In the admittedly very unlikely event that Gary Johnson is elected president, what would his presidency look like?
Overall, it might be marked more by what wouldn't happen under his watch than what actually would. Johnson would likely veto a lot of legislation; his “governor veto” could become “president veto.” While governor of New Mexico, Johnson vetoed 750 bills that had been passed by the legislature. If he became president, I would expect him to continue vetoing unconstitutional legislation.
Many aspects of Johnson’s own agenda would likely not be implemented. Considering that the Democratically-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget under President Obama for the past three years, it would be highly likely that Johnson would face an even more unfriendly Congress. Unfortunately, since Johnson disagrees with both Democrats and Republicans on key issues, he would be unlikely to achieve much cooperation with either party. He might submit a balanced budget to Congress and propose entitlement reforms, but without that cooperation, these measures won’t pass.
However, the aspects of Johnson’s platform that could be implemented directly from the executive branch would likely be achieved. Johnson would be a much better defender of civil liberties than either Obama or Romney. Unlike his opponents, he adamantly opposes the drug war, and would likely refuse to enforce federal drug laws even if he failed to get marijuana legalization passed by Congress. The DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, which have continued under Obama, would end.
A Johnson presidency would also be far more peaceful than either the Bush or Obama administrations. Johnson would not only bring the troops home from Afghanistan, but he would also be far less likely to start new conflicts. He was opposed to intervention in Libya, and is committed to following the constitutional procedure for declaring war. Furthermore, as a supporter of free trade, he would not try to be tough on China and risk a destructive trade war.
Though Gary Johnson would not be able to achieve everything he wants to as president, he could help bring the U.S. a bit closer to the Constitution. He would be a far better defender of civil liberties, and far less of a foreign interventionist than either of his opponents. Ultimately, the best tool he has to protect liberty would be the executive veto. And Johnson has shown that he isn’t afraid to use it.