The Rand Paul 2016 presidential campaign is apparently over. For Paul, the focus will shift to his 2016 senatorial campaign.
After finishing 5th in Iowa with less than 5% of the vote, Rand Paul has suspended his campaign. This is basically the same thing as someone saying he is ending his campaign. This was probably Paul’s best decision to date in regards to his presidential run.
I have been really tough on Rand Paul over the last 6 years, but particularly in the last year with his presidential run. Sometimes we are tougher on people where we see some potential, but where that potential is not being realized.
I think it is important to realize that Rand Paul is not a libertarian. He is not his dad. If he had come right out in the beginning and refuted libertarianism, I probably would have been less tough on him, or at least not paid as much attention to him.
But Rand tried to have it both ways. He wanted to play ball with the establishment, while keeping a large segment of his father’s base.
In many ways, Rand Paul put a divide into his father’s base. There were some Ron Paul people who whole-heartedly supported Rand. I had some informal debates with a few of them. They would admit that Rand wasn’t as hardcore as his father, but excused it because he just had to say those things to get elected. It was some of the same people who told me he had to act like a Republican to get elected to the Senate, but that he would be more liberty-oriented once in office.
If Rand actually did win the presidency, I always said that he would have to govern like an establishment Republican for the first four years just so that he could get re-elected. If he were re-elected to a second presidential term, I don’t know what the excuse would have been at that point.
Rand is just not a libertarian. He tried to play both sides of the fence and he ended up turning off both sides.
A Facebook friends of mine posted a video of Rand in his last debate with Rand pointing out that the drug war disproportionately harms the black community in terms of sending black people to prison. My Facebook friend said that none of the other candidates would say such a thing, which is probably true, at least on the Republican side.
I commented that Rand did not actually call for an end to the federal war on drugs. I said that for all I know, he may just want to send more white people to prison. My comment was somewhat sarcastic, but very truthful in a way.
Rand Paul can stand up there and say that a disproportionate number of black people are going to prison for drugs. But what is his solution? He hasn’t said anything about pardoning them or even scaling back the war on drugs. So what does his comment accomplish? It doesn’t really impress any side.
Rand’s positions (that’s multiple) on foreign policy have been terrible and inconsistent. Sure, amongst Republicans, he is less hawkish. That isn’t saying much with this group. But even here, it was Donald Trump that first came out swinging against the Iraq War, calling it a disaster. That left Rand, in a later debate, saying “me too”. It wasn’t all that convincing.
And when the Middle East comes up, Rand will start out saying we need to be cautious. Then he will go on to say that he supports Israel, which probably means supporting Israeli wars. He says we need to arm the Kurds and form a new country in the Iraq region. It is a lot different from his dad who would just say that we need to bring all of our troops home. Again, who is Rand trying to impress with these stances, or lack of stances?
Even on fiscal matters, Rand was pretty bad. He was beaten out by Ted Cruz. I don’t trust Cruz, but Cruz usually sounded more radical than Rand. Rand’s economic policies revolve around auditing the Fed and balancing the budget in 5 years.
Who really cares about auditing the Fed? Maybe it would be nice, but that game would probably be rigged. Ron Paul advocated auditing the Fed, but his book was titled “End the Fed”. If Ron had written a book titled “Audit the Fed”, I doubt it would have been nearly so popular.
Why didn’t Rand stand up there and say that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, the FDA, the Energy Department, and even the Department of Homeland Security? Could he even have just picked one of those and mentioned it in a debate?
The point is that Rand really probably doesn’t believe these things. And if he does at all, then he chooses political power over getting out the message of liberty.
I assume Rand got some really bad campaign advice. His father was kept off the scene until the very end when they became desperate. Rand Paul even tried to shy away from who he is in terms of his last name.
For me, this settles a debate that I have had with other libertarians for years. In fact, I have believed this since before Ron Paul ever ran for president on the Republican ticket. I believe that Harry Browne helped me learn this key point.
The key point is that a more radical and consistent message is better for selling liberty. It is more honest, and I think people respect that honesty. It is also educational and can actually win converts to libertarianism, as Ron Paul showed in 2008 and again in 2012.
I have heard over and over again through the years that the libertarian message needs to be toned down. We need to moderate the message to appeal to a broader range of people. We need to be more pragmatic and win elections.
How did that work out for you Rand supporters with the Rand Paul campaign?
Rand Paul received about one-third the number of votes in the Iowa caucuses as his father did in 2012. This was with a much higher voter turnout in 2016. Politically speaking, Ron Paul was far more successful than his son. Yet Rand’s campaign was the epitome of the libertarian-lite message. He moderated his stances and tried to appeal to a broader audience. It failed completely.
In Ron’s campaigns, he was very good at speaking to different audiences with different tones and language. He tried to relate certain issues to certain groups. But he stuck to his principles. He wasn’t necessarily telling people what they wanted to hear, but he was delivering his message in a way that sold it. But he didn’t turn his back on his libertarian principles to sell his message. Harry Browne was also very effective at sticking to his principles but selling his message in his campaigns in 1996 and 2000.
If Rand really were a libertarian and he had come out with a strong libertarian message like his father, then Rand would likely be moving on to New Hampshire. He probably would have been in the top 3 in Iowa. Ted Cruz might not even be a factor right now.
But Rand listened to his wise political advisors who told him to stay away from his dad and to moderate his message. It turned out to be a message worth 5th place in Iowa. The worst thing is, he damaged the libertarian message and has probably set back the libertarian movement, even if temporarily.
Libertarianism is not dead. There just weren’t any candidates for hardcore libertarians to get excited about.