On Feb. 3, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul announced that he was suspending his campaign. Following a fifth-place showing in the Iowa caucus and polling in the low single digits in New Hampshire, Paul said,
“It’s been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House. Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty. Across the country thousands upon thousands of young people flocked to our message of limited government, privacy, criminal justice reform and a reasonable foreign policy. Brushfires of Liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I.”
Seven observations on this event follow.
1. Rand Paul did not run a principled campaign. Whether pledging to cut military spending and then proposing to increase it, considering cutting foreign aid to Israel and then backing down, being skeptical about belligerence toward Iran and then getting on board, taking a principled stance on the Civil Rights Act and then retreating, pandering to evangelicals, or reaching out to social justice warriors, Rand has repeatedly strayed from libertarian principles.
2. One cannot serve two masters. While running for President, Paul was also in a re-election bid for his U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky, and his victory in that election is by no means guaranteed. Republican Party operatives were becoming concerned that Paul’s attention on his presidential campaign to the neglect of his Senate campaign could cause him to lose both, thus giving Democrats a Senate seat that they might not otherwise get. Had he chosen to focus solely on his presidential bid, he might have fared better. But perhaps not, because…
3. Truth is treason in an empire of lies. The previous sentence is a quote from his father, and it adequately describes Rand’s role in the Republican primary debates, just as it did his father’s when he ran in 2008 and 2012. Whether challenging the dangerous bellicosity of Chris Christie and Ted Cruz, the threat to civil liberties posed by Marco Rubio, or the lack of detail provided by Donald Trump, Paul was the truth-teller on the stage. In a system that favors pleasant lies over uncomfortable truths, this is a campaign-ending liability.
4. Pandering to groups which are at cross purposes will get one support from neither group. Unfortunately, Paul was not always a truth-teller. As mentioned in point #1, Paul tried to broaden his support base by reaching out to people who openly reject libertarian principles. As another example of point #2, this backfired on him because his pandering to non-libertarians was not only believed to be phony by them, but also lost him the support of hardcore libertarians who backed Ron Paul.
5. The Libertarian Party is unlikely to gain much from this. Though the Libertarian Party’s statement on the event is correct to say that “the Libertarian Party nominee will be, indisputably, the only choice for small government in the 2016 race for President of the United States,” said nominee will likely be facing major-party contenders who have much greater difference between them than did Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the last election. The possibility of Michael Bloomberg entering the race as an independent candidate would almost certainly mean that the Libertarian candidate would finish fourth, as Libertarian candidates have historically fared poorly when other well-known third-party candidates ran.
6. The establishment media is using the word ‘isolationist’ as a dishonest smear. Several commentators referred to Rand Paul as an isolationist rather than a non-interventionist. The difference is that isolationism is a non-interventionist military policy combined with a protectionist trade policy. All of the other candidates favor more trade barriers and economic sanctions than Paul does, which means that he is actually the least isolationist of all the candidates. This has been explained to the pundit classes on numerous occasions, so we may rule out incompetence and deem this malice.
7. The path to liberty is anti-political. Many libertarian-leaning voters continue to support politicians as a means of advancing liberty, but this has a terrible track record. Such efforts have not even accomplished as much as random violent outbursts against the state apparatus, let alone the anti-political methods of alternative currencies, black markets, cryptography, mass non-compliance, and revolution. The path to liberty is not to vote away the problems of statism, but to do what is necessary to impose liberty on our fellow human beings.