Why Cain supporters should consider Gary Johnson

Christopher R. Barron Chairman of the Board, GOProud
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This past weekend was a difficult weekend for me and for tens of thousand of other Herman Cain supporters. As a long-time supporter of Mr. Cain’s presidential campaign, it was painful to watch how his journey ended on Saturday.

I was a vocal supporter of the Cain campaign on my frequent “Red Eye” appearances, I have written at length about his campaign here and in other outlets, and I personally donated to the Cain campaign. I was a passenger riding the proverbial Cain Train since he was little more than an asterisk in this race.

I remained a Cain supporter until the end because for me this race has always been about the message — not just the messenger. None of the allegations that surfaced over the last few weeks changed the message of his campaign one bit.

That message was a simple one: Washington is broken and it is the politicians — of all ideological and partisan stripes — who are responsible for it. If we were truly going to change Washington, we needed a candidate who would break from the conventional mold, someone who would challenge politics as usual at every turn and was offering bold solutions and big changes — not just change on the margins.

The tea party was a revolt against politics as usual. It was as much a revolt against the excesses of Republican politicians as it was a revolt against Democratic politicians. The tea party put Republican elected officials on notice that we — the base of the GOP — were not taking it anymore. Since the tea party led the GOP to historic wins in November of 2010, Hill Republicans, particularly House Republicans, are behaving in an uncharacteristic fashion. They are holding the line on spending, refusing to agree to raise taxes at all, and working in earnest to rein in the size of government. These politicians didn’t suddenly get religion. They didn’t find political Jesus, they found fear — fear of the tea party. The truth is that the only thing that stands between Republicans on the Hill going back to the bad old days of the Bush-era GOP is fear of a backlash from the tea party.

The 2012 Republican presidential primary process must be one that strengthens the tea party and reminds establishment Republicans that we are unwilling to sit back and watch the politicians in Washington sacrifice our core values.

Now former Cain supporters like myself are left to find another candidate and another campaign that can carry that tea party message. While many candidates will be asking for a second look from former Cain supporters, I believe there is one candidate who deserves a first look. I strongly believe that former Cain supporters, tea party activists, and limited government conservatives should consider the campaign of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.

We have seen all we need to see from the rest of the field. We know that none of the candidates who have regularly been on stage during the GOP debates can carry the tea party banner.

Indeed, we have watched as the campaigns of those candidates made their case to tea partiers. We have watched as tea partiers have drifted from one campaign to the next — desperately searching for a candidate who will stand on principle, who supports fundamental tax reform, who has a plan for immediate and dramatic spending cuts, who will do more than simply talk about the debt and deficit. Most importantly, tea partiers have been looking for someone who will fight to empower individuals and turn back the wave of growing federal power.

Governor Gary Johnson is a candidate who fits that bill perfectly. Johnson — like Herman Cain — supports fundamental tax reform. Like Cain, Johnson believes we should scrap the current tax code and replace it with the Fair Tax. The Fair Tax, a national sales tax, would get the government out of picking winners and losers, end the grip lobbyists have on our tax policy, and treat all companies, people, and families the same. The Fair Tax would also unleash the entrepreneurial power of the American economy — freeing businesses from the burdens of an out-of-date tax code.

Like Herman Cain, Governor Johnson takes spending seriously. Johnson has a plan to slash federal spending 43% in his first year in office. Instead of offering a plan that balances the budget in 15 or 25 years, Johnson is offering a plan that would immediately end Washington’s addiction to spending money it does not have.

Governor Johnson is also an outspoken advocate for truly limiting the power of the federal government. Unlike other cafeteria conservatives, Johnson consistently supports returning power to the states and the people without exceptions.

Unfortunately, most Americans and most GOP primary voters have been denied the opportunity to hear from Governor Johnson. Despite his significant record of accomplishment in his two terms as governor of New Mexico and despite his serious and thoughtful plans for America’s future, the major networks have repeatedly shut Johnson out of debates. Indeed, they’ve even refused to include him in the polls they claim are necessary to establish “viability” for inclusion in these debates.

Tea partiers and other limited government conservatives don’t need the media selecting our candidates. We let that happen in 2008 and the results were disastrous. As a result of the media blackout, some are suggesting that Governor Johnson bolt the GOP and seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination. It doesn’t have to end this way.

I hope other former Cain supporters, and anyone who cares about the future of the tea party movement, will join me in backing Gary Johnson’s candidacy. We took Herman Cain from an asterisk to the brink of the nomination, we fought the media and the establishment every inch of the way, and we can do it again!

Christopher R. Barron is a Republican political consultant and chairman of the board of GOProud, a national organization for gay conservatives and their allies. He blogs at Red Barron.