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Author’s note: I should mention to begin with, that The Independent Voter Network is a non-profit that does not make political endorsements of candidates, and that the views expressed in this article are my own opinion. If you have a different opinion, the cool thing about IVN is that it’s an open platform for independent-minded voters to share their ideas and discuss.
I should also caution that this article is mostly written to Ron Paul supporters to answer their unique objections and doubts as movement libertarians about voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, who shares many public policy positions in common with Ron Paul. The purpose of this piece is not to compare nor contrast Gary Johnson with President Obama, Governor Romney, or Dr. Stein.
Non-libertarians may find the rest of this article interesting if they are familiar with and interested in the country’s resurgent libertarian movement– or they may find it rather parochial. The second group of non-libertarians has been cautioned.
Should Ron Paul Supporters Vote for Gary Johnson on Tuesday?
Yes! As a Ron Paul supporter who voted for the Texas congressman in the Republican primaries of 2008 and 2012, and who donated money to his campaign during both cycles as well, here are some reasons I will be voting for Gary Johnson on Tuesday.
My number one reason for supporting Gary Johnson with my vote is his astounding record as governor of New Mexico for two four-year terms from 1995 – 2003. Most Ron Paul supporters already know that Gary Johnson started a handyman business to pay his way through college, which eventually grew to be one of the largest construction companies in New Mexico with over 1000 employees.
Most Ron Paul supporters know that Johnson took his successful business approach into politics, approaching the Republican Party of New Mexico saying he would like to run for governor– and that despite their doubts and objections, Johnson managed to win the party primary and the general election (in a 2-to-1 Democratic state) by running a totally positive campaign about Johnson’s credentials, and not mentioning his opponents even once in any ads nor campaign materials.
Most Ron Paul supporters also know by now that as governor, Gary Johnson stood his ground against the state legislature on government spending, unabashedly vetoing 750 pieces of legislation during his tenure, more vetoes than the vetoes of the governors in all 49 other states over the same period combined.
At a time when I believe the greatest threat facing the United States is its own government’s unsustainable levels of spending, a record of fiscal responsibility as rare and exemplary as Gary Johnson’s uniquely qualifies the former New Mexico governor for the presidency.
In fact, I would say a track record of results like Johnson’s makes him better qualified to be president than Ron Paul, whose results, while undeniably stellar, haven’t been in the area of public policy, but public opinion and political philosophy. Paul has undoubtedly built an impressive political movement and changed the course of American history forever, but Gary Johnson has sat in a chief executive’s seat for eight years, made the tough calls, and achieved measurable public policy results.
While Paul supporters are already aware of Johnson’s record, those that remain suspicious of him are concerned that he is not a “true believer.” Some of his statements on foreign policy, for instance, have left Paul supporters wondering if he is really philosophically committed to the principles of government that inform the Texas doctor’s policy positions.
The truth is, he’s probably not. Ron Paul’s libertarianism comes from his robust and coherent philosophy of human nature, civil society, and the nature and role of government. Gary Johnson’s libertarianism comes from his common sense, pragmatic approach to public policy, which reduces many policy questions to a clear cost-benefit analysis, and which worked out pretty well in New Mexico by my reckoning.
While some Ron Paul supporters are worried that this pragmatic approach will leave room for compromise in Johnson’s worldview, if the foreign interventions they oppose are clearly not going to benefit the people of the United States, they can rest assured that a Johnson Administration would oppose such interventions as well. Gary Johnson’s eight-year record as governor is enough to grant the businessman the benefit of any doubts.
Do I agree with Gary Johnson on every issue? No. Neither do I agree with Ron Paul on every issue. Would I be happy with a Johnson Administration’s every move? Likely not. The same would be true for a Paul Administration. But both would overwhelmingly move public policy in a direction that, as a libertarian, I would like to see policy move.
Even if some Ron Paul supporters view Johnson as less good than Paul, he gets my vote because he is certainly not just a “lesser evil” compared to the alternatives on the ticket this Tuesday. He would be a force for good in Washington just as he was for eight years in Santa Fe.
To those Ron Paul supporters whose hearts are set on writing in the congressman’s name this Tuesday, I would say that their loyalty to their preferred candidate is admirable, but Ron Paul won’t be around forever. At some point, these supporters will have to vote for someone else. Writing in Paul’s name this time around will avail the liberty movement of nothing, and may actually harm its future prospects.
If the elder Paul’s supporters are looking forward to a presidential bid from his son, US Senator Rand Paul (KY), they should think twice before endangering his chances by writing in his father’s name just to poke the Republican Party in the eye. If Romney loses Ohio by a narrow margin close to the percentage of Ron Paul write-ins, the Paul movement within the Republican Party will receive the blame for Obama’s reelection.
If the percentages of Ron Paul write-ins in states nationwide are conspicuous enough, Paul supporters will be painted by their many critics in the mainstream media as sore losers and deluded followers in a cult of personality, not a serious political movement. Paul is out of the race and won’t be on the ballot. We didn’t win that battle. It’s time to move on.
And while the real-world results of writing in Ron Paul’s name could be bad for the liberty movement, the real-world results of voting for Gary Johnson could be good. Enough votes for Johnson nationwide could result in guaranteed federal matching funds for a 2016 presidential bid, hassle-free ballot access in all 50 states, and a better chance at getting the New Mexico governor on the presidential debate stage in 2016 where, if no better candidate is standing in as the Republican or Democratic Party nominee, Johnson’s alternative set of solutions for America’s challenges would finally get a televised hearing.
In my opinion, just putting Johnson on television with the nominees of the two largest parties would change the course of American history for the better and work to shake up the two party system by leaps and bounds.
Although I am philosophically a libertarian (with a lowercase “l”) I have never before in my life voted for a Libertarian Party candidate. But because of the reasons listed above, this independent, non-affiliated voter will be heeding Gary Johnson’s call this Tuesday to “Be Libertarian” with him for just one election.