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Should Rand Have Run Like Ron?

Rand Paul’s campaign strategy worked brilliantly—for Ted Cruz. For Rand, it’s led to him dropping out before the first primary. Staunch libertarian supporters of his father’s two campaigns believe Rand should have run more like Ron. But it’s worth examining why he didn’t and why neither Paul has come close to the nomination.

Rand Paul’s team last year seemed to expect a three-way race with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, in which a candidate who could unite the right would win. To that end, before the campaign began Paul built ties to the Heritage Foundation—the bastion of movement conservatism—and aggressively courted evangelicals of the sort who ultimately delivered victory to Cruz in Iowa this week.

The Kentucky senator would not campaign, as his father did, as a libertarian insurgent. Instead, Rand would be the total package, the libertarian who was as passionate about Israel as any evangelical, who would restrict immigration just as the party’s grassroots demanded, and who would be a rock-solid Heritage conservative, albeit one for the 21st century. He would not be the candidate of any niche.

Against Bush and Rubio this might have been a winning strategy. But who needed Paul to put on this act when Ted Cruz can do it better? Cruz was a closer fit for the evangelicals, and though Cruz is hated by movement-conservative insiders, he was always better positioned to be an all-purpose right-winger than was Paul, with his libertarian legacy. The mainstream media buzz that made Rand Paul “the most interesting man in politics” didn’t help him with Republican voters, and while newsmakers remain fascinated with the idea of Rand as a new kind of Republican, they’ve found it more effective to cast Marco Rubio for that role simply on account of how he looks. To figure out why Paul is a new sort of Republican requires reading whole paragraphs; to see why Rubio is, just glance at a photo.

Several of the rationales for Rand’s failure have the merit of being true. His team can’t be blamed for overestimating Jeb Bush—everyone did, myself included. And Cruz has proved to be a more adept retail politician than his reputation inside the halls of power suggested he would be.

The rise of ISIS certainly undercut Paul’s foreign-policy appeal, while in domestic policy—unlike his father in 2008 and 2012, Pat Buchanan in the 1990s, or Bernie Sanders among Democrats today—Rand didn’t have an economic position distinct from rivals’. The Kentucky senator was unique in his commitment to civil liberties and reining in domestic surveillance, but those are hardly issues that drive Republicans to the polls. Rand might have snatched the media’s attention from Trump if he’d been the sole Republican (presently in office [1], that is) to support the Iran deal [2], and he would have energized more of his father’s base by being more outspokenly anti-interventionist. But how far would that have taken him?

There’s a perfectly good case to be made that this just wasn’t Rand Paul’s year and nothing his campaign did could have made much difference. Even his poor showing in Iowa (fifth) relative to his father’s performance in 2012 (third) has to be kept in perspective: in 2012 the evangelicals’ favorite, who was then Rick Santorum, took first place; the establishment’s favorite, Mitt Romney, took second in a virtual tie. In 2016, those Romney voters were always more likely to go for a Rubio than a Rand Paul, and the evangelicals were always be more apt to go for a Cruz. Even in the best-case scenario, without Donald Trump seizing the anti-establishment vote that went for Ron Paul in 2012, third place would have been about as good as Rand could have expected.

That Ben Carson actually beat Rand for fourth place only underscores the point: Iowa is a state in which the evangelical vote has muscle to spare, and a “libertarian-ish” Republican named Paul is never going to overcome the religious right there. Just because caucuses have smaller turnout than primaries does not mean the proportion of libertarian-ish voters is going to be any more favorable.

Had Rand Paul run another Ron Paul campaign, he might have done better—but not well enough. Campaigns fueled by insurgent enthusiasm have a lousy track-record against even establishment opposition as underwhelming as Bob Dole and Mitt Romney. What would make an insurgency this year—or in 2020, for that matter—any different?

As the Trump phenomenon has shown, there are many more anti-establishment voters than there are libertarian voters. But even anti-establishment voters—perhaps 30 percent of the GOP—are not enough to take the nomination. If Cruz can take Trump down quickly enough, he might yet beat Rubio by combining the religious right with the anti-establishment vote, but considering that Trump is stronger than Cruz almost everywhere, that seems unlikely. (Cruz polls better as a second choice candidate [3] than Trump does, which is one indication that Trump would not benefit as much from Cruz getting sidelined as Cruz would benefit from Trump’s absence.)

