What a Gary Johnson Presidency Could Have Looked Like

Johnson, Aleppo

by I, Ancap

With some optimistic at the result of the election, many are wondering what the next four years might hold in terms of opportunity, advancement, and improvement. For those upset at the result, the next four years likely seem bleak and unappealing to imagine. Whether you’re depressed Donald Trump won, or just a fan of alternative history, imaging and speculating about what could have happened had one of the other candidates won. With most of that speculation surrounding Hillary Clinton, it’s about time someone did so with Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson. Here is a rough idea of what could have happened if Johnson was elected.

Note: This is pure speculation and in no way 100% accurate. Whatever hypothetical scenario listed may or may not have happened. We will never know.

The Pre-Election

Given that Johnson would have likely won through an evenly divided electoral vote deference to the House of Representatives, it’s reasonable to assume many people would be greatly upset their new president did not come anywhere near the popular vote as Trump or Clinton did. Calls for recounts would be even greater than they were for Trump. Far left groups would likely protest the result, unhappy a candidate favorable to capitalism won without democratic consent. Donald Trump would likely dispute the result and the Alt-Right would join the calls for an election do-over. Should Johnson’s President-Elect status survive this turbulence, he would emerge as the leader of a very divided, unhappy country.

That’s not to say many would not welcome Johnson’s presidency. Many who were politically independent and did not vote would probably be refreshed by the fact he beat Trump and Clinton. His Libertarian supporters, among the most vocal political activists in the country, would be celebrating the victory on a grand scale. The Republicans — and even some Democrats — who did not support their nominee would be at least intrigued by the prospects of a Johnson presidency.

The Appointments

Johnson’s appointments would have to be approved by the Republican controlled Senate per the Appointments clause. The Senate must provide “advice and consent” for the President’s appointments. Because of this, it’s unlikely Johnson would be able to appoint anyone outside of the Republican Party for any major cabinet positions without compromising on others.

Throughout the general election, Johnson was plagued by factions of libertarians who did not support his nomination due to his moderate stances on various issues. It is likely that because Johnson would compromise on many appointments, these factions would cite these compromises as examples of what they feel is Johnson “selling out” to Washington.

However, Johnson might make allies with Republicans in doing so. He has “guaranteedMitt Romney would get a position in his cabinet should he accept, and even floated the idea of Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt for Secretary of State.

Foreign Policy

This is perhaps the greatest area Johnson could make changes in, seeing how the President has largely dictated American foreign policy since WWII. Johnson, a non-interventionist, would most likely shy away from wars in the Middle East, hesitating to fund any major conflicts abroad. Johnson has suggested long ago to funding “humanitarian” military efforts abroad (if only during genocide), but it’s unknown entirely what that would entail. If Johnson did get his way, our military budget would probably be a lot smaller.

The Drug War

While not in favor of ending the entire drug war, Johnson is well-known (perhaps to a fault) of marijuana legislation. The problem with this would be, as with any appointments, getting his Attorney General approved by the Republican Senate. Should they be approved, Johnson could order the AG to deschedule marijuana under the following law:

“21 U.S. Code § 811 – Authority and criteria for classification of substances:

(a)Rules and regulations of Attorney General; hearing

The Attorney General shall apply the provisions of this subchapter to the controlled substances listed in the schedules established by section 812 of this title and to any other drug or other substance added to such schedules under this subchapter. Except as provided in subsections (d) and (e), the Attorney General may by rule—

(1)add to such a schedule or transfer between such schedules any drug or other substance if he—


finds that such drug or other substance has a potential for abuse, and


makes with respect to such drug or other substance the findings prescribed by subsection (b) ofsection 812 of this title for the schedule in which such drug is to be placed; or


remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.

Rules of the Attorney General under this subsection shall be made on the record after opportunity for a hearing pursuant to the rulemaking procedures prescribed by subchapter II of chapter 5 of title 5. Proceedings for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of such rules may be initiated by the Attorney General (1) on his own motion, (2) at the request of the Secretary, or (3) on the petition of any interested party.”


Johnson’s tagline, “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” may not get him many points with either side in Washington. Unfortunately for Johnson, the Democrats in the House and Senate would be a constant obstacle for any economic legislation he could convince the Republicans to push. Even then, it’s likely filibusters and other delay tactics would cause even more gridlock in Washington. Johnson’s policies of eliminating the income tax, corporate tax, and enacting a 20+ national sales tax would be adamantly opposed by the Democrats in Congress, and possibly some Republicans. It’s highly possible that regardless of what happens, Johnson’s main ability to influence law would be through executive order.

At best, Johnson would be able to make some meaningful changes to the tax code that would benefit the middle class and maybe some small businesses. He’d simplify the regulatory code and reduce the number of income brackets, lowering each to a compromised level. However, it’s entirely unlikely we would lose a progressive income tax system under a President Johnson.

Civil Liberties

Johnson would be able to get even less done in terms of social programs than economic programs. With primarily Republican appointments, Senate, and House, Johnson would be unable to pass his “bake the cake” or other social legislation he’d desire. Even less so, Johnson’s favor of Black Lives Matter and other civil rights movements would not sit well with more conservative Republicans, whose support he would need in order to pass other legislation.

Johnson would, however, pardon Edward Snowden. This would be a massive defeat to the surveillance state and a blow to the NSA’s credibility as an organization. Amidst massive public support, Johnson would severely roll back the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, and replace it with a system that required a much stricter code for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to follow when investigating someone.

It’s reasonable to assume our current LGBT rights, minority rights, and other passed civil rights, would be adamantly defended by President Johnson.


Gary Johnson and Bill Weld have both been somewhat more moderate on guns than many libertarians would like, especially the latter. Weld, who Johnson obviously identifies with, has stated handguns are more dangerous in some cases than rifles, and that “You shouldn’t have anybody who’s on a terrorist watch list be able to buy any gun at all.”

However, the two seem relatively more favorable to the Second Amendment than our current POTUS. Despite numerous calls for increased gun control measures, President Obama failed in enacting much meaningful gun legislation, so it’s unlikely Johnson or Weld would either.


Johnson would make many enemies in Washington with his immigration stances. It is possible Johnson would pursue executive amnesty as Barack Obama has, much to the irk of Republicans.

If Johnson did somehow have his way with immigration without addressing the minimum wage in states like California, it is possible low-wage labor would compete with immigrants from Mexico and Asia. Because of this, America could see a rise in unemployment as young Americans battle with unskilled immigrants from the third world for entry-level job positions. Again, the availability of jobs would depend on Johnson’s regulatory and tax reforms, so it’s pure speculation what would happen should this occur.


If predicting another presidential election with Trump as president is tricky, it’s impossible to say for Johnson. Should Johnson have won the presidency, the Libertarian Party would be a serious contender in smaller elections around the country for 2018, 2020 and other future elections. Would Johnson be re-elected? Would the Republicans bother nominating someone to challenge a President who worked well with them? It’s difficult to say for sure. It’s possible they nominate a libertarian-leaning candidate like Rand Paul were Johnson’s ideas popular with Americans, if only to convince people there’s another great alternative to Johnson from the GOP.

If the Libertarians won the White House, the future of the Democratic Party would be uncertain at best and dismal at worst. It would mean that the Democrats are the only party to hold no majority in national government. It’s even possible the Green Party would emerge as a viable leftist alternative to the Democrats.

One thing is for certain: if Johnson got nothing done in Washington, his election alone might have been enough to re-write the two party system completely. Unfortunately for the LP, it’ll be another 4 years before that opportunity is on the table again.

If you enjoy my work, you can follow me on Twitter (@I_AnCap) or contribute to my Patreon here.

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