As liberty conservatives pick up the pieces from Rand Paul’s failed presidential campaign, it is important to consider the psychology behind his disappointing showing. What was really going on in Rand’s head as it all fell to pieces? While examining Rand’s meteoric rise to senatorial power, one occurrence stands out as being particularly impactful: the infamous hit-piece conducted by Rachel Maddow on Rand back in 2010.
Although it did not make any short-term negative impact, that exchange may have changed the trajectory of Rand’s entire political career. By becoming too focused on the mainstream media and their narratives, Rand lost touch with the conservative and libertarian grassroots and what they were looking for from a leader. Let’s explore this topic, and what could have circled through Rand’s mind as his prospects for the presidency slipped away.
Back in 2010, the tea party had just arrived on the scene and was already shaking things up. Populist enraged right-wing politics were born anew, and the libertarian-leaning Rand Paul was seemingly its prime benefactor. He originally ran as a long-shot candidate for the Senate after his father’s 2008 campaign for president garnered a surprising amount of enthusiasm. Instead of receiving tepid support, Rand was greeted by massive crowds throughout the state of Kentucky as a movement continued to build spontaneously around him, destined to boost him into power.
It was a time of unprecedented and shocking gains for the liberty movement, but it did not come without hiccups. One such hiccup came from the corporate media’s most villainous Feminazi, Rachel Maddow. During the Bush years, Maddow had posed as an independent-minded reformer concerned with the excesses of American foreign policy. Even during the first year of the Obama administration, she had kept up the veneer of this facade. Due to his naiveté, Rand mistook her for an ally and appeared on her show frequently.
After he crushed his establishment competitor in the GOP primary, Maddow stabbed Rand in the back and ambushed him in an attempt to destroy his career. The cringe-inducing clips can be found here:
After this interview, every mainstream media hack piled on in a desperate attempt to ruin Rand Paul and the populist tea party revolution he represented. Thankfully, it backfired spectacularly. It turned out that Kentucky voters cared more about things that were relevant in the present day rather than issues that were settled five decades prior. The move also endeared Rand Paul to conservative Republicans just as they were getting to know him. The attempted assassination of Rand’s character by the liberal media demonstrated that he was the hero and leader they were looking for.
Although it was infuriating beyond belief to watch Rand take such a beating, it was clear that he was a huge threat to the status quo. He was making waves, pushing back against the political establishment of both parties, and the momentum was building. The way the entire situation played out set the stage perfectly for Rand to re-position his father’s long-stated positions as the foundation for the new and improved Republican Party. Maddow was put into her lowly place, as the situation showed that she had no power to do anything but whine and cry on some low-rated TV show.
Three years later, the situation had progressed quite nicely. Rand Paul made national headlines with his heroic filibuster regarding drones, an incredibly important but under-reported threat to our privacy rights. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign was much larger than his previous campaign, and many liberty activists were funneled into the GOP mix as a direct result. Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Thomas Massie and Rep. Justin Amash, among others, joined Rand as backup in Capitol Hill. We were poised to take the next step, and seize the GOP nomination in 2016 with Rand as our standard-bearer.
Then it all fell to pieces, leaving all of Rand’s supporters to wonder: what exactly happened?
Learning All the Wrong Lessons
Although Maddow’s sorry stunt backfired, she may have been able to get into Rand’s head. Her attacks, although initially ineffective, must have planted the seed in Rand’s head that he was going to be attacked as a racist. He figured that he would be attacked along those lines for certain once he ran for president. As a result, he released a much more PC-friendly message than his father on the campaign trail. Although his substance was solid for the most part, the style undoubtedly turned a lot of people off.
Rand focused obsessively on issues such as criminal justice reform, restoring voting rights for felons, and scaling back the war on drugs. These issues are certainly important, but they aren’t going to get a candidate through a GOP primary. Rand was hoping that these issues would get young people jazzed behind him, but it turns out they didn’t care very much about the issues and just wanted freebies instead. Thus, they turned to Bernie and his false promises. Minority voters may have listened, but ultimately Rand’s pandering wasn’t enough to move very many of them over to his side.