All of this is a grim picture for libertarian-leaning Republicans and others who have put their hopes in one or both of the Pauls. A libertarian “fusion” candidate, like Rand Paul this year, is unlikely ever to surpass someone like Cruz who offers a more visceral appeal to non-libertarian right-wingers (religious or hawkish); while an insurgent libertarian, like Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, is limited to getting more or less the same anti-establishment percentage that goes for a Trump or Buchanan—which has never been enough to beat the establishment.

The one thing neither Ron Paul nor Rand Paul tried is to court the establishment’s own voters—that is, those Republicans who just want a respectable, electable nominee. The problem with this approach is not that libertarianism can’t be respectable or electable; on the contrary, modestly libertarian attitudes can be found quite readily among center-right Republicans. Rather it’s that libertarians are romantics. Right-wing libertarians prefer dreams of populist uprisings or systemic collapse to the unglamorous and frankly dirty work of politics and policy, while center-left and dead-center libertarians tend to be technocratic types who disdain association with conservatives of any stripe. Their fantasy is of a world that keeps naturally getting nicer through guiltless sex and global commerce. Ahh!

America is nowhere near as anti-establishment or anti-statist as right-wing libertarians want it to be, while libertarians unsympathetic to the right are too mild to confront the love of power that in politics trumps the love of money and love of pleasure alike. Right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats both have much tougher agendas than non-right libertarians can handle. So those libertarians wind up with no firm allies—despite their hopeless infatuation with the left—while right-wing libertarians have mostly ineffective ones: unpopular populists, for example.

Ron Paul didn’t have illusions about any of this. His campaigns were educational rather than directly political; winning the nomination—let alone the White House—wasn’t the point. That’s not to say his efforts and those of his campaign staff (I was one of them in 2008) weren’t sincere: pushing as hard as possible for the nomination was the best way to advance the educational effort as well. But knowing what the odds against his winning were, Ron Paul fought on because there was always something else to be achieved.

Rand Paul was also clear-eyed: his aims were political, not educational, and the libertarian populism that served his father well would not win Rand—or anyone else—the presidency. So he broadened his brand; unsuccessfully, as it turns out. Movement conservatism is a rigid thing that doesn’t reward the ideologically entrepreneurial qualities that make libertarianism attractive to so many Americans of different backgrounds. A libertarian Republican has many novel views, for a Republican, about civil liberties, foreign policy, armistice in the culture war, and a capitalism that aspires not to be cronyism—all this can open the party to people turned off by the GOP’s presently bellicose brand. (Including younger religious conservatives and disillusioned Eisenhower Republicans.) But evangelical voters and movement conservatives are the Republican constituencies least appreciative of those ideas— less appreciative even than the average Romney or Dole voter.

Rand was right to try to broaden libertarianism’s political appeal, but he was mistaken in trying to become the most orthodox right-winger in the race at the very same time. Rather than trying to combine relatively well-defined and incompatible ideologies—libertarianism, religious rightism, and movement conservatism—a future contender might be better off trying to combine libertarianism with old-fashioned Republican pragmatism, the non-philosophy of the so-called establishment. Rubio shows how the neoconservatives have done this, fusing their stark ideology to an appearance of moderation and electability. Libertarians and reality-based conservatives can do likewise.

This does not mean failing to appeal at all to the more self-consciously right-wing elements in the party. The neoconservatives do, of course, have their own sway with evangelical right. But Bill Kristol never prefers the likes of Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum as the Republican nominee; the preferred vehicle for neoconservatism is always a respectable, electable one. That’s not because respectability and electability are inherently neoconservative traits—far from it—but rather because neoconservatives are more interested in winning office and shaping policy than they are in proving their right-wing bona fides. They know how the GOP works.

This is heresy, however, to anti-establishment populists, who prefer to lose with their ideological credentials intact rather than win by going mainstream. It’s also heresy to those who want to believe the Republican Party is deeply right-wing and principled rather than confusedly center-right and pragmatic. But the GOP is a national party: it can’t represent only the saved; it has to be a party of the damned, too—whether in religious terms or the mock-religious terms of ideology. It’s a party of sinners, statists, and sellouts just like any other party that actually wins office.

