Even the invitation for the Drew Carey-hosted fundraiser for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson was a bit unconventional. The dress code was listed as “Libertarian Comfortable, i.e., whatever you’re comfy in,” and there were plenty of jeans and sneakers on display. While the host did offer complimentary valet parking, he suggested that “Uber-ing” might be easier.
Guests began to assemble around 5 p.m. Saturday evening, the sky prematurely darkening not with the threat of rain but from nearby wildfires that created a haze overhead. “I looked at the sky today and thought, ‘Trump’s about to give a speech,’” Carey joked in an interview with The Daily Beast before the event got underway. “I don’t know what America he’s living in,” he added of Trump, “but he’s crazy.” When Johnson addressed the crowd later, he echoed Carey’s sentiments by asking, “What country is he talking about?”
The former New Mexico governor arrived early, wandering into the backyard wearing jeans, Nike sneakers, a seersucker jacket and a white t-shirt that appeared to have a food truck on it. He told us that Carey is one of several celebrities who have expressed their support for him, even if many are not yet willing to do so publicly.
“I always say I’m going to protect the innocent until they actually come out,” he said. In addition to The Price Is Right host, spotted in the fundraiser crowd Saturday were Veep’s Diedrich Bader (who also co-starred on The Drew Carey Show) along with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and former NBA player turned TNT commentator Kenny Smith.
Johnson had just arrived on the West Coast from Cleveland, where he said he spent the week giving over 70 interviews and had upwards of 500 people come up to him to pledge their support, including some delegates who were decked out in Trump “regalia.” But he is still holding out for the type of game-changing endorsement that could launch him beyond the 15 percent threshold in polls and put him on the general election debate stage.
Most notably, there are hold-out Republicans like Jeb Bush, who has said he has no plans to vote for either Clinton or Trump. “That would be huge,” Johnson says of a potential Bush endorsement, saying he would welcome it with open arms. Asked if he views either Clinton or Trump as being “worse” for America, Johnson deftly dodged the question, proving he does in fact have a natural politician hidden within his unusual exterior. “There is a big pathway down the middle that I’m occupying at the moment,” he says. While Trump is “inflammatory,” the one word he uses to describe Clinton is “beholden.”
This is a group of people who think Clinton would be as disastrous for the country as Trump would, and in many ways don’t see as much difference between the two as those who are entrenched on either side of the political spectrum. One Johnson supporter, wearing a full tuxedo, told me that if he had a gun to his head and had to choose between Trump and Clinton he would choose death. “Some things are just more important,” he explained.
After delivering some brief remarks to the fundraiser’s attendees, in which he accused Trump’s running mate Mike Pence of “leaning into the drug war” and said he would “defer” to his own running mate Bill Weld on Supreme Court appointments, Johnson sat down for a Q&A session with Libertarian activist Matt Kibbe. It was during that discussion that Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement of Trump at the Republican National Convention came up. When Cruz told delegates and those watching at home to “vote their conscience” in November, Johnson said be believes “that was an endorsement” of his campaign.
Carey, a longtime Libertarian who is on the board of the Reason Foundation, was initially approached by the Johnson campaign to host a fundraiser at a bar or restaurant in Los Angeles. But instead he offered to do it at his home in the Hollywood Hills. “I throw a good party,” he said. The comedian spent the evening strolling the grounds, mingling with guests and pulling out his signature black-framed glasses only for selfies.
As for why Carey supports Johnson, he said, “I don’t need a national daddy, or mommy.” Like Johnson, Carey would not say which of the two major candidates he believes would be worse for the country. Asked who the “lesser of two evils” is between Clinton and Trump, he replied, simply, “Gary Johnson.” And he has no concerns about the Libertarian candidate potentially stealing votes away from Hillary Clinton and inadvertently delivering the election to Donald Trump, as some polls have shown.
“I don’t give a fuck,” Carey says, bluntly. “If your person doesn’t get enough votes, you lose. I don’t want to hear it. There are more than two choices and you are allowed to vote for whoever you want. This is America. If you can’t get the votes to win, tough shit.”
In liberal Hollywood, Hillary Clinton may have George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey in her corner, but Johnson has a fierce defender in The Price Is Right host. Hey, at least it’s not Scott Baio.