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Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson makes his case in Detroit

Libertarian candidate for President Gary Johnson.
Gary Johnson for President 2016
Libertarian candidate for President Gary Johnson.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson pitched his vision for the country to the Detroit Economic Club Wednesday.

Johnson is for limited federal government across the board — free trade, lower taxes, loosened drug laws, fewer immigration restrictions, and more judicious use of military power.

But Johnson says the government does have a role to play when it comes to providing basic protections for citizens.

Johnson said that includes protecting public health and the environment. He pointed to the Flint water crisis as an illustration of what can happen otherwise — though he wasn’t too familiar with the details.

“I don’t know what happened in Michigan, other than this really is a catastrophic failure of government,” said Johnson.

But Johnson otherwise denounced “crony capitalism” and “pay-to-play politics.” He was critical of the Bush and Obama administrations' interventions that helped keep Wall Street and Detroit automakers afloat (though he did say he was scouting Detroit for potential real estate investments, noting there are “great opportunities” in the city).

And despite the perception that Johnson is a potential “spoiler” in the presidential race, the former New Mexico governor thinks he can win as a third-party candidate. But he admits that won’t happen if he doesn’t make the stage for a presidential debate.

Johnson is still vying for a spot in at least one debate, but is struggling to crack the 15% barrier in national polls, the threshold for a debate invitation.

Johnson said that even as a long shot (he is on the ballot in all 50 states, and gives himself “10% odds” of winning right now) he’s a more practical candidate than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. He said those candidates — and their respective political parties — are so polarizing, they really couldn’t govern.

“A wasted vote is voting for somebody you don’t believe in,” Johnson said.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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