While I previously resolved to cease talking about the 2016 major party primary race, the broader phenomenon of the fate of the “Ron Paul Revolution” (sometimes past stylized as the love ‘R3volution’) in light of this year’s election warrants one more set of reflections. From the looks of it, Paul supporters have gone into a frenzy of acrimony over their next direction, in the wake of failure of the Rand Paul candidacy, compared to the success of the “outsiders” in attracting voters disaffected by the statist establishment controlled political system.
Some liberty activists are downright in shock over the support given by many paleo libertarians like Lew Rockwell, Justin Raimondo and even others in the grassroots in supporting Donald Trump following the Rand fiasco. They have declared such libertarians as “the enemy,” who never understood liberty, and are thus taking what’s left of the R3volution in exactly the wrong direction. Allow me to bottom line what has been happening, as I speak critically of the movement as one who was and is in it, converses with the community regularly, and who started one of the first five Paul meet-up groups in the country.
Circa 2007, the emerging Ron Paul candidacy coalesced around the grassroots liberty movement, and performed an amicable takeover in leading it while Ron was an available mainstream Presidential candidate. The movement had existed long before that, seeding the liberty and truth message for decades through the educational campaigns of the LP, CP, and the alternative or patriot media. Virtually all agreed upon Ron Paul as a unifying candidate based on his consistent voting record, distinguished image and credentials, as well as his ability to grow the base of liberty supporters (producing the harvest from the liberty seeding that had occurred prior). But, truth be said, we didn’t win a single primary in three tries, with either Paul. In football terms, we never got a single first down.
The Ron Paul movement is fragmenting because Ron (and Rand) Paul is no longer a candidate, not because paleolibs, the LP and other grassroots folks “never really understood” liberty. The truth is, Pauls are not the center of the liberty movement, they were simply the best vehicles the movement adopted for attempting to run a real liberty candidate for President within the major party system. It has also become evident that much of the support given to Paul was personality-cult driven, instead of being based on a long-term strategic commitment. In the wake of three failed national campaigns, two major dynamics driving those defeats have been identified: 1) the Pauls’ inability or unwillingness to build winning voting coalitions beyond the 5-10% liberty base, and 2) the institutional barriers set up by the special interest run establishment, who control the major parties and media.
The Paul movement has become divided because, post Paul, there is no agreement over, or ability to acknowledge, how to address the other, above two dynamics. And without a Paul being in the picture, there is no reasonable basis for continuing to center the liberty movement around the Paul movement, which was just a subset of it. So some voters we could have reached or retained have gravitated toward other elements, from the Tea Party to Occupy, to the outsider trend, that they perceive are engaging their concerns, and are confronting the elite establishment. To succeed going forward, we need candidates who stand for liberty, and who can/will put voting blocs together to win something, and who will confront the elite. Fixating on liberty positions alone, is not enough. We need to pursue a fuller or more correct strategic direction, not just the correct policy direction.
One of the surest lessons learned from the last three election cycles (for those willing to receive the message) is the institutional resistance to the liberty message has become well adapted to the threat posed by either Paul. As coldly stated well by the Architect establishment figure in the Matrix movies, “rest assured, this will be the sixth time we have destroyed it, and we have become exceedingly efficient at it.” The elite already knows how to rig the primary process of the regime to contain and defeat the Pauls, while installing their approved puppet as the nominee, as they demonstrated in 2008 and 2012. And they were already doing the same to Rand in the 2016 cycle, apart from Trump, via the tried and true methods—limiting media mentions of Rand, giving him the least debate time, subtly suppressing his poll numbers, etc.
