We’re Trying To Predict How Each Candidates’ Presidency Might Play Out

Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or Donald Trump: one of those four people will become America’s next President. And in an election cycle filled with doom and gloom warnings about each of the four candidates, we decided to try our hand at making realistic, brutally honest predictions about each of their presidencies. If one of them wins, this is most likely how it’s going to play out.

Yesterday, we gave our predictions for a Clinton presidency. Today, our focus is on Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Jill Stein and Donald Trump will each get their own articles this weekend.

Each of these articles are written under the assumptions that the candidates won in tight races, and that there’s no significant change to the House or Senate. If these people were president today, with things the way they are, this is how we think their administrations would play out.

Okay, enough chit-chat! Let’s get to some predicting!

The Presidency Of Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson’s narrow win serves as a huge relief to the American public, who were turned off by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Johnson is a moderate, presenting a blend of fiscal conservativism and social liberalism that many Americans view as a breath of fresh air. But how those policies might play out will shape Johnson’s first four years in the White House.

In his first 100 days in office, President Johnson angers the left by proposing the government do away with the Department of Education. But before any conservatives can break out the party streamers, Johnson declares an official end to the drug war and pushes to legalize marijuana federally, while also working to decriminalize all drugs.

While that’s happening, Johnson is forced to nominate a moderate to the Supreme Court. Republicans and Democrats agree with his nomination, on the condition that Johnson make a number of concessions on education and the drug war. He quickly learns that these compromises are forced on him at every turn, and most of his campaign platform is tossed out the window.

President Johnson is able to legalize marijuana federally. His administration oversees the end of mandatory minimums, and he releases more nonviolent drug offenders than any other president in American history. His immigration policies lead to a number of improvements that help pave a path to citizenship for millions of people who came to the United States illegally.

That’s the good stuff. Now let’s talk about the not-so-good stuff.

Johnson’s well-intended environmental policy leads to oil companies taking even greater advantage of the United States, with expanded exploratory drilling and large spikes in oil costs. Meanwhile, subsidies that help alternative energy programs like wind and solar are gutted, making it that much harder for those companies to compete against oil and coal. After four years, Johnson gets astonishingly poor grades from environmental advocacy groups, and his environmental policy is broadly viewed as disastrous.

Johnson manages to reduce tax loopholes and increase revenue in his first year, but in his second year, he pushes to do away with income taxes entirely, replacing them with a federal consumption tax. He wins this fight, but it costs him much of the rest of his platform.

On paper, the idea is great: you keep your full paycheck, but you pay more sales taxes on the stuff you pay for. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But this system severely punishes the poor, and Johnson’s inarticulate plans to relieve those lower-income households aren’t much help. The new cash register gut punch means Americans who live paycheck-to-paycheck struggle even more. Worse still, the new value-added tax fails to bring in the revenue the income tax generated, and Johnson finds himself running a hefty federal budget deficit as a result.

Johnson’s efforts at job creation lend themselves to trickle-down economic theory; his policy is that too much regulation is stifling job growth. In reality, those looser regulations do what looser regulations have always done: help corporations horde more wealth, while new jobs aren’t really made. Job growth remains fairly stagnant throughout his presidency; jobs aren’t being lost, and jobs aren’t being made.

Gary Johnson’s Overall Performance

President Gary Johnson’s presidency can be summed up in two words: not great.

Johnson’s presidency appeals to progressives thanks to his drug war policies, his pro-choice stance on abortion, his Internet freedom policies, and his general stances on civil liberties. He appeals to conservatives due to his tax policies, his pro-business regulatory stance, and his hands-free approach to alternative energy.

But all the things that one group loves, the other group hates, so he struggles to bring his approval ratings above 45%. He does a little more strongly amongst moderates and independents, who help carry his approval numbers higher, but his compromises make him rather ineffectual, and that means his administration would have a difficult time keeping their heads above water.

In the end, we’re predicting that President Gary Johnson will earn a D+ grade after four years. It’s a passing grade, but only barely. His good points are blown out by the bad, his under-detailed plans never seem to live up to expectations, and as an independent, he finds himself compromising so often that he ends up being fairly ineffectual. His chances at winning reelection in 2020 sit in the 15% to 40% range.

The good news for Johnson? If he manages to win a second term, however unlikely that seems, his middle-of-the-road policies and newfound experiences in compromise could set him up for a great second term, so long as he took those lessons from the first to heart, of course.

Photo by Gage Skidmore