Part 2: Gary Johnson & Fred Karger (this post)
Part 3: Tom Miller & Ron Paul
Part 4: Andy Martin & Jimmy McMillan
Part 5: Tim Pawlenty & Buddy Roemer
Part 6: Mitt Romney & Rick Santorum
Part 7: Michele Bachmann & Jon Huntsman
Part 8: Thad McCotter & Roy Moore (upcoming)
Part 9: Vern Wuensche (upcoming)
I think it's time to take a first look at the potential candidates for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. I'm pulling from a source list here. I'm going to look at each candidate on four main topics: Civil Rights, National Security, Economy, Constitutional Vision. I'll rate them on a four point scale (from best to worst): Strong, Acceptable, Weak, Unacceptable. I'll also include a brief justification, so if I miss something relevant (which I probably will, with so many candidates to consider) feel free to leave a note in the comments section and I may adjust the ratings. Most of my information is going to be pulled from the candidates' websites, for those that already have them.
This post will address Gary Johnson and Fred Karger. Look at the top for links to other posts in this series, and watch for more new posts to come.
Civil Rights: Acceptable
According to his civil liberties page, Johnson opposes the Patriot Act on privacy grounds, supports the abortion right up to the moment of independent viability (though he apparently supports a parental consent requirement for minors - perhaps minors do not own their own bodies?), and supports civil unions (with language that suggests that government should offer 'marriages' to no one, including heterosexual couples). He opposes stem-cell research in federally funded institutions, an unfortunate position. He supports legalizing marijuana and addressing hard drugs through medical treatment instead of criminal "justice." Johnson also opposes the use of torture on terror detainees, and supports due process rights for detainees.
National Security: Acceptable
Johnson is against involvement oversees and favors a focus on domestic issues. While his anti-interventionist stance is reassuring, he seems to go too far in suggesting that we should not encourage international stability in the interests of our long-term security.
Johnson is taking a hard line on cutting the deficit, which is admirable. However, he ignores the military as an area for possible cuts, even though the Department of Defense's budget was almost 20% of federal spending in 2010. [Update 8/20/11: As a commenter below notes, this is not actually an accurate representation of Johnson's views. He supports quite substantial cuts in military spending, though he doesn't advertise that fact on his website.] He also falls into the typical Republican naming scheme ("ObamaCare") that values partisanship over honest debate. He supports completely eliminating corporate taxes, which would allow businesses to profit from the infrastructure of this country without paying anything to support it. He also opposes a federal minimum wage in favor of state minimum wages, which ignores the collective action problem that a federal base minimum wage helps to alleviate.
Constitutional Vision: Weak
Johnson sees governance as identifiable with business leadership, which means he places an undue amount of attention on the "profitability" of government rather than its ability to build a strong society of cooperative individuals working together for the common good.
Civil Rights: Strong
Karger supports lowering the voting age to 16 or 17, a good first step. He wants to eliminate the Defense of Marriage Act and create a federal right to gay marriage. He supports a woman's right to choose whether to remain pregnant. Karger is in favor of legalization (and taxation) of marijuana.
National Defense: Acceptable
Karger doesn't come across as particularly confidence-inspiring in his statements on national security and foreign policy, but he does advocate conciliatory diplomacy and supports a certain level of humanitarian intervention.
Karger takes a much more reasonable line on the economy than many Republicans. He supports incentivizing businesses to remain in America, but doesn't talk about drastic measures like eliminating all corporate taxes. He also supports investment in alternative energy to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Constitutional Vision: Acceptable
There doesn't seem to be an incredibly strong constitutional vision underlying Karger's policies, but he does advocate for an inclusive government characterized by civil discussion.
Now, cumulatively speaking, we have (ranked in best-to-worst order, with scores in the following order: Strong - Acceptable - Weak - Unacceptable):
Karger: 1 - 3 - 0 - 0
Roemer: 1 - 1 - 1 - 0
Johnson: 0 - 2 - 2 - 0
Huntsman: 0 - 1 - 3 - 0
Paul: 0 - 1 - 3 - 0
Romney: 0 - 1 - 1 - 2
Gingrich: 0 - 1 - 1 - 2
Bachmann: 0 - 0 - 1 - 3
Miller: 0 - 0 - 1 - 3
Pawlenty: 0 - 0 - 1 - 3
Santorum: 0 - 0 - 1 - 3