The Unexpected, the Opportunity, and Denial
But something unexpected happened this time—the overcrowded GOP field caused people to seek out a different kind of candidate who stood out, as a matter of establishing a unique marketing position, that the media could not marginalize. The elite was so busy trying to crowd Rand out, that they overlooked that this situation might create an opening for another independent candidate. Meanwhile, on the undercrowded Democratic side, progressives actively sought (and found, in Sanders) a fresher message than that provided by the over-controlled press releases issued by Queen Hillary. Trump et al outsiders have come along, and totally defeated the elite’s attempt to get traction for this year’s approved puppets, namely Bush, Rubio and Walker, with Hillary getting past Sanders mainly because of a super delegate overloaded, or rigged system. The plan was obviously for Bush, Walker, or Rubio to throw the election to her, not for a loose cannon egotistic billionaire to knock all three of those stooges out of the race.
The resistance of many Paul supporters to welcoming this basic breakthrough confirms everything I and others have said, about the Revolution being fraught with cultism, and people being in denial. There has been an unfortunate tendency by admirers of Ron and Rand Paul to credit them, and only them for things achieved by the broader liberty movement, or for positive developments outside the movement. Accordingly, while Trump has specifically performed a lot of establishment disruption this past year, that Rand simply did not accomplish, the Revolution’s response has largely been, nah, “he didn’t do any of that.” So, was it Rand who drove Jeb and Marco out of the race? Was it Rand (not Trump) who got the elites to waste over $200 million trying to stop him? Rand who challenged PC for the last 9 months straight? Rand who disabled the Donors? Rand who connected with, and embraced the anti-establishment voters? This inability to give even partial credit to anybody unless their name is Paul, has helped kill the Paul movement. Strategic gains need to be recognized, no matter who helped bring them about.
Was the Movement Hijacked?
The Paul cultists nonetheless maintain that the voters who were attracted to the outsiders were ‘stolen’ from Paul, and that ‘the FrankenTrump Monster’ is opportunistically leading them down an anti-liberty path, as his method of hijacking the movement. But how can something be taken from you that you never owned? While candidates like Ted Cruz did try to cynically triangulate the liberty vote, it’s not as if it was unfair for him to try to engage it, in order to win more votes. If Rand doesn’t even own his base vote, that would go double for claiming the liberty side has exclusive dibs on the rest of the reachable GOP vote as well. So in fact, these blocs were not hijacked, they are voting groups the Pauls did not pursue, thus were abandoned or orphaned. We never had most of them to begin with, in order for them to be hijacked. The position that these voters cannot pursue other candidates without ‘abandoning’ liberty, is Paul-centric, and exclusively oriented around the issues, at a time when we are past the Paul candidacies, and now understand that emphasizing our core issues can grow the liberty base, but it cannot by itself create voting coalitions that win elections, nor displace the statist establishment.
The movement has been splintering because many are failing to move towards incorporating those other two dynamics. They remain stuck at being exclusively Paul and issue-centered, having learned nothing from the last three failed campaigns. Engaging coalition building and the anti-establishment voters is not going in the opposite direction, it’s about going in a liberty-building direction by not staying stuck in 2007, and acting like the 2008, 2012, and 2016 defeats didn’t happen. The three campaigns done by the Pauls suggest they are only capable of doing overly cautious, educative efforts that fail at or avoid engaging major voting blocs to build a winning coalition. They, and others following that model, will not be able to win and get in the White House. The only way I see Rand getting in the White House is by accepting the GOP nominee’s offer to be his running mate.
Why is this movement the only place in politics that thinks we can get into the White House, by avoiding gaining the confidence or support of most voters? Rand couldn’t ever become President based only on the liberty base, even if he hadn’t lost part of the base vote, due his compromising approach. He or whomever an eventual successful national liberty candidate turns out to be, has to build a winning coalition. Rand becoming Vice President, or put in a large position in the next Administration, would be helpful towards that end. If engaging or creating alliances with trends, demographics and voting blocs that aren’t libertarian is something the liberty base can’t live with, it simply means that base is not serious about winning, ever.
It’s not about our 5% base and beating up the other candidates, it’s about attracting more voters to us. It’s about connecting with them, not insulting them by bashing everything about the candidates who do connect with them. It’s not about the Rand following, or about viewing either Paul as the perpetual center of the liberty universe, it’s about reaching beyond the following to show the liberty approach engages the concerns of most voters. The inability of Rand (or much of the following) to do that is why his candidacy did not get a winning coalition of voters on his side.