The campaigns of the two Pauls have been learning experiences for libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives. Ron Paul built a fundamentally nonpolitical movement, and others—including Rand—channeled its energies into political successes from the local level up to a race for the U.S. Senate. Rand Paul recognized that something more was needed to get to the White House, and he tried a plausible formula that turned out to be more plausible for Cruz than Rand. Another insurgent libertarian campaign won’t achieve anything that Ron Paul’s campaigns didn’t already achieve in 2008 and 2012; and another libertarian effort to be the most orthodox right-winger can be expected to end just like Rand’s. But libertarians and libertarian conservatives have another approach to try, one that co-opts the establishment foe that cannot be beaten by frontal assault. That’s an effort both political and educational, and it requires what for any ideologue is the hardest thing: learning to become the mainstream.

26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "Should Rand Have Run Like Ron?"

#1 Comment By Fred Bowman On February 4, 2016 @ 7:48 am

Good article and as a self described conservatarian (paleo-conservative/libertarian) I felt that Rand early on presented himself as just a “me too, Republican”. No doubt in the future, Republicans are going to have to embrace to a certain degree the idea of “fusion”. But at the same time the trick is going to be how to do so and be true to one’s core political beliefs?

#2 Comment By Clint On February 4, 2016 @ 8:26 am

The neoconservative faction’s control over The GOP has given us Bush in Iraq, McCain and Romney Loserism.
Now, neoconservatism is attempting to sell the suckers the choice of a blatant neoconservative frontman,Rubio versus a stealth neoconservative frontman,Cruz with other lesser GOP “neoconservative speak” parroting candidates behind them.
Apparently, Trump may be the only GOP primary thing left that has the neoconservatives worried because they’re not sure that they can control him.

Real Conservatives have so far allowed the neoconservative faction to control The GOP,which isn’t real rebellion.

#3 Comment By ck On February 4, 2016 @ 8:41 am

Rand’s fatal error was to fail to realize that Trump makes a much better natural ally to libertarians than Mitch McConnell & Co.

#4 Comment By Johann On February 4, 2016 @ 8:57 am

The cold hard fact is that the voters do not want a libertarian administration, Congress, or anything else. Their education is against libertarianism. Government is their savior, whether its health care, social security, or keeping them safe from crime and terrorism. We have a nation of frightened sheep.

#5 Comment By Kurt Gayle On February 4, 2016 @ 9:14 am

Daniel McCarthy writes:

“Rand might have snatched the media’s attention from Trump if he’d been the sole Republican (presently in office, that is) to support the Iran deal, and he would have energized more of his father’s base by being more outspokenly anti-interventionist. But how far would that have taken him?”

Hold onto your seats, folks! Have I got the revolutionary idea for you? Indeed, I do! Hang on tight now! This is going to be a shocker!:

That Rand should support the Iran deal and that Rand be more outspokenly anti-interventionist because these are these are things that Rand believes in. Rand believes in them because they are in the US national interest. Rand believes in them because they are good for Americans.

What the heck kind of question is: “But how far would that have taken him?”

#6 Comment By BurleyCoulter On February 4, 2016 @ 9:27 am

Fred – I like the term “conservatarian.” Wish I had thought of it. If forced to delineate where I fall on the spectrum, that seems like me. However, to co-opt the mainstream GOP voter through a combination education/political stance seems inherently impossible given the low information age we live in. Practically speaking, how do you educate the voter to make a Paul candidacy seem not only plausible but preferable when we have to deal with people that require signs in the workplace that include “do not throw food in the toilet” (that actually appears in my office)? Dark times…

#7 Comment By Steve in Ohio On February 4, 2016 @ 9:42 am

Libertarians need to face realty: the American people that are truly libertarian are less than 10%. Although I voted for Ron Paul in 2012, I would have preferred someone more like Pat Buchanan. If libertarians are smart, they will embrace some economic populism (tariffs, reducing all immigration). The American people are persuadable on the folly of a worldwide empire, but they want a safety net here at home. Trump has the potential of pulling off this type of fusionism.

