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Why I Prefer Gary Johnson to Ron Paul

This post was prompted by John Galt at Robbing America, who has inspired a number of my posts over the last year. After I expressed a preference for Gary Johnson over Ron Paul, he suggested that I explain why.

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There are two parts to my answer. First I want to express that I have the utmost respect and admiration for both men. Either gives the country a chance at survival and recovery that far exceeds the other nominees from either of the two major parties. There are, however, a couple of differences that cause me to lean in Johnson’s direction.

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First, there are a few minor substantive differences between the two, and I generally favor Johnson where they diverge.

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Second, Ron Paul is pursuing the GOP nomination, and Gary Johnson is pursuing the Libertarian nomination. One of the reasons I am a Libertarian is to defeat the irredeemable and hopelessly corrupt Republican Party. Gary Johnson is on the right team; Ron Paul is on a team that needs to be defeated.

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That said, let me move on to a more thorough discussion.

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Substantive Differences Between Johnson and Paul

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Choosing between Johnson and Paul is no easy task. Both deserve strong “A” grades for their potential to pull the country out of its tailspin. Of the remaining candidates, I assess the following grades: Perry, C-; Santorum, D; Romney, D-; Gingrich, F; Obama, F-.

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So, it takes a very delicate instrument to decide who to prefer between the two candidates most qualified to be our next president (Johnson’s superior party choice notwithstanding).

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1) Track Record. Ron Paul has been the most influential Republican of the last quarter century. He has brought so many previously taboo subjects into the public view that it is astounding (e.g., the Federal Reserve and the Constitution). Without Paul the GOP would be completely indistinguishable from the Democratic Party. As of now they are merely kissing cousins.

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But, Ron Paul hasn’t accomplished much in the way of getting legislation passed. He is an icon and (deservedly) a hero, but that has been more in the form of influence than tangible accomplishments.

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Gary Johnson, on the other hand, was arguably the best Governor of the last fifty years. “Governor Veto” was the most fiscally conservative Governor in the U.S., and left New Mexico with a huge budget surplus. Yes, surplus. While their public roles have been different, Johnson’s track record as an elected official gives him a slight nod over Paul for the presidency in my opinion.

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2) The Liberal Libertarian. Gary Johnson is portraying himself as a “liberal libertarian.” Ron Paul is more of a “conservative libertarian.” To win the White House, a libertarian candidate must run right of the Republican and left of the Democrat.


Well, take the right-left spectrum, rotate it 90?, put the individual at the top, and state at the bottom. Johnson and Paul are in the rafters, while Romney and Obama are down in the statist basement. A libertarian must take “left-of-Democrat” positions in defense of individual liberties that statist Republicans cannot comprehend, such as ending the War on Drugs.

But, strategically, Johnson is making a point to push some of his more freedom-oriented liberal social views into the forefront of his campaign. Ron Paul is letting them lay in the shadows—which is unsurprising for someone trying to get the GOP nomination. As a libertarian, however, I like to see a candidate explain how libertarians are different from the two political flavors the media pretends represent the whole political menu. Johnson does a better job, in my humble opinion, and I support him for that.

3) Presence. Stage presence is not a strong suit of either Johnson or Paul. Paul tends to get hyper. Johnson needs to get more inspirational. All told, however, I prefer Johnson’s calm, direct approach. It may not serve him well at campaign rallies, but it served him well as a Governor, and will serve him well as president.

4) Reputation. Ron Paul’s ferocious defense of classical liberal/libertarian principles has not only gained him a cadre of loyal followers, it has also gained him bitter enemies within the GOP. He has been called a “kook” thousands of times over the decades by his supposed allies. Some Republicans in Congress have gone so far as to say he should join the Democratic Party. Maybe he should have—Democrats don’t abuse their party mates the way Republicans do.

Anyhow, Gary Johnson comes with a clean slate. He comes with a reputation as one of the most successful Governors in recent history. In other words, Johnson doesn’t come with the reputational baggage that Ron Paul has. Dr. Paul doesn’t deserve this animosity—he deserves applause—but I’m working within the context of political realities here.

Johnson and the Libertarian Party

The second reason I support Gary Johnson over Ron Paul is because Dr. Paul is on the wrong team, and the Governor is on the right team.

Let me reiterate why I want to see the GOP defeated. The Republican Party is a corrupt, top-down money laundering operation. The LP is a grassroots-based organization, with power centered at the local level. The Republican establishment wants you to vote one day every two years, and to be quiet the other 729. The LP wants you—indeed needs you—to have a say all 730.

So, while I am supportive of Dr. Paul’s quest for the GOP nomination, it is unlikely that he will have any substantive impact on the Republican Party’s flawed architecture. If Johnson wins, however, a political party with a vastly superior bottom-up structure will have prevailed, which would be an enormous victory for the broader liberty movement. (It also is a good reason for anyone who claims to favor freedom and free markets needs to give Johnson serious consideration.)