So no, the outsiders of this election cycle are not hijackers, they are suppliers meeting the demand of the “liberty for all” marketplace. After three Paul defeats, that market ideally wants 1) progress in moving the country on “the direction of liberty,” not just more educational campaigns, 2) candidates who try to win, not just more educational campaigns, and 3) progress in busting up the establishment barriers to liberty, not just more educational campaigns.
Beyond the Base
The TP, OWS and the outsiders have actually had some success on points 2 and 3, whereas the Pauls did not. Moving the country in the direction of liberty requires addressing the strategic aspect, not just the liberty positions. If a person only wants to fixate on the latter, and ignore achieving anything on the strategic front, I invite people to join or rejoin the Libertarian Party. The LP runs educational campaigns all the time, to ensure it provides a real liberty option on the ballot, without regard for anything other than representing the true “direction of liberty,” position wise.
But the point behind the Paul movement was supposed to be getting such a candidate elected President, not just representing the 5-10% liberty base. That was the point behind supporting the candidate running within the major parties. But if the candidates could not succeed on both the position and strategic fronts (in building the coalition, and effectively taking on the elite), that didn’t eliminate the demand for somebody to succeed on those fronts. Demonizing everybody who has recognized the strategic progress being made by candidates and movements in those areas, is not productive. We can’t sell liberty for all if we don’t do outreach beyond the choir. Yet many Paulites have actually scolded me for “going in the wrong direction” for emphasizing anything other than conformity with the liberty agenda, when evaluating candidates.
Exactly how is talking about the liberty side winning elections and overcoming establishment barriers to liberty, going in the opposite direction? Only if one believes any consideration of advancing liberty that goes beyond its positions, is going “in the opposite direction of liberty.” That is, many think “the right direction” is to go on preaching to the choir, while demonizing anything else as being “anti-liberty.” That’s not merely disagreeing about strategy, that is having no strategy. It’s another manifestation of the binary mindset that refuses to to acknowledge the usefulness of strategic campaigns or trends for the movement. Instead, we should stay on target about the three things the liberty movement must do to make advances, (promote liberty positions, win elections, confront the establishment). Many people are stuck at just the first part.
Strategic candidacies who are not in our camp ideologically, but did reach out to voting blocs as we should have done, indirectly help the movement by showing us how to do likewise. Where they have successfully taken on the elite and MSM while we have not, they have set the stage for us to benefit in later cycles. Adding those strategic aspects is what will advance liberty politically, whereas only dwelling on our positions while calling that “a direction,” will not.
From Here to Victory, Eventually
Rand got just a third of the votes in Iowa, compared to Ron in 2012. The candidate and the strategy must be held at least somewhat accountable in light of those results. The truth is, both Pauls made mistakes that limited their appeal and ability to get the public to embrace liberty, so after three campaigns, it has been reasonable for supporters to notice this. Clearly the attempt to rhetorically finesse foreign policy issues needed to be tried, but having now been tried, it is also clear that it made no difference, as the base vote has not been expanded, by way of building winning coalitions. Future national liberty candidacies should proceed on a “back to principle” basis of presenting the views as clearly and openly as Ron did it in 2008 and 2012.
The failure of the Paul Revolution, again, has much to do with the personality cult surrounding the Pauls displayed by many of its supporters, which may have been more important to them in the end, than advancing liberty. Frankly, those supporters are only “pro-liberty” if it looks like, talks like, or behaves exactly like the Pauls—genteel, dryly rational, professorial. If progress towards the cause comes in any other form, like a brassy sounding talk show host, or a blue collar sounding, confident business leader, they call it “the enemy.”
Donald Trump is not libertarian, but his candidacy (as I have previously said) represents progress towards the cause of liberty by scuttling the elite’s kingmaker system that has prevented alternative candidates from getting the Presidential nomination of a major party for at least 36 years. Liberty candidates cannot get into the White House until that elite-controlled, approved insider puppets system is disrupted. In Star Wars terms, we have to disable the tractor beam, to escape the Death Star. Voters are leaning towards Trump not because his views are vague or even coherent, but because his resolve is convincing, and not controlled by mega-donors.