#8 Comment By KD On February 4, 2016 @ 10:08 am

A failure of libertarian thought in general is the failure to translate between political ideology and institutions and sub-populations.

For example, if you are for increased spending on public education, you should pick up the backing of teachers unions and the school administrations. In the reverse, you should have some support from private schools and parents with kids in private schools.

The ideology is never “right”, it is always a means of cribbing together enough institutions and sub-populations to get you over that 50% hurdle. (Or at least take you to 35-40%, and then count on street theater and branding to get you over the top.)

So libertarian purity, as well as the difficulties of herding cats, makes it largely irrelevant on a national level. Its most important role is to serve as a conservative recruiting front for the GOP, a means of (ultimately) recruiting GOP voters.

#9 Comment By R.S. Rogers On February 4, 2016 @ 10:18 am

Seconding Fred Bowman. Though I wouldn’t say that Rand “presented himself as” a “me-too Republican.” On all but a handful of minor issues around domestic surveillance and the like, Senator Paul revealed himself actually to be a mainstream Republican. Rand often talks like a libertarian, but he votes like a mainstream Republican. Government is not about what you say, it’s about what you do with the power you have, and by that standard Rand Paul simply was not and is not any sort of consistent libertarian. His campaign strategy is beside the point: To the extent that Ron Paul’s supporters care about actual issues and policies, Rand Paul was never going to be their man.

#10 Comment By Captain P On February 4, 2016 @ 10:40 am

Great piece, Dan. I’ve been a big Rand Paul fan for a while and talk about him to a lot of my right-leaning friends. Far too often, what I hear – from people who agree with his positions 80-90% of the time – is that they think he’s “kooky” or some synonym. Sometimes they’ll say it’s foreign policy, or civil liberties, but if you ask them to describe his views on those, they grossly mischaracterize him (thinking he is a true isolationist, believes the gov’t was behind 9/11 [seriously], isn’t concerned about terrorism, etc.). Their misunderstandings suggest to me that the Pauls’ insurgent tactics and unapologetically contrarian image causes them to put up mental barriers and imagine he’s the Lyndon LaRouche of the right. (As a side note, Rand and Ron, PLEASE STOP APPEARING ON THE ALEX JONES SHOW. Hanging out with an actual conspiracy theorist doesn’t come across well to Joe Six-Pack.)

#11 Comment By Otherwise On February 4, 2016 @ 10:46 am

“Rand Paul recognized that something more was needed to get to the White House, and he tried a plausible formula that turned out to be more plausible for Cruz than Rand.”

But Rand Paul’s formula was missing the crucial ingredient.

From the beginning he has missed the centricity of immigration.

Immigration. Immigration. Immigration.

Cruz was going nowhere until he saw what it did for Trump and responded to it, which was easy for Cruz, who would do anything to get elected.

But Rand Paul really doesn’t agree with most conservatives about immigration. He’s like Bush in that respect. He doesn’t “get it” yet, as indeed many of us haven’t “gotten it” until fairly recently. Paul is capable of compromise and started paying lip service to certain aspects of the GOP interventionist agenda, for example, but he never adequately adjusted to the dawning American realization that immigration has become an evil that does terrible damage to real Americans and undermines the character of the country and its government.

I like what I’ve seen of Paul very much. His filibuster literally brought tears to my eyes. I like him as a man, and I admire him as the only real defender of traditional American liberties and personal freedoms in this race. But if he doesn’t “get” immigration he has no future in national politics, and he may even have problems staying on as a GOP senator from KY. There is no libertarian principle that states that America must consent to be overrun by foreigners and have its government hijacked by foreign interests or Wall Street or Silicon Valley profiteers. I hope he is able to see that and incorporate it into his world view.

#12 Comment By JR On February 4, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

The problem with Libertarianism and the over-all conservative movement is that it’s a poor marriage to begin with. It wants a government too small and limited to appeal to the military industrial complex, or the social “conservatives” who wish to police sexual morality and pot…to say nothing of the social programs even conservative voters like that couldn’t justify themselves according to libertarian orthodoxy.

