Libertarian elitism is something that truly annoys me, but it really shows itself when we have these Rand Paul vs. Ron Paul discussions during our current election cycle. Do not get me wrong, it isn’t completely absurd that someone would compare a man to his father. But if one is alluding to an expectation that Rand is supposed to be exactly like Ron Paul at this point in his political career, it is a very silly and unrealistic conversation to have.
Early Congressional Careers
Ron Paul is a very prominent figure for the liberty movement and there’s no denying that. Being from Texas, I had the opportunity to experience his impact firsthand. But where exactly was Ron Paul in the early stages of his political career?
Ron entered the world of politics in the 70s, losing his first first couple of elections and eventually winning the nomination to represent the 22nd district of Texas in the House of Representatives. Ron was about 40 years of age when he was first elected. He unleashed his inner Murray Rothbard by voicing his criticisms of the Federal Reserve and starting the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education. By the end of his initial tenure in the House, Ron was around 50 years of age, had began his political relationship with the Koch brothers, and made it very clear which issues he would champion for the next three decades. But he was not yet the Ron Paul we know of today, with enormous popularity among libertarians or libertarian leaning individuals.
Though Rand was very active in campaigning for his father and venturing into other liberty-oriented efforts, he did not enter congress as a member of the Senate until 2011. He’s only been a member of congress for 5 years. He was almost a decade older than his father when he first became a member of congress; but Rand is just getting started.
There are, however, some similarities and differences we can document. Ron’s first years in congress seemed to focus on issues from an economic standpoint. Rand has as well, but he seems to be more lively about government intrusion on privacy as well as foreign relations. For example, he is known for his 12 hour filibuster in opposition to drone usage. He was also vocal about our military’s interference with Syria’s civil war. Many of the bills he has introduced and sponsored have been a mixed bag of military, economic, and privacy issues. He’s attempted to Audit the Pentagon, Audit the Fed (much like his father), and he has opposed the Patriot Act. But he has also sponsored bills such as the Economic Freedom Zones Act, which would lower taxes and prohibit certain federal involvement in economically distressed areas. Some of the bills he’s sponsored have highlighted his efforts to change how the federal government treats who they look at as criminals. He’s wanted to secure voting rights for non-violent felons that are released from incarceration and prevent unreasonable criminal punishments.
Not to mention, by his 4th year in congress he declared a run for presidency.
Rand Paul is running for president and this seems to be the reason people are highly critical of him. The fact that Ron Paul ran for president just 4 years ago makes it easier to talk about the comparisons. But unless we actually take a look at Ron’s career, which spans 40 years, the comparison will always be unfair or off-base. People seem to get selective amnesia; forgetting that Ron Paul has ran for president on 3 different occasions. The ironic thing being both ran for president at the age of 53.
In 1984, Ron did not seek re-election in the House and decided to run for the Senate, losing in the primaries. He then left the Republican Party and ran for president under the Libertarian Party a few years later. He didn’t even receive 1% of the national vote, but he did make note that this was more about getting the message of liberty out, rather than winning the election. As a full blown libertarian, we started to see Ron become the Ron we know and love today as he spoke about abolishing federal income tax and getting the government out of our lives. Like critics do with Rand today, they called him an isolationalist.
But during the decade in which he had been a politician, the goal was to spread his message, and he was successful in doing so.
Ron went back to the Republican Party in 1997. It wasn’t because he felt the need to drop his core beliefs, but because of the reality. The Republican Party is one of our two political parties that have a virtual monopoly. No matter how much we dislike it, this is the harsh reality. And of those two political monopolies, the Republican Party is the one more likely nominate a libertarian. Though libertarian elitist despise it, we are not doing ourselves any favors but not utilizing their party and platform to spread the libertarian message.
Ron used that platform; eventually running for president in 2008. There were only 8 candidates in the race heading into the primaries then and it’ll be interesting to see if and when any of the 12 still-standing Republicans withdraw. In January of 2012, Ron placed 5th in the Iowa caucus. Only time will tell where Rand will end up, but how can one suggest that Ron’s presidential efforts were more successful than Rand’s? Ron Paul first ran for president as a 10 year political vet. He ran a 2nd and 3rd time over 30 years after his first congressional position and he didn’t have a sensationalized Donald Trump to combat.
