That sad moment has unfortunately arrived, with libertarians now weeping over Rand Paul’s decision to end his presidential campaign.. He ended it and, sadly, didn’t end it with much dignity. He went into Iowa promising people this massive upset claiming to have 10,000 students eager to vote who weren’t being polled, 1,100 Iowa chairs working to secure votes, this great staff and a waiting crowd to make this thing happen. It was a complete lie and the outcome was libertarians nationally were found with their pants down as Rand achieved a measly 5% of the vote and watched Marco Rubio who barely even campaigned in Iowa beat him 4 to 1. It was a failure, and by ending the campaign, Rand finally stopped wasting time. But how did this failure happen, and what’s next?
For calling the failure, it’s really tough to blame it on only one thing. Some people are calling it the death of liberty, where neoconservatives rebuilt themselves from the ashes of W grew back, ending it for Rand Paul. This argument seems to fall flat when realizing that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, who now control anywhere from 40-55% of the primary vote. They were both Iraq War opponents and have called for less intervention in some foreign affairs with less need for oversight in Syria compared to what Marco Rubio or Carly Fiorina have advocated for. Not as non-interventionist as Ron or Rand Paul, but clearly not full-on neocons. The next and more common attack was that Rand’s campaign just wasn’t libertarian enough. Many people argued that Rand just wasn’t enough to his father’s realm of ideology and it cost him support. Clearly, this was in some form a factor. Lacking the energy, it created smaller events, smaller donation pools and at the end of the day less voters for him. With that said though, looking at how his father’s fans seemed to move to Cruz, Sanders and Trump, it seems they very, very likely were never actually even on board with libertarian ideology. The Rand Paul failure seems more complex.
Here’s my theory: the problem was simply based on it being a divide of ‘yes men’ and ‘no men’. The yes men came from the endless sea of 100,000+ religious Ron Paul followers who were in this entire process 100% dedicated to Rand and willing to follow him no matter what happened or what he said. On the other end, there was a spree in management of more traditional Republicans who wanted to take Rand Paul as a serious national candidate. They won over big endorsements such as JC Watts, Mark Sanford, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and many others, but really didn’t seem to do that much in terms of modern campaigning. The outcome was really a room of typical K street people with the more eccentric Rand Paul supporters not properly utilizing each other. Where Rand Paul easily had 300,000+ semi-active to very active Rand supporters online, the staff did little to utilize it and instead just encouraged the waste of time with phone banking. With the fan base, they continued to just play with themselves in terms of circle jerk groups and forums where they weren’t given the funds or resources with the Rand campaign to go out and assemble rallies or coalitions to create growth. Overall, the issue seemed to be not so much message or competition, but just this confused management where one-half couldn’t work with the other.
Breaking this up though, there were likely five failures the campaign had which sunk it down into the zone of failure on an organizational/policy standpoint.
The content they made was absolutely terrible. I’ve been the founder of projects in the software industry, I currently do product development for patents I’m working on, I’ve worked in some sort of role for about five projects, and am a founding member of BeingLiberarian.com. I can say with my limited experience in the world of content, that the ads and media being made by Rand Paul were just not good. They weren’t creative, not very set on issues, the graphics themselves were pretty poor and they never did anything to really go viral or be creative. Even Carly Fiorina could go viral singing about her dog not enjoying going for walks. On a content front, it was just a junk yard of things which wouldn’t have impressed, even in the 1990s.
On the abortion front, I’m pro-choice, but not opposed to voting for pro-life candidates due to a genuine lack of interest in the issue for reasons I’ve written on before. With that said, Rand Paul from his very first ad, to spending the entire months of August and September on Planned Parenthood, made abortion just an overly huge part of the campaign. That base of abortion-only voters in the GOP, sadly for whatever reason, long wrote Rand Paul off. In this, being pro-life is fine, but well, being something else is also kind of important! Where Rand could have spent that time talking about a balanced budget, ending the Fed, ending the wars and more, he just became your token example of why Democrats hate the GOP with abortion as a driving campaign issue.
Those freaking emails… One thing which made me unhappy with the Rand campaign was that of the six or so candidates I receive emails from, Rand was easily the worst. Instead of just flat out going “We rock, give us money!”, his campaign emails tended to do bizarre gag stories which made it seem as if a campaign staff member was personally asking Rand Paul if “I’m donating” and Rand saying “I am”. This weird tactic just didn’t cut it and made me feel Amway could be more trusted with my money (note, I still donated. and quite a bit).
Overemphasis on the NSA. The PATRIOT Act is wrong and on both sides of the aisle, a strong amount of people were cheering for Rand Paul with his fight against that legislation. That said, there’s discussing an issue and beating it to death. Rand Paul never really shut up about the Act or the NSA, to the point it almost felt boring for his fans or people considering giving him his support. Where Gary Johnson became known as the ‘weed guy’, Rand Paul just somehow became the ‘NSA guy’. And judging on how I’d bet $1,000 that 50%+ of Iowa caucus voters couldn’t say what NSA stands for, it was not a centerpiece issue.
