by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
I’m going to tell you right up front: I like Gary Johnson. He’s an ultra-personable, plain-talking, gets-things-done kind of guy. But he’s got a fever — Potomac fever — that’s going to upend his life for the next year and more until the next Republican National Convention in 2012.
You see, Johnson wants to be president of these United States… and so he’s taken his near zero name recognition to Concord, New Hampshire where Thursday, April 21, 2011 he declared his candidacy. God help him…
Gary Johnson’s my kind of guy.
Born January 1, 1953 in Minot, North Dakota (a good place to get out of), he ultimately moved to New Mexico and graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1975. We like that school in our family; my brother went there, too. Johnson and his family now live in Taos, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
In 1976 he had one of those “aha” moments that changes lives. Having graduated he was looking around for something he could do that would enable him to use his undoubted entrepreneurial skills. He decided to create a little business that would do all the fix-ups and home repairs all home owners need but which most of us are all-thumbs at doing. Gary had all the right stuff for business success. He was personable, “can-do” oriented, the man who told you what he would do… and then did it! That unstoppable American formula for success… where a person with a good idea and the determination to succeed helps others and earns big.
His first major break with his new firm — Big J Enterprises — was receiving a large contract from Intel’s expansion in Rio Rancho which increased Big J’s revenues to million. Johnson was now a wealthy man, confronting one of the bedrock problems that all successful people must solve: how to find, train, motivate and keep good employees and do everything else you have to do to succeed. Always practical, Johnson went back to school, enrolling in a time management course. This helped him grow Big J into a big-time business with over 1000 employees. At that point, with all the money he and his family needed for life…he sold the business, so he could get started helping fix-up America, which had a host of home problems…. without the skills to solve them. Big J to the rescue…
“People Before Politics”.
Johnson entered New Mexico politics for the first time in 1994. He approached the state Republican Party with the (to them) absurd idea he should run for governor, wresting the state’s government from the entrenched Democratic establishment. They told him to take a hike and run for the state legislature, the most junior of positions.
But Johnson had what you need for success: an idea he believed in, the money to support his belief…. and a slogan that was more than mere words: “People before Politics”. It was just what New Mexico wanted to hear. Johnson became the giant-killer of New Mexico, defeating former Republican governor David Cargill in the Republican primary and incumbent Democratic governor Bruce King in the general election. New Mexico had itself a straight-talking man who said what he meant and meant what he said. It was a revelation to the home folks of Nuevo Mexico.
Johnson, to everybody’s surprise but his own, set about reshaping and reinventing New Mexico’s government. He evaluated what the state was doing by asking two sensible, “get to the bottom of it” questions: what are we spending our money on… and what are we getting in return?
Legislators from both parties and every bureaucrat in New Mexico did what they are good at doing, protecting themselves and their interests, sabotaging everything they could. They were, after all, the haves who took too much for the little they gave. Johnson was their worst nightmare. Mr. “Can Do” became Mr. “You Won’t”. He used his gubernatorial veto over and over again, vetoing more bills and appropriations than all other 49 U.S. governors combined. Yup, he meant what he said… And the people of New Mexico responded by re-electing him in 1998 with 55 percent of the vote. It was an astonishing bouquet from the people he was always honest to and fair; they realized he was about as good a governor as they could get. Politicians of the pandering ilk take notice.
Johnson was retired because of a two-term limit. (Another indication of what a silly idea that is. Let the people decide when to retire their officials.) This gifted, personable guy, with a resume as long as your arm (for instance he left New Mexico with a huge surplus) was at loose ends… for a couple of minutes.
Johnson’s “Our America Initiative”, Founded 2009.
Forced out of the governor’s chair, he responded by creating in 2009 the “Our America Initiative” , a nonprofit political advocacy committee that promotes common-sense business approaches to governing. Gary Johnson meant to do for the people of suffering, fed-up America what he had already done for the long-suffering people of New Mexico…
… which is why he found himself in chill and breezy Concord, New Hampshire on this April day.
He brought with him what has always distinguished the man: practical common- sense gleaned from proven business and high-level governing experience. More than that, he offers the kind of “let’s roll up our sleeves and solve this problem together” approach that is what people crave. Our problems, we know, are not insoluble so long as we work together. A man like Gary Johnson believes he’s the guy best able to work with Americans this way and so, one problem tackled after another, create the nation we want.
Frankly, this approach ought to play well in New Hampshire. The folks in the Granite State are pragmatic, “let’s get it done together” folks. As Gary Johnson goes door to door doing the retail politics winning the primary requires, he’ll find, I think, folks skeptical of course (they’re that way up north) but friendly, curious, and increasingly receptive. In short, this bright-eyed New Mexico boy, with his unfeigned interest in the people of New Hampshire and America could be the dark horse the GOP has been looking and hoping for in a large field which has so far failed to impress and inspire.
These New Hampshire folks take very seriously their task of scrutinizing each and every candidate, doing what every civic-minded American would do given the opportunity: to look carefully, ask thoughtfully, and come to their judgements independently. That is what they do and what their famous primary is for.
I’ll be surprised if he does not do well enough to take his message to other states. So, he decided to launch his campaign by achieving his first New Hampshire goal. That’s why he left Concord following his announcement and went to climb Tuckerman Ravine, a large glacial bowl on 6,288-foot Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the Northeast.
Johnson’s climbed Mount Everest; Tuckerman Ravine was a “piece of cake”. He’s hoping this is a good omen for the primary. It could happen. The people of New Hampshire, after all, like astonishing the rest of us. We shall just have to wait and see…