But here we are, trying to define success by comparing someone that’s 30-plus years into the game with someone who is a 5-year rookie. That’s almost the equivalent of expecting a 2008 Lebron James (23 years old, 5 years pro, 4 all stars, and 0 championship rings) to have the career accolades and developed game of a 1998 Michael Jordan (35 years of age, 14 years pro, 14 all stars, and 6 championship rings).
Is The Objective to Spread Liberty?
I am not suggesting that Rand has ran a perfect campaign. I’m not saying that he should be immune to criticism. I’m not even suggesting that it is completely incompetent to make note of similarities and differences between father and son. I’m simply suggesting that it is childish to criticize someone’s legitimacy because they do or do not follow in the exact footsteps of their father; especially when that father is an icon that has done 40 years of work. Rand Paul’s popularity could partly be attributed to who his father is, but that still doesn’t mean it is fair or just to knock his participation in the liberty movement. The man himself, Dr. Ron Paul, has endorsed Rand Paul.
I’ve noticed most of this criticism comes from the libertarians who think that it’s only one way to be a libertarian (their way) and all other forms are illegitimate. The AnCaps, many of which are fond of Ron Paul and his associate Lew Rockwell, reject Rand because he’s a politician and not as aggressive as Ron. They tend to think he should be going up on stage preaching about abolishing the state and the non-aggression principle, as if that’s going to win him the election.
Then there are the minarchists who think Ron Paul is a God and the exception. So either Rand should be doing exactly what a veteran Ron did, or he shouldn’t be running as a Republican. And they think Rand’s lower poll numbers are because he tries to pander to the Republican Party. You’d think, by the way the talk, that Ron won the Republican nomination or was even top 3 in the Republican primaries.
But this is one of many conversations that we have that are diametrically opposed to the liberty movement. No matter where you are at, it is very clear that Rand Paul is the libertarian-leaning candidate of the two political monopolies. In the debates, this is night and day when you compare his responses to the others. You can look on other leftist media outlets (MSNBC, Huffington Post, NowThis, etc.) and you can see that people who normally would never vote anything other than Democrat are somewhat fond of Rand Paul. And rather than using this opportunity to spread our message, we are having a conversation about why and how he isn’t exactly like you want him to be. I’m beginning to think that the objective is not to spread liberty, but to rather show how you feel– as if your style is THE style and all those that speak on behalf of the movement should be less like themselves and more like you and your colleagues. Elitism.
Rand Paul is not a perfect person and there are things I completely disagree with him on. But he does spread the message of liberty and as you saw recently in the Fox Business debate (with his lack of participation), he is light years ahead of his counterparts and a far different candidate. There is no rule that states we can’t support him and also support others’ efforts. Rand is not the enemy, and honestly we are not winning the battle in spreading our message. Many Millennials lean far-left and you can see that in their growing support for Bernie Sanders. The Rand vs. Ron conversations are just one of many silly conversations and bickering that goes on between libertarians.
I’m an ancap who doesn’t want the government to even exist, but I don’t hate Rand or Ron. Ron was an individual that lead me to the work or Murray Rothbard. And Ron just so happens to have a son who’s in position to spread the message of liberty, which he does. He’s influenced by libertarians and leans libertarian far more than any other Republican or Democrat presidential hopeful. I don’t have to endorse him, but I’m not helping this movement by taking stabs at him because he’s not exactly like his father; who is much older and much more experienced.
You are free to support whomever you want, but it’s hard to believe you really want to spread liberty if you spend more time spewing your disgust for Rand Paul on unjust and unfair premises than you do spreading the actual message on your own. There are hundreds of politicians and supporters who openly want to expand government and you’re making enemy of the one that wants to dissolve it? Because he doesn’t mimic his father?
If you ask me, that’s pretty corny.