While I personally loved seeing it happen, his attack of Donald Trump proved to be a mistake. Trump sadly built a movement of economically illiterate people who were concerned whites wouldn’t be a majority within a few years and sadly, they didn’t want to be attacked. If I can say one positive thing about Bernie Sanders, it is that he proves a positive campaign does far more to build a movement over a negative one. Focusing on endless attacks which weren’t even that policy-driven just made it come off where the people who did slide away from Trump or enjoy Trump, but decide against him didn’t want to deal with Rand.
Moving on from what the campaign did wrong, it’d also be important to look on a policy analysis of what Rand could have done to grow his base and become more popular on the whole.
Legalize Marijuana and Pardon All Drug Offenders. The simple fact is everyone knew Rand Paul was already pro-marijuana legalization. In that, he joins about 40% of Republicans and 70%+ of Republicans under 30. A legalization effort and promise to pardon upwards of 500,000 people would have not only made libertarians happy, but also really brought in the youth vote which sadly went to Sanders. Another factor is it could have made him appeal to minorities and impoverished groups sadly falling victim to the War on Drugs.
Be more fiscally conservative. Rand was the most fiscally conservative candidate by far in this election. He was the only candidate who was proposing serious cuts and had a tax plan which made sense. But it wasn’t enough. What would have been better is put his tax plan into two parts. Part one being his flat and fair tax with the cuts he originally proposed stabbing into about 10% of government. The second part however, would be a ten year-long slowdown of shrinking/ending departments on a slower pace while not having defense, Medicare and SS grow. Doing this on a ten year pace with annual GDP growth rates of 3-4% puts America in an auto scale where the 15% flat tax rate progresses downward into a realm of about 5% within ten years. This motion in setting the federal government from spending 20% of GDP to under 10% within a decade could be shown as a fiscal boom.
Negative Income Tax. The last article I wrote was about the negative income tax and it being used as a tool to replace the welfare state. While it would have added more work if Rand Paul did this, he could have approached it in two ways. The first way is a way to attract Democrats and moderates in claiming they have a better welfare system made which is easier on people while still providing the same benefits. On the bright side, Rand Paul could have been the only one running with real welfare reform to attract conservatives.
Gay Marriage. When the Supreme Court said Bert and Ernie can get married anywhere in the United States, he should have just gone with it. One in three Republicans were already pro-gay marriage at the time and 70% of Republicans under 35 also went with it. This would have worked for two reasons in helping Rand. The first is creating another major difference while also benefiting his stake with young voters. The second would be attracting donations from people such as Peter Thiel who strongly backed and donated millions to Ron Paul in 2012, but were absent for Rand.
Called to eliminate 40,000 regulations. Ron Paul was cheered on for calling to end Davis-Bacon, the EPA and countless other regulations which hurt the American economy. Rand should have carried on that same path and even expanded it forward a bit. It would have given him a backbone with his policy wonk supporters and made him edge out Cruz as the most conservative candidate in the race.
With that, those are just thoughts on where Rand failed and how it could have possibly gone better. Yet let’s talk now on the positive, the future.
For what Rand Paul supporters should do? That can be broken into three things:
Get educated. Simple fact is this: The Rand groups just weren’t smart enough. They couldn’t counter the Trump people well enough on trade and didn’t know policy well enough to call out Sanders as a disaster candidate. The liberty movement and Rand Paul movements need to get educated. Doing this, the Rand Paul movement should now take its network of groups with hundreds of thousands and Facebook pages with millions of followers and turn them into education vehicles. Have essay contest to review books on economic and foreign policy where people read and write reviews on them in order to win prizes such as Skype calls or dinners with Rand Paul and other liberty movement big wigs. The act of just getting smarter and more competent alone can better prepare the movement to go forward.
Get more libertarians in office. It’s just Massie, Amash and Paul in Washington now. Fix that. Encourage other liberty candidates to seek office and move efforts into Senate or congressional races to make the next Rand Paul happen.
Gary Johnson. Gary was an amazing governor who grew the LP in 2012 breaking records for them. Even if not voting for them, it’s time to at least ask to sit those Rand groups down and hear his stances out. He is a very solid candidate and can continue to grow the liberty movement on a whole.
I love Rand and Ron Paul. When I was 15, I was the kid waiting four hours outside of Ron Paul’s office in DC to try and just meet him briefly. I was out there for Rand Paul cheering when he won his Senate race and amazed it happened. I was cheering for him at over a dozen events when he came to New York and DC over the last year in which I really said that he was my favorite candidate for president.
He will win his reelection in a landslide and press on for libertarian views in the Senate. This failure was a learning curve for us all and if he runs again in 2020, he’d have my full support.
* Editor: the text above has been reviewed for readability, but not content. The opinion(s) reflected therein are those of the author, and not of the BeingLibertarian.com website or Being Libertarian LLC.
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