Filling The Gap: Marketing Libertarianism in a Post-Ron Paul Era

Gaps are to be filled, whether the void be filled by something stronger, weaker, or more of the same is the only question at hand. Thanks to the Liberty Report, Ron Paul’s departure from politics hasn’t kept him silent. While the Liberty Report continues to give him a platform to stand on, it feels as though he now speaks to us from a distance; as if he sits – patiently waiting – for someone to pick up the flame he ignited in the hearts of the liberty revolution from 2008 to 2012.

With disappointment, we watched as Ron’s son failed to rally the same momentum as his father. It could be suggested that Rand’s shortcomings were due to his pragmatic dialogue that failed to resonate with many of the libertarians who expected more from the son of the man who revitalized the liberty movement.

Today we see a divided liberty movement scrambling for an identity. Everyone is gravitating towards the advocate whose characteristics reflect those which they found most endearing in Congressman Paul. The Goldwater conservatives are relating to Rand’s desire to right the ship in the GOP, walking the tightrope between pragmatic dialogue and voting in line with the principles be believes in. An-Caps found a leader in the cyber security pioneer with the rock star persona; the eccentric John McAfee developed a strong following in a short time because of the sincerity to which he spoke about his desire for expanding freedom resonated. Former Freedom Watch producer and owner of the Libertarian Republic – Austin Petersen – captured the youth movement by advocating constitutional principles and highlighting the marketing inefficiencies of the liberty movement. The 2012 LP president, Gary Johnson found his support in the form of the party’s establishment and the moderates of the party who value mainstream credibility.

In the end, Gary’s credentials and history with the LP prevailed, leaving a schism in the movement. In fairness, that schism likely would have been – more or less – as prevalent with any of the other candidates in the running. The one advantage collectivists can boast over individualists is of a political nature. This advantage is of the most unfortunate nature for us individualists, as collectivists will rationalize uniting for the “common good”. We on the other hand understand that there is no “common good”, only the good of individual’s freedom to pursue their own interests. There’s more to this story though, what we lack in camaraderie we more than make up for in our ability to use logic and reason. Self-reflection is the key to improvement. If you understand your strengths & weaknesses, you can then turn them into opportunities. We have already mentioned our strength – our capacity for logic and reason – but we have not been using it to our advantage. Sure, we can talk economics, philosophy or about natural law, but what about applying that logic to salesmanship and marketing? Acknowledging problems with the libertarian movement is one thing, planning and adapting our strategy for success is how we do something about it. I propose the following guidelines to assist meeting our goals to promote a more peaceful and prosperous society.

Rule number one, know your clientele – 

We have two demographics that need to be on board in order to advance our cause in the political sphere; the core market, and the target market. Uniting our diverse core market is a prerequisite to having any meaningful success in advancing our message in either a political or an educational manner. The core is our grass-root support; more significantly, they are the disciples of our movement. As the disciples, the core is not only necessary to convert our target market, they are also the only equipped to do so. Without the entirety of the core united, the movement cuts itself at the knees by losing one of its largest advantages over the collectivists who have the mainstream media as well as the funding from crony capitalists. From this we can deduce two significant strategies for succeeding at on inspiring the core.

Firstly, we have established that we must appeal to the common denominator of the core market before attempting to expand the movement to the target market (target market being those who may empathize with our cause of shrinking government, but don’t fully understand or have complete ideological buy-in). The common denominator is the notion that government must be shrunk. Deviation from this core notion creates decisiveness which is not conducive to success (no matter who right you may be). This is not to suggest that we must restrain from calling a spade a spade, but only that harping on the disagreements takes away the synergy created by our uniting common denominator. The second deduction is that it follows logically and necessarily that if we are to court the core market, we must prioritize education over political aspirations. Here’s why.

Rule number two, put education as your main goal and political achievement will follow –

Placing politics above education is perceived as disingenuous relative to the inverse. This does not imply that we are to ignore our political goals – proportions should be taken into consideration – but in situations where a great degree of both are not attainable, we should place greater emphasis on spreading the message. This is true not only in the effort to meeting our end goal, but is also generally a prerequisite to inspire and unite the core market. Education in itself is not an easy feat; as touched on earlier, individualists tend to have a diverse understanding of how to properly apply the principles in a society that is (and/or feels) increasingly dependent on government as a solution. With the variations of opinion from the moderates, to the anarchists – and everything in between – our struggle comes down to our ability to adhere to the principles that all libertarian subsets – of both pragmatic and purist nature – agree on. Educating based on this commonality will initiate the unification process required to achieve our political aspirations. Once we are able to project our movement in a unified manner predicated on principled education, we will again see real growth that translates to increased disciples, which translates to an increase in effort going after the target market.

Rule number three, treat the target market like a best friend who’s pouring their heart out to you –

The target market similarly requires a simplistic, common denominator based education platform. With the main difference being the target market requires a greater degree of empathy and active listening. Treating the target market as you would treat a best friend who’s pouring their heart out to you is a good way to think about converting the target market. Few if any would find themselves being brash or assertive under such circumstances. Most would sit back, actively listen, allow their friend to vent, and then begin prying into the cause of the problems/how to fix them. Empathy is required in greater excess to the target market because they are not necessarily starting with similar preconceived notions of truth and justice as you expect to find among the different sects of the core market.

The target market’s general lack of understanding of concepts such as natural rights and the economic conditions necessary to cultivate economic prosperity, creates a challenge for us. As the salesman of our philosophy, we have to be ready to anticipate their needs as unique individuals. Anyone in the target market willing to listen to you is doing so because they want to vent and/or are curious if you to be able to alleviate their concerns in a manner they find satisfactory. In order for you to help them, they must first be willing to hear you out with an open mind; doing this requires the skill of quickly building rapport. Rapport building is significantly more attainable when the prospective target believes you have thoroughly listened to their concerns and empathize with their cause. The other factor prudent to building rapport with the prospect is to be trustworthy; this is achieved through being sincere and honest.

Rule number four, tell the truth –

While big time sellout politicians can lie through their teeth day and night without a drop in the polls, libertarians do not have the same resources to do so; more importantly though, we shouldn’t have to. Politicians are generally not trusted by the target market (rightfully so), therefore without the mainstream media on our side – or endless piles of cash to fund spin ads – getting trapped up in lies is one of our biggest potential weaknesses. Luckily, with proper planning and execution, it can also be used as an opportunity. We would be at a serious disadvantage if caught being dishonest, but if there’s nothing to lie about you will be in the perfect position to be a beacon of light on a shady street. Being honest and trustworthy goes a long way in an occupation where virtually everyone assumes lying to be the rule, not the exception. We have seen that the public will be very quick to rationalize – even against logic and reason – if they believe your intentions pure and your words true (usually even if not). Be courageously and apologetically honest; that way, even if the target market disagrees with portions of what you say, they will still believe your desire to do right by them. This all is of course provided they can agree with you on some level, and that they find your authoritarian opponent to be another disingenuous politician; meeting those standards will create a great advantage.

I do not believe principle and pragmatism are on opposite spectrums. I believe we can speak the whole truth about the principles of liberty, while still negotiating from a place of strength towards compromising efforts towards that goal. We must be united in our effort to present our message with pure principles; but we must allow our actions to be such that we are willing to take what we can get, then come back tomorrow demanding more. It is only with this mindset that the liberty movement can recapture and build upon the strides taken by Ron Paul. The next four years are likely to be a bumpy road for liberty lovers. Let’s hope the off-season gives us time to focus our efforts towards making the adjustments necessary to fill the gaps in the movement, and expand freedom.


~Lewis Salvati IV