Libertarianism has had an interesting relationship with the political mainstream over the last year. After years of being relegated to the fringes of political discourse, it was brought into the fold with the rise of former Congressman Ron Paul. While not everyone agreed with his views, many supported him for his consistency and honesty. His contribution to the liberty movement is perhaps the greatest, and many seem to have forgotten why.
Paul approached his presidential campaigns the same way as he did his congressional career. It was never about the accolades, awards, legislative achievements, or history of having a big name. He was just there sticking to his guns and standing firm on his principles. His brand of libertarianism was consistent because he had no reason to compromise it.
The movement has generally lost its path here. Since 2012, the liberty movement has splintered in multiple directions because of a lack of firm standard bearer.
Despite being the son of the former Texas Congressman, Senator Rand Paul has a completely different approach. He’s a more pragmatic and diplomatic, willing to maneuver his principles to score points. While this approach may have its benefits in certain ways, he just doesn’t exhibit the straight shooting consistency people saw in his father.
Sen. Paul fell flat running in the last presidential election whereas his father took the fight all the way to the convention. The problem here isn’t the Senator himself, as many libertarians in general have subscribed to the compromise strategy to make friends in Washington D.C.
The Libertarian Party has largely put its eggs in the presidential election basket. This would be a sound strategy if Libertarians could run an articulate libertarian who stuck to his principles. Instead, they ran former Governor Gary Johnson twice and most recently with former Governor Bill Weld as his running mate. The Libertarian Party was not concerned with libertarian principles, as the Johnson/Weld ticket eventually devolved a “Never Trump” cheerleading team for Hillary Clinton.
While President Donald Trump’s libertarian credentials are certainly in question, so are Clinton’s. Similar to Sen. Paul, the Libertarian Party was more concerned with federal success than advancing the principles of liberty.
This seems to be a greater problem in the liberty movement, which is breeding beltway libertarians who are more focused on name recognition and political wars than advancing a consistent set of principles. But at the heart of liberty itself are the principles of limited government.
So our next question lies on where we should fight our battles: Do we achieve limited government from the top or the bottom?
The battle is not in Washington D.C. A President Ron or Rand Paul won’t save America, neither will a President Gary Johnson or any other shade of libertarian. A libertarian President is a limited executive, unable to do much in the grand scheme of things. The Presidency itself has only become so influential because the boundaries of the Constitution are not being respected.
Libertarians need to stop compromising for name recognition on the federal level and start focusing on the long-term goals. Municipal and state offices are critical for pushing back on overreach. Whether it be challenging excessive government in the courts or outright nullifying bad laws, these will prove more effective than being a compromised politician in Congress or the White House.
The battle for freedom will be won outside of Washington D.C., not inside.