While their vote is welcome, the libertarians — if they got their way — would cleave the conservative movement into multiple pieces. This is why Ted Cruz has to be so vague and fuzzy when talking about his STRICT constructionist notions of the constitution. If the old conservative geezers found out this logically led to taking away their social security and Medicare (is it is not technically in the constitution), they would *crucify* Ted Cruz instead of voting for him.

The fact is, the more economic “creative destruction” sows insecurity, the tighter people will cling to the minimal safety net programs that still exist.

You fiddle with them at your peril!

#13 Comment By Steve in Ohio On February 4, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

@Otherwise

I totally agree with your analysis. Neither Paul nor movement conservatism fully gets immigration.

My perfect candidate would espouse Ron/Rand Paul foreign policy views and the immigration views of Senator Jeff Sessions.

#14 Comment By Butler Reynolds On February 4, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

While I’m a little confused about Dan’s characterization of left, right, center libertarians, I think he’s right about why Rand’s campaign failed.

Though I don’t know if there’s much that can be done about it.

I think educational campaigns like Ron’s are effective. Libertarian leaning presence in congress like Ron, Rand, and a few others are going to be the best we can hope for politically.

A campaign like Rand’s is worth trying from time to time. If anything, it helps to serve as a beacon to help show what part of the wilderness conservatives are stumbling around in. (Which is why I was hoping Rand would hang in there just a little bit longer.)

Consider that it wasn’t that long ago that the word libertarian wasn’t even in most people’s vocabulary. It’s amazing how frequently it is used today in more mainstream publications and, most surprisingly, how much more frequently the word is being used correctly, even if still uncharitably.

#15 Comment By William Dalton On February 4, 2016 @ 1:10 pm

“The Kentucky senator would not campaign, as his father did, as a libertarian insurgent. Instead, Rand would be the total package, the libertarian who was as passionate about Israel as any evangelical, who would restrict immigration just as the party’s grassroots demanded, and who would be a rock-solid Heritage conservative, albeit one for the 21st century. He would not be the candidate of any niche.”

My first impression is that Rand Paul has made the decision to suspend his campaign too soon, that the outcome of the Republican race for President is too uncertain to toss in his chips and go home. It is still literally true that anything can happen. I suppose he’s suspended operations because he no longer has the money to continue, which probably means, in hindsight, that better budgeting was in order – rather than put all that effort into Iowa, which yielded so little in results, it would have been better to hold back until other candidate had been swept out of the way and then concentrate his efforts on filling that vacuum.

But, if what you say above is true, then I must confess that Rand Paul had the wool pulled over my eyes, and his critics among his father’s old supporters were right that he had betrayed the cause. I’m still not convinced that is the case. I never had the impression that Rand’s brief courtship with the Israel lobby was more than a pro forma courtesy paid to divert his enemies from engaging him in open warfare, nor that any declaiming on the problem of immigration, even refugees, would ever stray far from his father’s basic principles – that our borders should be open to those who would come here, work and support their families, obey the law, and thereby contribute to our nation’s economy, spiritual as well as material, without the hindrance of quotas set by government planners. My impression, from the start, was that Rand Paul’s intent was to pick up his father’s campaign from where it left off, having at its foundation the same core policy stances that attracted his ever growing following, with some of the rough edges shaved off and polished down to give it greater appeal. It would be Paul 2.0. If Version 1 was about educating America to the Paul principles and building a following that could initiate a national political movement within the Republican Party, Version 2 was to assemble a cadre of candidates who could win election to Congress, and eventually the White House, to begin putting those principles into action. While some in the movement whom you describe above felt it a betrayal when Rand aligned himself with fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell, or endorsed other establishment Republicans, many of whom have actively worked against Paul principles, I said, No, these are the tactical decisions Rand makes to increase his power and influence in Congress, in the Republican Party, which will mean more to advancing the Paul principles than the kind of defiant, grandstanding gestures engaged in by Ted Cruz. And, despite the outcome of the Iowa caucus, I believe that is still true. At the end of the day Ted Cruz will not be elected President in 2016, and Rand Paul will achieve far more when the two men return to the floor of the Senate, as a result of the different choices these men have made.

