If Rand Paul had ever had the juice behind his presidential bid that Donald Trump had and then failed to perform I’d label his departure from the 2016 race a flameout. However in this case, as in many libertarian efforts in the past, it’s really just another fizzle. An analysis of Rand Paul’s political fortunes shows that he has been consistently mired in single digit support levels or low double digits at best. This can be verified by an analysis of the data in RealClear Politics and PollingReport.com going back to the beginning of the 2016 presidential campaign, referenced below.
Every time Americans become disillusioned or disenchanted with government, particularly the concept of “big” government, the country’s Libertarians seem to pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain touting their well worn, stock critique about how we currently govern ourselves. Every time this happens more than a few politicians suddenly voice support for Libertarian ideas, say that they are devotees of Ayn Rand or that they subscribe to the ideas of the Mises Institute with its the Austrian school of economics and libertarian political theory. Conservative media grabs onto the new found enthusiasm for Libertarian ideas with headline stories or an interview of some small band of college Libertarians who, like Pope Urban the Second, proclaim that we are on the verge of a great crusade to free people from the serfdom of modern government, one which will take us back to the realm of the unencumbered “noble savage’ who is free to do as he pleases, the public be damned. And every time, as in the past, this passing flirtation with Libertarianism fades as the dynamics of the American political process plays itself out. What is noteworthy about this latest Libertarian fizzle is that even during a time of great turmoil in the American political life where so many are searching for something new or revolutionary, the ideas of our current Libertarian standard bearer have been trampled underfoot in the melee of the 2016 presidential contest, left to bleed out on the field of political battle and largely ignored.
As I have pointed out in the past, in the great scheme of things, there are just not that many libertarians in America and the very life blood of the “movement’ is a function of a few zealous billionaires who prop up Libertarianism. Citing the article below, ”Where Have all the Libertarian’s Gone?”: “… how is it we have over sixty five Libertarian organizations afloat in the body politic according to Wikipedia? The Stason Organization lists 11 “Major Libertarian Organizations” and 33 “Think Tanks”. But this begs the question: Why so many organizations for just over a half of a million voters, or less than one half of one percent of the voting public? It seems a bit fishy to me that we have all of these “Libertarian” organizations in a country that seems to have so few Libertarians. If we have so few Libertarians, then where does the cash that fuels all of these “Libertarian” organizations come from? After all it would be pretty hard to fund this large number of organizations out of the pockets of just 0.4% of the voting public. Could it be that these “Libertarian” organizations are propped up by those with a specific agenda and deep pockets or do these 523,686 voters just all happen to be billionaires?” Likewise as I pointed out in “Have Libertarians Forgotten the Republican Primaries? “: “First, if Libertarian ideas are so compelling, how come Libertarians garner such a small portion of actual votes during major electoral campaigns? Secondly, if Libertarians command such low voting totals, how is it that there is such a disproportionate number of Libertarian organizations and who is putting up the money to support them?”
The bottom line, to my mind is this, the American political landscape just isn’t fertile soil for the ideas that Libertarian movement puts forth. As is the case with Marxism, America just isn’t the kind of place that Libertarian ideas can take root and flourish to the point that it can sustain and propel a major political movement. Like Marxism, Libertarianism is a sidebar topic in American political life, a side show to the big show if you like.
Steven J. Gulitti