Rand Paul has a long road ahead of him if he’s to appear on your ballot, but Republican apologists haven’t wasted any time trying to marginalize or criticize Gary Johnson after announcing his candidacy for President in 2016.
Allow me to be up front about this; in no way is this a hit piece on Rand Paul, and in no way am I asking you not to vote for him if he does in fact appear on your ballot in 2016. Always put your conscience and principle before party or superficial issues. To be fair, there are more than a couple scenarios that would provoke me to vote for Rand Paul in 2016, and I would be ecstatic if the GOP actually nominated him as opposed to another establishment, status quo candidate like Mitt Romney, a big government social conservative like Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum, or someone that espouses nothing but empty rhetoric and holds a view of the Second Amendment totally incompatible with a free society like Ben Carson.
But make no mistake, within hours of former Republican Governor and Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson’s announcement that he intends to run for president in 2016, “libertarian” Republicans were doling out editorials lambasting him for running when the GOP will have Rand Paul to offer instead. Some have suggested that the Libertarian Party should simply endorse Rand Paul in 2016 and refrain from running a presidential candidate, while others go so far as to suggest that an LP candidate will cost the GOP the White House in 2016 (this, coming from some of the same bloggers and journalists that have defended Ron Paul and Gary Johnson supporters when we were attacked for “wasting our votes” two and six years ago).
It’s not difficult to refute this line of reasoning, though. For starters, Rand Paul has a long, difficult path to take before we even see his name on every ballot in 2016. While he’s a much better politician than his father was, he still has much of the neoconservative establishment within the GOP actively campaigning against him (the same people that worked so hard to minimize Ron Paul and push then Republican candidate Gary Johnson into the Libertarian Party in 2012). Rest assured, the GOP will be promising a “restoration of America” with big government candidates with last names like Bush, Santorum, Romney, Carson, and Cruz, so let’s not pretend Rand Paul is already on the ballot next to Hillary Clinton in the next election.
Second, the notion that Gary Johnson and Rand Paul hold views so similar to each other that it would be pointless for one to campaign against the other is ridiculous. If this were so, then the GOP should have no issue simply nominating a candidate from within the party and skipping the entire primary process, right? I mean, they’re all Republicans, so their views are similar enough that it shouldn’t matter which candidate you’re issued, correct?
Of course not. Just as Democrats will debate Democrats and Republicans will debate Republicans because of differences in philosophy, principle, and personality, so to should a libertarian from the Libertarian Party challenge a libertarian from the Republican Party. Not only are there drastic differences found in the platforms of the parties that either candidate represents, but their philosophical views on hot topics such as social issues, foreign policy, tax reform, immigration, and more, differ, as well. There’s clearly plenty of room for debate between both candidates, and a Republican will have to (and should) compete with a Libertarian if he or she wants those votes. Every vote must be earned, after all.
And what if Rand Paul and Gary Johnson were in fact on the same ballot? How is this a bad thing? What is wrong with a ballot where two out of three candidates hold some degree of libertarian philosophy, when we’ve endured decades where our two “big government” “lesser of two evils” choices had names like Bush, Kerry, Gore, Obama, Clinton, McCain, and Romney? A national level competition amongst libertarians?! Sign me up! It’s about time we changed the conversation!
Finally, Republicans, “libertarian” or not, are fooling themselves if they think the third largest political party in the U.S. should simply sit out the highest race on our ballots. Expecting any political party to simply fold in such a scenario is expecting them to forfeit all legitimacy, liquidate principle, and alienate party members, supporters, and voters. 2016 presents a real chance to produce a fundamental change in conversation and policy, an opportunity to have a third candidate present in national, televised debates, and the same people that wrote, spoke, and voted on behalf of liberty for the last decade shouldn’t be working so hard to contradict their past efforts.
If the GOP can evolve beyond the party that has given us trillions of dollars in debt, unconstitutional wars, the evisceration of privacy and due process rights, and a ballooning of bureaucracy, then so be it. I’ll welcome it. But while they’re busy figuring out just what it is they stand for, I’ll be one of the many pressing for more than two candidates in any debate, and more than two choices on my ballot.