Sooner or later, reality always wins. The only question is how violent its victory will be. You can claim the ability to fly, gravity be damned. But if you jump off of a ten-story building, no matter your intent or determination, reality will claim a bloody triumph. Things are how they are, and our approach to life must take that into account.
The libertarian philosophy which has fueled the candidacy of Rand Paul for president builds on an acknowledgement of reality. Unlike socialism, which ignores human nature, or conservatism, which rests its case on authority and tradition, libertarianism sees the world as it is. We should be free because our nature demands it. Unlike lower animals, we thrive not on instinct, but on cognitive judgment. To live, we must choose. To choose, we must proceed unrestrained. In this way, the libertarian philosophy is the philosophy of human life, an affirmation of who and what we are. All alternatives, to one extent or another, deny our nature.
It therefore proves ironic that so many libertarian activists fail to acknowledge political reality. Despite my support for Rand Paul, I concluded weeks ago that his campaign was over. Why? I took an objective look at what was happening. Paul never had a decent showing in the polls. His campaign never met benchmarks set by his father, whose campaigns for president also failed. Anecdotally, it seemed clear that the electorate had no interest in what Rand Paul was selling. Yet, whenever I dared to articulate my impression of where the campaign stood, fellow liberty activists berated me for “demoralizing” supporters.
Reality has that effect. It can be awfully demoralizing. Ask my two-year-old son or any Bernie Sanders supporter. The discovery that life does not hand you preferred outcomes can be jarring. But if you fail to adjust, if you fail to conduct yourself in accordance with reality, your disappointment will only repeat and increase.
For as long as I have been involved in politics, the liberty movement and the broader insurgent Right has been hindered by personalities focused on their own vanity. The objective has never been winning. It has never been moving the ball downfield, getting people elected, or advancing legislative priorities. Rather, the focus has been on proving to one another how philosophically pure we are. Utterly worthless libertarian accolades go to the activist who most ascetically denies political reality in favor of esoteric dogma. The movement is a contest to determine whose poop stinks least. Meanwhile, in the real world, nobody cares and nothing changes.
The liberty movement is missing something essential, professionalism. A crucial difference between a professional and an amateur is the former’s commitment to developing his craft, to understanding how things actually work and proceeding accordingly. Amateurs swing, miss, and make excuses. Professionals analyze why they missed and work to better their form.
Here’s an example of an amateur’s response to defeat:
This is just embarrassing. Your candidate isn’t even running anymore, and you think you’re going to “be a factor” at the convention?
Here’s the deal. You don’t have to like the status quo. You don’t have to like where the 2016 presidential contest is heading. You don’t have to settle for less than you expect from a candidate. I’m not going to berate you for abstaining or voting third party if that’s what you feel you should do. But I am going to suggest that political success will not come for the liberty movement until its activists move past conspiratorial excuses. The real reason Rand Paul is suspending his campaign is that it has not attracted enough interest, plain and simple. People aren’t buying what he’s selling.
If you want to change that, if you want to see future liberty campaigns succeed, you must first deal with where the culture is at. Right now, people don’t want liberty. They may want a sense of freedom for themselves, but aren’t willing to endure their neighbor’s freedom. Modern Americans will sacrifice their own rights to wield control over others. If you doubt that, attend your town’s next planning commission meeting. For freedom to reign, the culture must change, and a political campaign is not going to do that.
What might change hearts and minds is the dawn of negative interest rates, $19 trillion in national debt, and the subsequent recession sure to follow. Reality is a harsh teacher. But if we retain any hope of guiding our fellow man through its lessons, we must first accept what reality has to teach us. Rand Paul did not fail because of the Republican establishment. He did not fail because of the media. He failed because politics is first and foremost about people, and the people just weren’t with him. There is no silent majority. There is no grassroots groundswell tamped down by an oppressive establishment. People just don’t agree with you. Deal with it, and come up with a strategy which acknowledges that reality.