I think the major handicap suffered by the Paul campaign, at least in the Republican Party, is this tag of “libertarian”. When I was attracted to his father, before Bush’s launching of the Iraq War in 2003, it wasn’t because I saw Paul as a “libertarian”. I had even forgotten he had been the Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party in 1988. I suppose that is where the label derives, but I don’t think it represents Ron Paul (nor Rand Paul) any more than it represents Bob Barr, the small party’s standard bearer in 2008. Each man simply used that party, as others have, to advance ideas which were finding little reception in the two major parties.

I associate “libertarian” with those things which in represented in my youth – free love, free use of drugs, defiance of authority. I associate the name of Ron Paul with two policies of government – nonintervention in the affairs of other nations and the end of fiat currency. These were the things that made Ron Paul stand out from all other political leaders in this country, Democrat or Republican. There is no necessary connection between these latter objectives and the former. One can hold and pursue the one and not the other, and many do. Ron opens himself to the label of “libertarian” because he summarizes his philosophy of minimal government as that the only legitimate function of the government is to protect people from the harms they may be caused by others, not the harms they may do to themselves, which was the mantra of the 60’s libertarian movement to do away with all categories of “victimless” crimes. And Rand, too, I think adopts this. But this reflects more a judgment about the necessity to curtail the powers of government, to prevent the accrual of too much power in any one place or person, always a danger in any sphere, than it does a commitment to the “rightness” of individual choice in all circumstances. People make bad choices, and they need countering influences in their lives to stop or save them from making them. But it is rarely the job of the civil government, that which has the power to compel obedience and support from the people, to be that countering influence.

This is why it is better to call the Pauls “libertarianish”, if use the label at all, because while the repeal of criminal penalties for drug use may be a good and attractive feature of the Paul agenda, it is not necessarily libertarian. Just ask Bill Buckley. Sometimes laws should be repealed, not out of any principle, but just because they don’t work, or are even counterproductive. They depend upon the character of the people being governed. (Entire treatises on lawmaking should be written from Matthew 19:8.)

The same is true of the policy of nonintervention. Whether or not one adopts the principle of pacifism (which is also independent of libertarianism), or the principle of countries staying out of other countries’ affairs as an extension of the principle of people staying out of other people’s affairs, one can embrace the Pauls’ policy towards conflict in the Middle East for the simple reason that American intervention there hasn’t worked to achieve a desirable end, and there is no reason to believe that further intervention will do so. In fact, it has achieved the contrary – many undesired and undesirable ends. One can favor ending the Federal Reserve System for controlling the nation’s money supply out of concern for having placed too much power in the hands of too few people to enrich themselves and the members of their privileged class, or out of the realization that, as a matter of fact, their stewardship of that system as led not only the nation but the world to the cliff of economic disaster and is the primary engine driving the increasing divergence between the classes of the poor and the wealthy. Neither concern really has anything to do with “libertarianism”.

Perhaps, if Rand Paul made the effort to remove the label, Republicans could see past it to assess the merits of what he has been preaching for themselves.

#16 Comment By dc On February 4, 2016 @ 4:44 pm

Why no mention of Rand signing the anti-Iran-deal letter that Netenyahu paid Tom Cotton $1m to circulate? When that happened (1) I lost interest in a craven candidate who lost interest in standing on principle and (2) Ron took up Pilates to practice spinning in his grave.

#17 Comment By Dave-IL On February 4, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

Captain P: “(As a side note, Rand and Ron, PLEASE STOP APPEARING ON THE ALEX JONES SHOW. Hanging out with an actual conspiracy theorist doesn’t come across well to Joe Six-Pack).”

Absolutely, I was dismayed to see Rand continue this Paul tradition. Jones is a simplistic keyboard warrior who employs confirmation bias as his weapon of choice. Our collective tragedies are fodder for his lunacy. But it was probably the fluoride that made him that way 😉

As a liberal (perhaps more classical than modern, in today’s vernacular), I appreciated the way that Rand injected skepticism about foreign intervention and concern about civil liberties into debates dominated by highly statist right-wingers who all, to some extent, embrace the President as swaggering strong man image. I for one with he had been able to make more of an impact in the race.

