Inside the Beltway: Gary Johnson hopes 2016 is his oyster

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They are not just libertarians. Behold, it’s the Republican Libertarian Caucus, which has joined forces with Gary Johnson to show voters that the former third-party presidential hopeful is intent on remaining, well, a third-party presidential hopeful. The group has organized a meet and greet that includes much energy and select seafood: Mr. Johnson appears later this month at the Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette in Houston for a splashy luncheon, right along with Jim Gray, his 2012 running mate. Both will be “shucking shells and sucking down Rockefellers with anyone and everyone who wants to live free,” according to organizers.

Yes, well. It is not a free event, but a thrifty one. Tickets range from $15-$300 for fare that include raw, fried or sauced Maine and Texas Gulf oysters; steamed clams and mussels plus shrimp, of course. Mssrs. Johnson and Gray later will host a private event for a select few fans at $350 each. The Republican Libertarian Caucus, incidentally, includes more than 500 local volunteer organizations intent on advancing “principles of individual rights, limited government and free markets” in the Grand Old Party.

It’s complicated, though. Mr. Johnson is also chairman of the Our America Initiative, a fiscally conservative grass-roots organization that supports Second and Fourth Amendment rights, low taxes, the legalization of marijuana and marriage equality. Advisors include Barry Goldwater Jr. and Buddy Roemer — another former independent presidential hopeful. Mr. Johnson appears to be in full political plumage, in the meantime.

“We have a historic opportunity in 2014 to put the brakes on out-of-control government and remind the American people — and the politicians — that the strength of our nation lies not in government, but in the freedom to pursue dreams, live our lives without unnecessary interference, and seize the opportunities that only a free market can provide,” he says.

DE BLASIO‘S UNEXPECTED BOOST TO CONSERVATISM

An exhilarated press has already cast New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in the role of noble progressive standard-bearer, poised to raise taxes on the rich, even out income inequality and offer universal preschool care to the Big Apple’s toddlers, among many things. Democrats are giddy over the phenomenon. Should Republicans fret that they are without such a pointman, and that liberalism has a surge of new energy? Not necessarily.

“I hope there’s a resurgence. There’s nothing better for American conservatism than periodic examples of untrammeled liberalism,” George Will told Fox News Sunday.

Lyndon Johnson, after 1964, had huge majorities in Congress, he had his way. Republicans won five of the next six and seven of the next nine presidential elections,” Mr. Will recalled and offered a prediction about Mr. de Blasio.

“Let him have his way in New York City and let people see what happens. There are more than 130 contracts with public employees unions that have been held in abeyance until Mayor Bloomberg got out of there, because they assumed that de Blasio and his compliant, supine city council would go along with anything they asked for,” Mr. Will continued. “I give him three years and people will be begging for a return to something else.”

A DEMOCRATIC TEA PARTY BREWS

Happy talk followed the inauguration of the aforementioned Mr. de Blasio, who was sworn in by none other than former President Bill Clinton. The event highlighted the new mayor’s call to create a progressive utopia in his city. But a little wrinkle also emerged.

“When Bill Clinton endorsed de Blasio’s agenda, he framed it in very different terms, as one of ‘shared opportunities, shared prosperity, shared responsibilities.’” points out John Avlon, a political columnist for The Daily Beast.

“Clinton’s characteristic emphasis on unity and a growing economy was missing from the de Blasio articulation — and that reflects differences deeper than rhetoric,” Mr. Avlon says. “Philosophical differences and policy debates can be healthy — even and especially within parties — but the gravitational pull is for progressive populism to become the mirror image of conservative populism that they decry in the tea party. The play-to-the-base impulse is girded by a righteous certainty that can lead to at best impracticality and at worst absolutism.”

HERE COMES THE FAIRNESS BLITZ

“Income inequality” is now the political issue of 2014, says Amy Payne, editor of The Foundry, a public policy blog at the Heritage Foundation. And it’s no accident. “The Left has been gearing up for months,” she says, pointing out that that the Center for American Progress launched the Washington Center for Equitable Growth in November while President Obama has already focused several speeches with talk of inequality and fairness.

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