What Gary Johnson Could Learn From The Failed Rand Paul Presidential Campaign

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The fall of Senator Rand Paul’s presidential ambitions was a shock to many. Given the success his father had in establishing a movement with his own presidential campaigns, many expected Senator Paul to take this fight to the finish line. Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul did just that, taking a delegation fight all the way to the Republican National Convention in 2012.

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Instead, Senator Paul was out of the race after falling flat in Iowa. One contest down and he’s out. Even his father, who was more of an unknown when he ran in 2008, finished better.

Why did Senator Paul fall flat when he was expected to do so well? One large reason was because he took the liberty grassroots for granted.

Since 2012, the Kentucky Senator has worked to establish himself within the Republican Party. He endorsed Senator Susan Collins for re-election in Maine, former Governor Mitt Romney for President, and backed Mitch McConnell in the Senate. All of these leaders are hardly libertarian, and have a documented history of being hostile to conservative and libertarian principles.

Liberty activists were told to stop being purists and that this was a part of a master plan.

Libertarians hung on and the master plan died quickly. Why? Because the preferred candidate among libertarians stopped being libertarian and, to a degree, stopped being conservative.

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In Senator Paul’s defense, his speeches and soundbites are backed by his voting record. Rand has taken stands for liberty. But how one votes does not seem to matter in an election cycle. This is why establishment Republicans like Senator Collins or Romney don’t get criticized for past issues during an election cycle like they should. Election cycles are that convenient time of the year where America just focuses on the now and not the big picture.

As a presidential candidate, the image of a mainstream Republican was reinforced. As a result, he didn’t stand out. But how does this relate to Gary Johnson?

The former Republican governor turned Libertarian presidential candidate has spent a great deal of time this cycle pandering to the left. His running mate Bill Weld, also a former Republican governor, is even more relaxed on Democrats. While Weld professes his admiration for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Johnson is supporting a carbon emissions fee.

At this point, libertarians are rightfully skeptical.

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Pay attention, Johnson supporters and Johnson campaign alike. We know where Gary Johnson stands at this point. He is close to the presidential debate stage. If that 15% threshold can be tipped, Johnson makes the stage. But in a time when many conservatives and libertarians remain skeptical of Donald Trump, pandering to Hillary Clinton is only going to attract neoconservatives like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush. It’s not going to work on people who actually want to enact pro-liberty policies in government.

Johnson may or may not be a liberty candidate – but in politics, perception is everything. What you are is not as big as what you’re seen as. Right now, Johnson and Weld’s pandering to the left is hurting him, just as Senator Rand Paul’s pandering to the moderate Republican establishment hurt him.

Don’t disown libertarians. Embrace them, and be proud of liberty.

Chris Dixon is a liberty activist and writer from Maine. In addition to being Managing Editor for the Liberty Conservative, he also writes the Bangor Daily News blog "Undercover Porcupine" and for sports website Cleatgeeks.