The GOP rank and file and public is frustrated with campaigns that have had the right positions for decades, but then caved or utterly failed to enact them once elected. The anti-establishment trend that Trump rode to first place with is thematically pro-liberty, as it confronts the statist/PC mainstream, shows resolve or backbone against it under pressure, and prioritizes American cultural or domestic issues, over war issues and internationalism. This outsider dynamic can serve as a battering ram to knock down the establishment-dominated primary racket, and once knocked down will bring more liberty candidates into office over the long term.
Poll Projections, vs Voter Data Based Projections
With that said, here’s my 2016 election prediction. First, let’s dispose of the obsession with early polling (the preponderance of which currently show Trump losing to Hillary). Polls done during the primary season, covering opinion 5-15 months prior to the fall election race, are historically meaningless. The preponderance of polls at this point or earlier in the 2012 cycle had Obama losing to Romney or the other GOP front runners. Most polls had Reagan losing to Carter at this point in the ’80 election year, and even had GHW Bush trailing Dukakis by double digits during the summer of ’88, etc.
Here is a forgotten point lost in all the fretting about polling data. Front runners are typically being protected and bolstered at this point in the primary season, such that their popularity in the later primaries creates a falsely inflated impression about their strength as candidates. Trump has been getting votes, by contrast, despite an ongoing massive negative campaign against him by party donors and leaders. Primary turnout may be smaller than the election turnout, but is a much more reliable index of voter intent and turnout than polls, since it provides actual voter behavior data, not poll projections about voter behavior. The BIG trend about this cycle is:
Republican turnout is UP by 60%, Democratic turnout is DOWN by 20%.
Note that the higher GOP turnout is largely being driven by the Trump phenomenon, despite his negatives, and despite active elite opposition to him. Lower Democratic turnout is largely being driven by tepid support for Hillary due to her negatives, despite widespread protection of her by the establishment. Obama (65.9 million) beat Romney (60.9 million) by 5 million votes in 2012. Using the 2012 election result numbers as a baseline, if we conservatively project from the actual primary voting data that the primary turnout trend will be at least 20% reflected in the election results, pro-GOP turnout should be up by 12%, and pro-Democratic turnout will be down by 4%. Do the math:
Republican/Trump: 60,933,500 votes, plus 12% (7,312,020) = 68,245,520 votes in 2016
Democrat/Hillary: 65,915,706 votes, minus 4% (2,636,632) = 63,278,960 votes in 2016
By this actual voter behavior data driven estimate, Trump will beat Hillary by 5 million votes.
The key to this being the most accurate projection, is having the ability to critically compare or counter interpret data. When I was at the Harris poll, it was emphasized that collecting or compiling the data was just one aspect of determining public sentiment–you have weigh it, and note what NET outcome it is driving as well. There is no such thing as a monolithic “higher turnout,” it is usually higher for one party than another depending on the year or the state.
The record rally crowds and voter waiting lines for Trump have largely been in competitive states, suggesting a net vote gain for Trump, not for Hillary. There is no voter data suggesting a comparable vote energized for Hillary in those states. Hillary’s turnout problem is compounded by several polls that indicate 33% of Sanders supporters will not vote for Clinton if she wins the nomination. Even if the residual turnout effect was reduced to 15% (resulting in a 9% higher turnout for the GOP candidate and 3% reduced turnout for the Democratic candidate), Trump still wins the popular vote over Hillary by 2.5 million votes.
Far more people are energized to vote for Trump than against him, from the actual voter behavior demonstrated this year. Most of the Latino vote and strongest anti-Trump sentiment is in well established Democratic states, or else states firmly locked in the red or blue column regardless, thus is mostly not a factor. From all this, I expect a strong enough popular vote for Trump to result in a electoral vote victory (e.g., via the GOP re-acquiring Florida, Virginia, and Ohio). That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.