future.

If this rule were done away with, as has been proposed–and subsequently shot down–quite a few times, third party candidates like Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein could, theoretically, stand a chance in a general election against the powerhouse left and right.

Right now it’s important that we, as Americans, take a page out of George Washington’s book and willfully disregard the two-party system that has been engrained in our political system seemingly since the dawn of time. Candidates like Johnson and Stein provide an outside-the-box option when we’ve been made to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And for the first time in decades, there’s a chance that we’ll see a mass movement in exactly that direction.

Gary Johnson is, by most accounts, the epitome of a Libertarian. Between 1995 and 2003 he served as the governor of New Mexico as a Republican. Billed as a “Ron Paul libertarian,” Johnson abandoned his bid for the Republican nomination in 2011, choosing instead to vie for the Libertarian nomination, which he secured in both 2012 and 2016.

Johnson has gained attention from voters from both the left and the right as leaning socially liberal and fiscally conservative, placing the slashing of government involvement and spending on a pedestal. A proponent of personal liberties and staunch opponent of the War on Drugs (finally), Johnson is as anti-big government as you’ll find in someone running for political office. He has spoken out as a proponent of gun ownership and the Second Amendment, particularly in the wake of the horrific Orlando shooting.

These views–coupled with the fact that, for many Americans the choice between Hillary and Trump is akin to choosing between strangulation and decapitation–have helped Johnson see a small jump in his polling numbers recently. In May, FiveThirtyEight offered that we ought to pay attention to Johnson, as he was polling at 10 percent against Trump and Clinton. As of about a week ago, Johnson’s numbers jumped to about 12 percent in a Fox News poll.

While he may still have quite a bit to go nationally, Johnson is succeeding in recognition in younger audiences, perhaps snatching up some of the Bernie Sanders supporters who have jumped the ship that is the Democratic party. According to SurveyUSA, among the 18-34 year old voters in Utah, Johnson leads both Trump and Clinton with 32 percent of young people claiming they’d cast their vote in his favor come November.

What’s more convincing may be a quote from FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Eaten.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if Johnson won in Utah. Both Clinton and Trump are hated there, and Johnson could thread the needle,” Eaten said. “He’d be the first third-party candidate to win a state since George Wallace in 1968.”

While Gary Johnson may not have the publicity, financial backing or media coverage that Hillary and Trump have received ad nauseum, his message, Live Free, could resonate with voters come November 8.

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