Notable libertarian-leaning Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a familiar face to the Liberty Movement and son of the esteemed libertarian spokesman Dr. Ron Paul, has thrown his support behind former two-time Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson in his recently announced campaign for United States Senate. This welcome and sudden endorsement comes as a surprise to many, and a relief to countless other libertarian activists.
Gary Johnson has made a name for himself time and time again, making him a spokesman for multiple causes and movements with a wide range of credentials and experience. Johnson, a self-made millionaire, successfully ran for Governor of New Mexico in 1994 on a “common sense business approach,” and was made famous for his fierce obstruction of legislation and the bullheaded-yet-reasonable demands he made of the Democrat-controlled state legislature in his time. Rand Paul, who serves as a current elected official, is an intellectual brother to Johnson, having made a similar name for himself though his own fierce defiance of legislation on a national level.
Johnson and Paul are among the most recognizable advocates for ending the drug war, ceasing international military intervention (which they have both referred to as “regime change”), and lowering taxes by dramatic levels. But the surprising nature of Paul’s endorsement stems from a few fundamental differences between the two.
In 2008, Johnson appeared at Ron Paul’s “Rally for the Republic” alongside other notable libertarian figures (including historian Tom Woods and Mises Institute founder Lew Rockwell). Though Johnson has consistently praised Dr. Ron Paul for his policies and activism, the doctor’s opinion of Johnson in 2016 was quite critical: “He doesn’t come across with a crisp Libertarian message.” Gary is certainly an oddball, and his demeanor and methods contrast greatly against the clean-cut righteous manner of the Paul dynasty.
Gary has been a long-time advocate for marijuana legalization and hides nothing about his personal use. In 2016, Johnson did not appear to hesitate even slightly before openly calling (candidate) Donald Trump “a p*ssy.” In fact, he called him that several times in various settings. Johnson’s typical quiet demeanor carries very little humility with it; rarely does he speak before a crowd without reminding them that he summitted Mt. Everest.
Rand Paul is known to carry firebrand messages into Senate-floor filibusters, can typically be found in the most mature of tailored suits, and rarely swears. Dignity surrounds his presence, and it is a unique, signature dignity of his own. A few moments in the presence of Rand Paul makes it clear that he is a very conservative gentleman. Johnson, on the other hand, is quite rugged and tends to care very little about what people think.
Johnson once spoke unfavorably of Rand Paul… on Tumblr. Yes, Tumblr. In two nearly adjacent thoughts, Johnson reminded the public that the ACLU ranked him higher than both Barack Obama and Ron Paul for advocation of civil liberty through policy, and that Republican Rand Paul holds some typical Republican views – something he then took issue with.
“There were great hopes in some libertarian corners for Senator Rand Paul… Unfortunately, Rand, in his quest to have one foot in the libertarian camp and the other in the establishment Republican museum, has emerged with a vague mix of positions that is clearly not compelling. There is a price to be paid for selling out – and he is paying it.”
Rand pulled no punches in his response, as can be seen here:
Paul and Johnson have teeth, and though Paul is the nuanced speaker between them, neither of them are known to avoid ‘telling it like it is.’ And times have changed. Ron and Rand, being the staunch advocates for liberty that they are, showcase a generational difference. Johnson is 10 years older than Rand Paul, but both have become heroes among young libertarians, even if these young libertarians go about their activism with differing styles.
This display of commitment to principle by Rand Paul speaks volumes for his character. Despite known disagreements, Paul acknowledged in his endorsement that “Gary Johnson is a true fiscal conservative. As Governor, he reduced the size of government while improving services. He cut taxes, and he set what may be a record by vetoing more than 700 unnecessary pieces of legislation.”
2016 was a rough year for the Libertarian Party, and Gary Johnson specifically. A shortlist of notable gaffes exposed the Johnson campaign as ill-prepared for the immense exposure it would receive. But it was also a rough year for Rand Paul, who came away with only 0.21% of the popular vote in the Republican primary. Two years into the Trump presidency, in a very different world, the disagreements between the “Paul Libertarians” and the “Johnson Libertarians” have become trite, and these two figures who have become so popular among young libertarians speak for many of us who yearn to set aside differences and work together to accomplish bigger things. Rand continues to stand by principle, and Johnson by common sense. A bridge built between these figures may go unnoticed by mainstream politics, but it means the world to the Liberty Movement that is in dire need of such bridges.
With context considered, Rand completed his endorsement touchingly.
“Please do what you can to help elect Gary Johnson to the US Senate.
Rand Paul, MD”
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