Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico, triathlete and long- shot presidential candidate, bolted from the Republican Party this week to seek the Libertarian Party nomination for President. His departure leaves Congressman Ron Paul as the only recognizable major party candidate with libertarian leanings.
Johnson was frustrated by the Republican establishment and some media outlets that hampered his campaign. Because of low poll numbers and perhaps due to his liberal social views, he was excluded from 15 of 17 GOP presidential debates, Rick Santorum, who had a similar political resume and identical poll numbers, but is socially conservative, participated in most debates. Johnson favors decriminalizing marijuana and gay marriage, but in reality his pro-choice position alienated party bosses intent on cow-towing to Iowa’s evangelicals, for whom discussing abortion rights is tantamount to shouting Voldemort in a crowded theater.
Johnson and Paul espouse laissez-faire economic policies and were ranked above most Republican peers by various free-market advocates like The Cato Institute, The Club for Growth and National Taxpayers Union. Arguably, Johnson’s veto pen did more to halt the expanse of government than any modern governor. Both men were elected in Border States and realize the classic libertarian position favoring open immigration is incompatible with our current welfare state. They also share skepticism toward US military intervention, but Paul has occasionally resorted to anti-America rhetoric more suited to OWS protesters than a Commander-in-chief.
Ron Paul has a mixed record regarding the separation of church and state according to the Secular Coalition for America (http://secular.org/content/2012-presidental-candidate-scorecard). A medical doctor who denies evolution, Paul articulates a consistent, but confusing anti-abortion position. His notion of banning abortion through state legislatures seems implausible considering very conservative electorates in South Dakota and Mississippi soundly defeated abortion bans.
Critics contend Paul simply maneuvers divisive social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, which create a conflict between his personal morality and belief in limited government, to the states. Dr. Paul accumulated a pro-life voting record while in Congress (http://www.votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/296/ron-paul). Johnson, who avoids organized religion, favors a consistent hands-off approach toward government intrusion into the boardroom and bedroom.
Ron Paul is an imperfect messenger, but his fiercely loyal following and superior fund-raising insure that he will have the resources to soldier on. Paul’s own political allegiance and his son, GOP Senator Rand Paul’s position, should prevent the third party spoiler-bid currently being postulated by wishful liberals.
The sputtering world economy and death rattle of European socialism creates an opportunity. Liberalism’s great failure has been detaching personal freedom from individual accountability- generations of able bodied Americans have subsisted on societal largesse at our shared peril. Whoever becomes the libertarian standard-bearer must change that political zeitgeist. This Herculean task will be a marathon- not a sprint.