#18 Comment By Clint On February 4, 2016 @ 5:51 pm

Why no mention of Rand signing the anti-Iran-deal letter that Netenyahu paid Tom Cotton $1m to circulate?

Rand Paul,
“There’s no one in Washington more against war and more for a negotiated deal than I am. But I want the negotiated deal to be a good deal. So my reason for signing onto the letter, I think it reiterates what is the actual law, that Congress will have to undo sanctions. But I also signed onto the letter because I want the president to negotiate from a position of strength which means that he needs to be telling them in Iran that ‘I’ve got Congress to deal with.’”

#19 Comment By connecticut farmer On February 5, 2016 @ 8:34 am

Good article. And totally on target with regard to Rand. Nevertheless, despite the shortcomings outlined in this piece, for me Rand was preferable to the other Three Stooges and I am disappointed that he mounted such a lackluster campaign.

#20 Comment By JEinCA On February 5, 2016 @ 9:37 am

Rand should have run as a populist conservative like Buchanan did in the past and Trump is attempting to do today. The American people really don’t know what’s best for them nowadays and there’s so many lies in the media today nobody knows where to turn for truth. We need a Vladimir Putin like character in the White House. One who will reign in the criminals on Wall Street and their lap dogs in Washington DC and put American interests and the best interests of the American people first both in domestic and foreign policy.

#21 Comment By jaye ryan On February 5, 2016 @ 10:05 am

“The problem with this approach is not that libertarianism can’t be respectable or electable;”

I respond:

I afraid that this is just not true. Libertarianism, economic conservatism simply doesn’t sell to voters in Presidential elections. It never has and never will.

Old people in Florida like Social Security. Farmers in Iowa like crop subsidies. People in San Diego want huge government funding of the US Navy, same applies to voters near Colorado Springs CO the home of the US Airforce.

Blue color union workers (correctly) view with great suspicion the Chamber of Commerce and big plutocrat business owners like Sheldon Adelson and Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or just some CEO at Tyson Foods that few can name (the a**$# name is Donny Smith) , these union workers, Reagan Democrats are violently opposed to the Libertarian ideals of letting free markets determine American wages.

If the USA was a kingdom or some well run British, European colony that effective Libertarian ideas could be imposed and poor, working class people wouldn’t vote on these issues – it would just get done and yeah, things would probably work out well.

But, come on folks – lots all get out of the John Lennon “Imagine” world, even substituting Libertarian Imagine worlds – it’s still a fantasy world that has no real chance of winning anything in US presidential elections.

#22 Comment By jack ryan On February 5, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

I strongly encourage all The American Conservative to get out of the Ron Paul/Rand Paul Libertarian Constitutionalist cult – and it is a cult. Those at the top get some fame, some $ fortune, they get invited to colleges and universities, they get on the cover of Time Magazine and Rolling Stone magazine as “the most interesting man in politics” the same as the CINO – Catholic in Name Only Pope Francis got on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in a glowing cover story.

Read Jean Respaul’s end of the Western World, Western people novel “Camp of the Saints” – it was written in the 1970s but it correctly predicted all the horrors of mass 3rd world, Islamic migration invasions of Europe the West happening now.

Ron Paul and Rand Paul just present the same PC Lib program, then add some lame Libertarian Constitutionalist spin.

George Soros funded, Al Sharpton and Blood Gang members were in the streets of Ferguson MO doing mob violence and extortion – Rand Paul was on their side.

Ron Paul wasn’t any different – they are not in any way our leaders, they never were.

#23 Comment By Robert Bruce On February 7, 2016 @ 2:12 am

Rand was a moron for running on his father’s coattails to office. He got the Senate seat right away, fresh off the apogee of his father’s popularity, and then came across as a typical politician sellout watering down the message to gain votes, but this was done on purpose. A real bona fide third party is needed and I fear that both Pauls were set up as useful idiots to derail any real opposition from happening, much like Trump is doing this go around. Ron was a nice grandfatherly type guy, who acted sort of aloof and goofy. His whiney voice also contributed to his lack of charisma/appeal, which made him out to look like a wimp, but he had a great message that appealed to the “silent” majority of GOP faithful who were getting increasingly pissed off with the status quo of the GOP Establishment. Remember Gary Johnson from 2012? No? I wouldn’t blame you if you did say no. When Fox banned him from the first debate, I knew the fix was in. Anybody that could actually pose a real threat to the GOP Establishment isn’t going to get any seat at the table or any press. Gary was forced to take the Libertarian Party nomination, thus destroying any chance for future GOP runs. I did not vote in 2012, nor will I ever bother voting again. The system is indeed rigged, and we will all be forced to go off the cliff when the time comes, unless people in the US grow some real spines and repeat 1776, but this time actually fight a REAL tyrannical govt. George III was a really mild tyrant compared to the morons in DC.

