Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson hasn’t been afraid to take controversial stances in his bid for president. So when it comes to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, don’t expect him to tread lightly.
Opposing Views reports the governor is open to the idea of pardoning Snowden, who is currently residing in Russia under temporary asylum. This move could potentially give Johnson a boost in momentum from those skeptical of the national security state.
Snowden has been a polarizing figure since leaking classified intelligence documents in 2013. Even libertarian icon Rand Paul has conveyed that he’d like to put Snowden in a cell with National Intelligence Director James Clapper.
Johnson, however, has refused to join the Kentucky senator in calling for Snowden’s head. “I don’t want to see him in prison,” he told Newsmax.
After a contention battle for the Libertarian Party nomination, Johnson certainly has his work cut out for him in solidifying his base. Appealing to those who see Snowden as a hero is certainly a step in the right direction.
Within the two major parties, sympathies for Snowden have been lacking. Republican nominee Donald Trump has declared that he would make Putin turn Snowden over in his administration, and the former contractor would be dealt with harshly.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been equally mistrustful of Snowden’s actions. In a 2015 CNN debate she told the audience that, “he should not be brought home without facing the music.”
Governor Johnson now finds himself in the unique position to siphon of votes from those who hold this as a key issue. With hardly any difference between Clinton and Trump, surveillance skeptics could find themselves with nowhere else to go.
This issue could potentially be used as leverage to convert former supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders to the Libertarian Party. Johnson hasn’t hidden his desire to peel off some of those voters, and his strong stances on civil libertarian issues make this a possibility.
Certainly, these national security cynics won’t be a large enough constituency to propel Governor Johnson to the presidency. However, in the early stages of the race they could give him the push he needs to make it to the national stage.
If given the chance to defend Snowden in front of a national audience, he would be able to lay out yet another crucial distinction between himself and the two major parties. At the very least, he could shed light on the authoritarian tendencies perpetuated by the other candidates.
Certainly, the governor will likely face a lot of flak for his endorsement of such a controversial figure. But, even if he can do nothing more than influence the tone of the national debate and keep surveillance reform in the forefront of presidential politics, it will have been a risk worth taking.