Gary Johnson speaks to the Detroit Economic Club

Alex Stevens, Political Columnist

On Friday, Sept. 16, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that Gary Johnson —former two-term governor of New Mexico and Libertarian Party nominee for president – had missed the 15 percent threshold to be included in the Sept. 26 presidential debate.

Two days prior to that, on Wednesday, Sept. 14 the Detroit Economic Club hosted Johnson.

During a Q-and-A moderated by political writer Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, Johnson addressed a variety of topics concerning his platform and his personal history.

Echoing common Libertarian Party themes, Johnson laid out a combination of fiscally conservative and socially tolerant policies.

Regarding the economy and taxes, Johnson assured the crowd that under his leadership, they would not see an increase in their taxes.

“Taxes will not go up in a Johnson presidency,” Johnson said. “Government will get smaller.”

Johnson also commented on social issues including drug legalization and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I do believe we are going to legalize marijuana,” Johnson said. “When we do that, this country is going to take a quantum leap of understanding when it comes to other drugs. [We will] recognize that the drug issue is a health problem as opposed to a criminal justice problem.”

Johnson also expressed support for criminal justice reform, particularly as it applies to the African American community. He explained that he believes that “all lives matter” but then went on to emphasize that “black lives matter.”

In regards to police misconduct and its impact on African Americans, Johnson stated that he believes people, including himself, have looked the other way in regard to the issue.

“We have our heads in the sand,” he said. “I’ve had my head in the sand on this issue. But we will come to grips with this. We will come to grips with this faster, more accurately—we will put things in place. As President of the United States, I will be in charge of the Department of Justice. We can look at the best [police] practices in communities and the worst [police] practices in communities … so that we can overcome the problems that we are facing.”

Johnson was also asked about a series of issues that were specifically relevant to Michigan.

He addressed the 2008 and 2009 auto industry bailouts, saying that he would not have supported such measures if he were president.

“I would not have bailed out the auto industry,” he said. “I would not have bailed out Wall Street. They made horrible choices. They should have been rewarded for their horrible choices by going bankrupt.”

In a moderate deviation from the Libertarian Party platform, Johnson expressed his support for government’s role in protecting people from pollution.

Johnson described the Flint water crisis as a “catastrophic failure” and also expressed support for the Environmental Protection Agency in resolving environmental issues.

Johnson concluded his remarks by emphasizing his sense of optimism in regards to the state of American life.

“I don’t think life in this country has ever been better,” he said. “We get along with one another better than ever, we communicate better than ever and our kids are smarter than ever.”

Following the event, Johnson took questions from reporters and emphasized the importance of participating in the presidential debates for his campaign.