So, the bottom line is, do you want Karl Rove and Katie Couric choosing your candidates? Or do you want to choose your candidates? If you prefer the former, stick with the GOP. If you prefer the latter, consider the LP.


When it comes to the substantive differences between Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, I lean ever-so-slightly in Johnson’s favor. When it comes to their party allegiances, however, I lean heavily Johnson’s way.

And when Ron Paul finally concedes, to all his supporters, welcome aboard!

This article is also posted at The Country Thinker.

About Ted Lacksonen

Ted Lacksonen has written 97 posts in this blog.

I am a proud mem­ber of the Coun­try Class — the roughly 75% of Amer­i­cans who have been effec­tively dis­en­fran­chised by the minor­ity Rul­ing Class. As a law stu­dent and lawyer, I trav­eled (uncom­fort­ably) in Rul­ing Class cir­cles. As an HVAC installer, sheet metal fab­ri­ca­tor, and ship designer, I trav­eled (com­fort­ably) in Coun­try Class cir­cles. My expe­ri­ences in these two widely diver­gent uni­verses have given me a dual per­spec­tive that is uncom­mon among writ­ers and thinkers.

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  • If I were to describe the difference between Ron Paul’s libertarianism and that of Gary Johnson, in brief, I would say that Paul’s is a moral conviction (rights are inalienable) while Johnson’s is utilitarian (it works best). While the utilitarian argument is a necessary companion to the moral argument, I personally find the moral argument more persuasive. It’s “button pusher” rhetoric that causes people to see things anew. Utilitarian arguments only provide confirmation.

    Presence … who cares? I’m not looking for a date. Besides, the politicians with the alleged best “presence” advocate the worst possible ideas.

    Reputation … as they say, a bad reputation is better than no reputation at all. Sidebar: Johnson needs to work on building a movement behind him. Perhaps he could be a bridge builder between the “paleo” and “cosmo” libertarian brands?

    Legislation … I’ve never bought into the “legislative failure” argument against Washington politicians in general. To start with, the vast majority of what actually gets passed is an embarrassment to me as both and American and as a human being. Politicians with the greatest “legislative success,” on both sides of the aisle, have been the politicians have caused the most harm.

    Think of it this way … Paul wanted a full audit of the Fed. Are we to consider him a failure because the rest of the crew in Washington was either too crooked or too scared to demand a full audit too? Likewise, Obama wanted socialized healthcare. Are we to consider him a success because the rest of the crew in Washington was either too crooked or too scared to vote against him? Paul’s supposed “legislative failure” says a lot more about the rest of Washington (and the culture who supports those crooks) than it does about him.

    There’s no doubt that Gary Johnson represents a huge step up from Obama, Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, or Huntsman. Johnson is approximately 1,000x better! If, IF Paul drops out of the race, I’ll probably vote for Johnson (I certainly won’t cast a vote for any of the other GOP clowns). But until then, I’m behind Paul all the way!

    • Good for you for sticking to your principles. We have both cast our lot based on rational analysis, and I fully support your conclusion.

  • The Republican Party is a corrupt, top-down money laundering operation.

    You just described any political party. If the LP is ever to be successful, it will end up fitting that descriptor as well.

    The political machine runs on BS and money.

  • Pingback: Right Wing Extremists: January 13, 2012 | REPUBLICAN REDEFINED()

  • I certainly respect Gary Johnson from what little I’ve seen from him, but I think your analysis in comparing track records needs a bit more analysis. For one, I don’t think Ron Paul would ever consider measuring success of his efforts by the “won/lost” record in the number of bills he introduced getting passed. After all, his philosophy is to reduce the number of laws and regulations on the books, not add more. To me, his bills appear to be introduced specifically to give him speaking time on the floor to influence other legislation under consideration as well as support his electorate rather than just expectation that they be passed. Of course it can be claimed that he is just pandering to gather voter support, such as with the Tax Free Tip Act or other tax reducing bills for certain groups like exempting Social Security payments from income taxes, but since he keeps introducing the same bills even in non-election years, I see them as individual battles to gain influence to achieve the overall goal to eventually abolish the income tax codes in their entirety.

    Consider how the North Vietnamese eventually perservered even after losing every significant military engagement against US forces. There’s no doubt the same will happen in Afghanistan and Iraq. There’s a video out there with Paul talking about his time in Pakistan when his CO took him to see the infamous Khyber Pass and said that those people had never been conquered. You can hear what he said about that here: I think those defining concepts influence his approach to working within the Congress.

    If you put Paul in Johnson’s shoes in the executive position as governor of New Mexico, I’d imagine his veto record on what the legislature passed would probably be remarkably similar, but I don’t think Johnson would have had as much influence on the dialogue on national issues as much as Paul had achieved.