It’s hard to judge a politician’s impact on society at the time they run for office, or even when they’re in office. It often takes years before one is able to measure the effect they’ve had on politics in this country. Take for example Ron Paul, who has just in the past several years started to be appreciated for his thirty year career in Congress and three runs for President. Gary Johnson’s success will be measured the same way. He’s just beginning to make his way into our collective political culture. Gary Johnson even appeared on Jeopardy! as an answer, although, it probably wasn’t how he imagined it happening.
The full text of the Jeopardy! answer read:
2016 Presidential candidate Gary Johnson seemed unfamiliar with this Syrian city, called Halab in Arabic.
The matching question was “What is Aleppo?”
This is where the debate over whether any publicity is good publicity begins. Surely, for the Libertarian Party at least, any publicity is good publicity considering they get next to none. There are certainly some exceptions to that rule, but generally speaking the party should be grateful for every minute of attention they get. Therefore, Gary Johnson appearing as an answer on Jeopardy! should be appreciated by even the most pure libertarians. If anyone bothers to Google Gary Johnson during the commercial break they’ll be introduced to the Libertarian Party.
Of course, Gary Johnson himself certainly has mixed feelings about appearing on Jeopardy! as this answer. The “What is Aleppo?” moment is undoubtedly his least favorite from the whole campaign. The media set him up by providing no context, he answered the question after context was provided, and yet was still skewered. Gary Johnson did everything he could to move past his “Aleppo moment” but it stuck with him like glue. He would likely prefer to be on Jeopardy! as any other answer, but at least he did make it into the show. It’s better to be remembered for something than nothing at all (the fate that befalls all other recent third party candidates).
If this small mention on Jeopardy! leads even one new person to become a libertarian it’s worth it. Growing a movement takes repeated exposure over a long period of time. While he’s already the most successful third party candidate in twenty years, it’ll be years before we truly know how effective Gary Johnson was.