#24 Comment By Robert Bruce On February 7, 2016 @ 2:16 am

Americans have utter contempt for real liberty, as they don’t know what it is. Paraphrasing Goethe, “None are as helplessly enslaved as those who believe they are free”. That quote alone, describes any democratic nation to a tee.

#25 Comment By sps On February 7, 2016 @ 12:39 pm

“Rather it’s that libertarians are romantics. Right-wing libertarians prefer dreams of populist uprisings or systemic collapse to the unglamorous and frankly dirty work of politics and policy, while center-left and dead-center libertarians tend to be technocratic types who disdain association with conservatives of any stripe. Their fantasy is of a world that keeps naturally getting nicer through guiltless sex and global commerce. Ahh!”

Remove romance from politics and we would certainly be a lot poorer for it. No one supporting Ron in ’08 ’12 were under any illusion we angling for White House jobs. If so it would have never happened. We did so because we felt cause worth fighting for, polls be damned, and something which could have beneficial long-term effects. Love is crazy thing and makes you do crazy things as the romantics will tell you that’s why Ron’s efforts were crazy but wonderful none-the-less.

By contrast there was no love in Rand’s 2016 and thus no love was given. It was also obvious Rand had no love of the campaign trail. I heard too many stories of him simply leaving events early and not meeting with supporters afterwards, of him being stand-offish, even looking like he wished he he was someplace else. Look at the way he was dressed some of time It was probably enough for his aides just to get him out of bed for another church basement campaign stop in Iowa. If you wish to see a loveless politics, well there you go. Just follow Rand Paul. Go back to your medical practice if you really hate this stuff.

If romanticism ultimately didn’t work for the Ron Paul Revolution neither did realism either. Realism supposes one’s moderation has an appeal to those who like what you stand for but just wish you weren’t so yourself when you stand for it. This Ron couldn’t do but Rand was supposed to be the politician of the family. The one who was practical enough to turn the revolution into political power. Maybe the timing was wrong and events and others conspired to ruin this but campaigns are about the candidate and what they represent to the voters. And what Rand represented, people just did not like no matter what the reason. Much of that is on the candidate himself along with what turns out to be impractibilities.

Those things impractical are why trying to convert the “establishment” won’t work either. Shouldn’t the establishment be falling for a libertarian candidate who promised them to cut all their taxes, get rid of all the rules and regulations and pretty much let them get as rich as possible without any government in the way? So why not? Because they know that any society which allows their business to flourish doesn’t operate like that and it’s also not sellable to any sensible voters. “All Power to the Rich and the Stoned!” (some of whom are rich)is not winning political formula that they’ll waste their time indulging.

Any supposed ideology which has “Left” and “Right” wings is no ideology, it’s simply political factioning, nothing more. Such people could be united in a broad, cohesive, populistic political platform, which Paul proved could be done. I’m afraid however, it many have to be done independently of the two-party system. It would be one thing if Rand won a clear majority of the young in the Iowa caucuses. He didn’t even do that. The Paulites cannot put a claim on the GOP (much less the Democrats thanks to Bernie-mania) as an inheritance. Young evangelicals and blue collar worker aren’t buying in any more than their elders are. If there’s any talk of the mainstream it has to be a viable, mainstream LP, rather than the two major parties which well may be heading out of the mainstream themselves if they choose Trump or Sanders.

#26 Comment By g On February 7, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

What Dan missed:
1. The almost maniacal emphasis on the youth vote limited his reach especially in light of the Bernie Sanders effect.
2. Rand hated retail politics. You could literally see the effects as the campaign went along.