Gary Johnson, the long presumptive nominee of the Libertarian Party, has captured his title in this weekend’s Libertarian convention in Las Vegas. It is pretty much accepted that the purpose of his current campaign is to increase the party’s exposure, secure funding, and build a base for a successful third party. But how does his campaign affect the much larger movement currently behind Johnson’s fellow libertarian, Ron Paul? Answer: it doesn’t.
While Gary Johnson may be seen as a far more appetizing option than Obama or Mitt Romney, in the case that Ron Paul fails to secure the Republican nomination, Ron Paul’s supporters would not necessarily rally behind Johnson. The reason is that Ron Paul supporters are not just libertarians. They are, for the most part, a very specific brand of libertarian.
The Ron Paul R3volution, (first generation) Tea Party, and Campaign for Liberty trace their roots directly to Ron Paul himself. These political groups are not creations of the Libertarian Party, Ayn Rand objectivists, or anarcho-capitalists. They are products of a movement centered on its patriarch, Ron Paul. The ideas espoused by most Paul supporters are derived from his oratory, and his particular strain of patriotic, anti-war, minimal-government conservatism. While his campaign does attract a broad and diverse base of support, including those previously listed groups, the libertarians loyal to Ron Paul are, first and foremost, Paulists. But what does this mean for Gary Johnson?
Gary Johnson is not Ron Paul. Unlike Paul, Johnson is in favor of wars with “humanitarian” missions. While Ron Paul opposes any war which is not one of strictly national defense, Gary Johnson has voiced support of government involvement in nations such as Uganda, the location of Joseph Kony’s guerrilla war. This kind of interventionist philosophy poses quite a problem for Paul supporters who have adopted the staunch Ron Paul non-interventionist position. Besides this major difference, Gary Johnson has yet to build that same level of comfortable familiarity with anti-establishment voters; though that may come with exposure.
Still, members of the Libertarian Party should be happy with their pick, and continue building an alternative to the duopoly of Republicans and Democrats. Time will tell what is to become of Gary Johnson and the Libertarians. A new generation of liberty candidates and voters are being created. Whether they rally around the banner of the Libertarian Party, or merely transform the Republican Party, the messages of men such as Ron Paul and Gary Johnson will, no doubt, serve an important role in the coming years.