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Gary Johnson Carries Ron Paul's Message into November

by Craig D. Schlesinger, published
Photo: Gage Skidmore

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is considered, even by his critics, one of the most consistent and outspoken advocates for personal liberty in the United States. Paul himself seems to acknowledge that his third and final presidential run will come to an end in August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL. However, Ron Paul's delegates and supporters can still impact the RNC in a significant way, especially if their weathered determination and energy are any indication.

But Ron Paul's "liberty movement" as well as independent voters fed up with the partisan duopoly now face a serious question heading into November. Who will represent Ron Paul's platform and supporters in the general election? As it turns out, there is another credible, outspoken advocate for Ron Paul's brand of politics in this year’s presidential election running with the opportunity to continue the political movement Ron Paul started.

His name is Gary Johnson, he is a former two-term Governor of New Mexico (1995-2003), and will be on the ballot in all 50 states as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for President of the United States.

Even though Ron Paul's supporters remain a minority, they arguably constitute the most vocal, enthusiastic grassroots movement in politics today. They've even demonstrated the ability to effectively dig deep into their own pockets and revolutionize the art of Internet fundraising with their notoriously successful Ron Paul "money bombs." Capturing the support and activism of the Ron Paul movement going into November is exactly what Gov. Gary Johnson aims to do and needs in order to achieve success this fall. In fact, the odds are already strong that Paul’s base will be supporting Gov. Johnson over Gov. Romney and President Obama because Gary Johnson's message so closely echos that of Ron Paul.

Their similarities are striking in that Gov. Johnson follows the same limited government approach as Congressman Paul. Speeches delivered by both Johnson and Paul attract similar crowds and appeal to a similar scene with a shared sentiment– a diverse assortment of voters of all political stripes representing various demographics, all excited to pursue their separate interests without interference from what they argue is an intrusive federal government. Clearly, Gary Johnson strives to carry on in Ron Paul's footsteps, and when Paul retires from public service at the end of this year, Johnson's profile as a spokesperson for the liberty movement will carry increased weight and significance.

While still at college in 1974, Gov. Johnson started a one-man handyman business and grew it to employ one thousand people– becoming the largest construction employer in New Mexico. He came from absolute political obscurity, ran for governor, won the Republican primary, and beat the Democratic incumbent in a state that favors Democrats 2-1 on a platform of bringing the citizens of New Mexico “a common sense business approach to public policy, issues first politics last.”

Gov. Johnson made a name for himself vetoing legislation– more than all other governors combined during his administration– and saying no to more government. Then, an even larger majority in a heavily Democratic state reelected him to a second term. It might fly in the face of logic, but I caught up with Gov. Johnson at a recent campaign event, and he has a hunch about his success and popularity in New Mexico:

“I really think it speaks volumes to the fact that people appreciate good stewardship of tax dollars . . . less government taking time and money from our lives. People in New Mexico wave at me with all five fingers, not just one.”

Just like Ron Paul, monetary policy and the Federal Reserve are a central part of Gary Johnson's platform and understanding of what's wrong with the status quo. The New Mexico governor made it clear that, as President, if Congress sends a bill to his desk abolishing the Federal Reserve, then there’s at least one bill he won’t veto. Although he is skeptical of the willingness of Congress to do so, Gov. Johnson also favors an audit, transparency, and ending the perpetual cycle of accumulating debt through “borrowing and printing money to the tune of forty-three cents out of every dollar that we’re spending.” He’d also like to see sound, competing currencies, real market-based prices and interest rates, an end to bailouts and crony-capitalism, and a return to an actual free market economy.

But despite their resounding similarities, in the tradition of libertarians being staunch individualists, Johnson and Paul aren’t quite mirror images of each other. They do have a few differences. Unlike Paul, Johnson has executive experience vetoing legislation and easing cumbersome regulations, bringing New Mexico back from the brink of economic crisis and leaving office with a $1B surplus, though Paul’s legislative experience in the House does consist of countless, principled “No” votes when it comes to government waste or intrusion. Gov. Johnson speaks like a practical entrepreneur with sound leadership skills, and maintains that cost-benefit analyses of public policy prove limited government to be more effective. By contrast, Dr. Paul is a very committed educator, ideologue, economist, and intellectual with a robust, nuanced philosophy of government.

While some of Paul's hard-line supporters are suspicious of Johnson as less ideologically pure than the Texas congressman, most of the debate is over mere semantics and syntax. Johnson, for instance, is more pragmatic in his approach, comes from the public choice school of economic thought, and employs a classical liberal consequentialist approach to policy, with Paul coming from the Austrian school of economics and utilizing libertarian "first-principle" arguments as a means of spreading liberty.

Johnson and Paul supporters can wax philosophical as to their various influences and approaches, but when you boil it down to the results, both candidates are aiming in the same direction. A Johnson Administration would focus on similar issues as a Paul Administration, and apply similar solutions: a more restrained and diplomatic foreign policy, a drive to reform the financial sector with more transparency and accountability, an emphasis on protecting civil liberties, and an urgent bid to contain the exploding costs of the regime in Washington.

With Gov. Gary Johnson accepting an invitation for a prime speaking slot at Paul Fest in Tampa this August, we may very well see an enthusiastic crowd ready for “the next Ron Paul” to stand up and the seize this libertarian moment.

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