Understandably, we liberty-minded folks are depressed about Rand Paul having to suspend his campaign in the Republican primary. He represented our best shot at reshaping the Republican Party in our image and having a liberty-minded president by 2017.
However, it’s important not to lose perspective. We may have lost this battle, but we’re still winning the war. We can still win this. Time is on our side.
The United States is still trending libertarian. Not in policy, but in the opinions held by the majority of people. Trust in government has reached historic lows. New technologies and cultural phenomena, ranging from social media, to 3D printing, to Kickstarter, to Uber are continually decentralizing our society and empowering individuals to create and be heard. People have more powerful ways than ever before of becoming politically informed.
The evidence of the effect this decentralization has upon our society is evident in the difference between Rand Paul’s supporters and everyone else. Rand Paul’s supporters are some of the most vocal political advocates on social media. Paul has more Facebook likes than Cruz or Rubio, and he was a consistent winner in online polls not yet “adjusted” for demographics. In Iowa, Paul won 13% of the under-age-40 vote, but only 2% of everyone else. The divide here is clearly between the young and those too old to adjust to new technologies.
The way in which Rand Paul was sidelined in the GOP primary makes it very clear that the Republican Party cannot be a vessel for anything radically new. This party is overwhelmingly dominated by the elderly, the hateful, and the out-of-touch. Indeed, Ted Cruz’s message appeals to their base more than Rand Paul’s because of how similar it is to Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric. The reason these two win in the Republican Party is the same reason they cannot win the general public. Remember, the goal is not to keep the Republicans in power, regardless of how badly they mistreat us! If the Republicans want our votes, they have to earn it by nominating a real libertarian, like Rand Paul. If Cruz becomes president, a real libertarian has no shot in that party until 2024 at the earliest!
For Liberty to truly succeed, we need to build a new coalition, not burdened by Republican baggage. Any attempt to compromise our values in order to gain more supporters will only be seen as “selling out.” The Democratic Party works because it is united around a single principle: Government should have an active role in improving our lives. We need to build a party round the principle that we’re better off when the government leaves us alone. There is an existing party that is united around this principle:
The Libertarian Party.
If the trends are ever in our favor, then why hasn’t the Libertarian Party even come close to winning a major election yet? Well, it’s because of the “lesser of two evils” hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that even if we agree with a 3rd party more, we always have to vote for one of the two major parties, because they’re the only ones who have a chance of winning, and it’s better to vote for the lesser evil than “throw away your vote” on a 3rd party. However, your odds of swinging an election between the two giants are astronomically small. For your vote for the Democrats or the Republicans to truly matter in a presidential election, you would have to live in a purple state, that purple state would have to swing on a single vote, and the electoral college would have to swing on that one state. Your vote truly doesn’t matter.
That is, unless you vote 3rd party. You see, 3rd parties desperately need each and every vote they can get. For the Libertarian Party, every vote has a significant chance of pushing them above the symbolic 1% threshold. Every vote pushes them ever closer to the 5% they would need to be included in the national debates. Every vote gives them a higher chance of being declared a “spoiler” for one of the two major parties.
But if we “spoil” the election, isn’t that a bad thing? Well that depends…is media attention a bad thing for a young, unknown political party trying to break out?
We can learn something from Donald Trump’s unexpected success. He broke out in the Republican primary by harnessing the “outrage factories” inherent in some of our new forms of media. By saying obviously outrageous things, he ensured that people rushing to express their hatred for him would dominate every single second of airtime in the political coverage around the country (and indeed, even around the world to some extent). When you’re trying to make a name in politics, as in show business, no publicity is bad publicity.
So here’s how we win:
- Support the Libertarian Party.
- The Libertarian Party starts looking like a spoiler in the polls.
- The Republicans, outraged at their potential loss, complain about the Libertarian Party.
- Stand strong! Give no ground! Let everyone know that the Liberty Coalition resides within the Libertarian Party. They can join it, but we’re not leaving it.
- Impressed by the unshakable principles of the Libertarian Party, more than 5% of voters begin supporting them.
- Mostly so the other parties can try to knock us down and steal our voters, the Libertarian Party is allowed in the national debates for the first time.
- The major parties’ scheme backfires.
- The Libertarian Party surpasses the Republicans in support.
- A national political realignment occurs, in which voters are divided by whether they are libertarian or authoritarian, rather than “liberal” or “conservative.”
- The Libertarian Party wins.
There’s no telling how much of this can be accomplished within the time frame of a single election campaign. But no matter how long it takes, remember that our movement is a growing flame, and we can no longer be ignored. As said by Mahatma Gandhi:
First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.