Well – it happened. And even though “it” has been an inevitability for at least the past few months, there’s no taking the sting out of the fact that we now live in a world where Rand Paul will be endorsing Donald J. Trump for President of the United States.
By: Mike Townsend
This article first appeared at Liberty.Me
While cheesy breakup letters and strained attempts at creating viral hashtags do have their place during this trying time, the liberty movement would be best served to direct its energy toward taking full advantage of this (all-too-rare opportunity) to make some tangible inroads.
Because what is a Trump-Clinton election if not the ripest of opportunities for libertarians, conservatarians, the antiwar Left – and anyone with a subversive bone in his or her body – to grab Leviathan by the horns and deal the Establishment a brass-knuckle blow to the nethers? The prospect of President Trump ought to prove a more poignant source of inspiration for libertarians than Ted “make the sand glow” Cruz could ever aspire to be.
Americans are craving a viable third-party candidate. Badly. The fact that presumptive Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is polling in the double digits when thrown into the fold of a Trump v. Clinton general election speaks to this reality. (Also telling are recent search-engine trends which reveal a sizable uptick in interest in the Libertarian Party, as well as the much-publicized GOP “exodus” in the wake of Trump’s clincher.)
But mere circumstance is not enough to guarantee significant gains for liberty. After all, it’s still wildly unlikely that Johnson will come anywhere close to sniffing a debate stage. Things are going to have to be different this time. We’re going to have to be different. The Johnson campaign is going to have to be a lot more savvy than it was in 2012 if it wants more than 1% of the popular vote this time around.
As we speak, Johnson Headquarters ought to be in full-on general election mode: 100% focused on attaining that magic 15% figure that will get Gary on the main debate stage with Trump and Clinton.
They’re going to need help from political insiders as well as outsiders. The Libertarian Party needs to relentlessly court the endorsement of every major publication – every journalist and commentator – that isn’t a dead lock to endorse Hillary Clinton.
They’re going to have to forge some level of solidarity with disenfranchised Republicans – not just the Justin Amashes of the world, but the Thomas Massies, the Ben Sasses, and so on, all throughout the spectrum of conservatism. They should even push for endorsements from the likes of figures such as Mitt Romney – an outspoken Trump naysayer with not much to lose, and a whole lot of press to gain, by endorsing a third-party candidate.
Perhaps the most important potential endorsement of all is that of former Congressman and libertarian rockstar, Dr. Ron Paul.
Paul was regrettably silent after dropping out of the GOP field back in 2012, and the vast majority of his supporters chose not to reallocate their passion, time, and financial resources in Johnson’s direction. That needs to change in 2016 if the liberty movement is to fully capitalize on its current momentum.
Two primary reasons come to mind for why Paul chose not endorse Johnson (a longtime ally and frequenter of Paul-centric rallies) last time around. Firstly, the two diverge on several key social issues: Johnson is pro-choice, while Paul is pro-life; Gary is in favor of legalizing gay marriage at the federal level, while Paul has expressed support for a states-rights approach to the issue.
Second, it’s plausible that the elder Paul didn’t want to risk harpooning his son Rand’s rapid ascension through the GOP ranks by explicitly endorsing a non-GOP candidate (thus incriminating Rand by mere association).
If there were ever a time when these excuses held water – and I’m not sure that there was – they certainly don’t fly in 2016. After all, just a few months ago, Ron endorsed his son Rand for President – a candidate with whom he has at least as many ideological differences as with Johnson.
Further, the notion of playing politics and protecting Rand ought to be thrown out the window, as a) Ron is now several years removed from holding any sort of elected office as a member of the GOP, and b) Rand has cultivated his own standalone presence in the Senate to the point where it’s highly doubtful that his career trajectory would be drastically effected by the actions of his father.
2016 could very well turn out to be a good year for liberty. Not only does Trump’s rapid takeover of the GOP ensure that general election voters will be forced to look beyond the major two parties for a limited-government candidate – it also proves that disenfranchised voters are more than willing to turn out in droves for an inspiring anti-establishment candidate. With the only rigid certainties in this political climate being death, taxes, and President Hillary Rodham Clinton, the prospect of a pro-liberty candidate on the main debate stage doesn’t seem so out of reach. Yet, even when faced with the unusually convenient circumstance of a Trump-Clinton general election, the Libertarian Party will face an arduous uphill battle when it comes to achieving tangible inroads. A Ron Paul endorsement would serve as a sorely-needed catalyst to take things to the next level.
This article first appeared at Liberty.Me