From Rand eschewing a golden opportunity to fight gun control so he could throw the Confederate Flag under the bus, to the infamous photo-op with Al Sharpton, Rand committed many blunders in his efforts to look tolerant that alienated his base. The fact that he would talk about expanding voting rights incessantly while never quite saying he would end the Fed or end the wars felt like a betrayal to many Ron Paul fanatics. Rand may have been playing the “long game”, but his overly nuanced strategy ultimately bit him. No matter how you slice it, Rand’s campaign persona left a lot to be desired.
Squandering the Populist Wave
While Rand was clearly concerned with the perception of the Rachel Maddows of the world, there was a candidate who took the polar opposite approach – that candidate’s name was Donald Trump. While Trump’s policies obviously leave a lot to be desired from a liberty perspective, his uncanny ability to read the public and tap into their anger cannot be denied. He looked at a situation with a lot of angry, pissed off right wingers who were being neglected by their political leaders, and he capitalized on it with amazing effectiveness.
I have observed a dismaying trend of individuals praising Rand for being a failure because he didn’t stoop to Trump’s level. Because he took the high road, they argue, we should be happy that we were upstaged and pummeled. These folks, out of desperation, have made being a loser into some kind of a virtue. I have seen many of these folks become Hillary Clinton’s attack dogs because they are so sore over Trump’s success – they are carrying the water for a war criminal out of spite, and regurgitating mainstream media propaganda at every turn. Rand’s long-time media surrogate Jack Hunter has officially become a mainstream media hack as well, taking a job as a drivel merchant for the Daily Beast, which is not a good sign.
Another sad consequence of Rand’s failure is that the DNA of the liberty movement has been changed, and not in a good way. The bold, passionate, patriotic, liberty-loving folks who created the Ron Paul revolution are but a distant memory. Rand and his handlers thought those guys were too extreme so they had to go. They’ve been replaced by a bunch of greenhorns who know woefully little about the cause of liberty. They arrogantly proclaim the supremacy of an inclusive brand of libertarianism that, while failing to ever grow the movement, gives them a feeling of smug self-satisfaction in lieu of actual results. The influx of these pious, squishy, egalitarian excuse-makers has facilitated an intellectual and moral decay within the liberty movement, and Rand’s dismal campaign strategy has contributed greatly to this unfortunate phenomenon.
Moving Forward From Here
The bottom line is that Rand needs to find his stones the next time he runs for President. Pussy-footing around didn’t cut it. Playing to the mainstream media and political establishment, even if it was just for show, didn’t cut it. The grassroots need some red meat to keep them engaged. They need something inspirational, radical, and revolutionary. Pouring cold water on them repeatedly, and taking their enthusiastic support for granted was an exceptionally unwise course of action for Rand to take. Trump did things differently, and it paid off.
We can either learn from the state of affairs, or cry while our movement fizzles out into oblivion. Sorry to burst the bubble of the pie-in-the-sky libertarians out there, but getting back to liberty is going to mean getting your hands dirty. It isn’t all about glad-handing, going to irrelevant conferences, stroking your ego, and waxing philosophically about minutia. If that’s the movement you want to be in, have fun on the sidelines. There are plenty of organizations that you can join to suit your desire to accomplish nothing substantial.
For those of us ready to get serious, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and do what is necessary to use this populist anger to our advantage. It is not going to be a bunch of hippies holding hands signing Kumbaya in drum circles that will tear at the heart of state power. It is going to be fightin’ mad individuals sparking passions, rousing rabble, and spurring confrontations that will ultimately achieve our noble ends. Rand must learn from his mistakes, find his pre-2014 mojo, and demystify himself from Maddow’s feminist Jedi Mind Tricks to become the hardcore leader that the liberty movement needs in the years to come. Rand has earned another chance, but if he comes out as weak as he did this year, it is time to officially turn the page on Rand Paul as the leader of the liberty movement forevermore.