From his latest Antiwar.com column:
“Sen. Paul began to believe the hype he had generated in the mainstream media, back when he was polling double digits and was effectively the frontrunner. His goose was cooked when President Obama echoed all that “most interesting politician in Washington” hyperbole – it went right to his head. He began to believe that the movement his father had created and so carefully nurtured would follow him anywhere, and that his goal was to straddle the fence between libertarianism and “movement” conservatism. But as Dan McCarthy points out so effectively, there already was a Ted Cruz, who is a much cannier politician than Rand, and all the pilgrimages to Israel and all the meetings with Bill Kristol would never get the neocons off his back. Instead of taking them on, he capitulated to them – and in this election year, weakness is a vote-killer”
He’s got it exactly right, but what should Rand have done, according to Raimondo? Run a campaign like his father’s, of course, but there’s something more, something that Ron didn’t have, according to Raimondo. The gift of demagoguery. Ron didn’t win, and Raimondo believes it was due to his calm, patient explanations, his unwillingness to directly attack his opponents. Raimondo then gives the example of Trump as the arch-demagogue, who, other qualities aside, does have an exceptional ability to take his highly emotional message straight to the masses:
“Now there is a demagogue in the presidential race, one who fits perfectly into the definition cited above, and we all know who he is. Yet Trump is hated by libertarian intellectuals, as well as by the liberal and conservative elites. This in spite of the fact that he’s stolen a good many elements of the libertarian foreign policy platform. As I’ve pointed out here and here, he alone opposes a new cold war with Russia. Bonnie Kristian says the alleged rise of ISIS somehow derailed Rand Paul’s campaign, and yet Trump – the GOP frontrunner – is telling yuuuuuge audiences that we should let Putin take care of ISIS, and he’s getting yuuuuuge applause. He’s telling us that our shiftless “allies” are taking advantage of us – and isn’t this just a popularized version of the libertarian/anti-interventionist critique of foreign aid? Why, he asks, are we protecting Europe, Japan, South Korea, and the Middle East – while “they’re screwing us over”? He wants out of Europe: forget Ukraine, he says.
Of course, libertarians have been saying this for ages – but The Donald, like the demagogue he is, says it and gets listened to. Is he a consistent anti-interventionist? He’s not a consistent anything, and that’s the problem with many demagogues, and especially Trump – he’s 80 percent emotion and (at best) 20 percent program.”
That’s the trouble. The most emotional, most passionate of the demagogues tend to not really know much of what they’re speaking about, which is why they don’t speak in specifics. How would a President Trump really handle Russia, China, or Iran? He has no record to scrutinize, just his word. Ron Paul, on the other hand, had a 30-year record of standing alone when necessary to defend liberty. He didn’t win the election, but he awoken the spirit of liberty in the rising generation in a way that no one else has done in living memory. I’m not sure I would’ve preferred a more Trumpish Ron Paul, I liked him as he was, and is.
More from Raimondo:
“The real lesson of Rand Paul’s fate is the strategic and tactical incompetence and immaturity of the libertarian movement: their failure to recognize that politics is all about Us versus Them, their inability to understand the key role played by emotion, their blindness when it comes to understanding the dual nature of American nationalism, and the cultural prejudices of the libertarian intelligentsia which make the foregoing errors almost inevitable.”
Emotional appeals do have to happen to capture the imagination and the spirit of liberty. Trump’s emotionalism, though, is much too vulgar. Can you imagine a Ron Paul that personally insulted everyone around him? Who waged a Twitter jihad, night and day, about every single person in the media who criticized him? It is beneath Paul to act in such a way. But, having said that, emotional appeals are necessary. Stirring words about the benefits of liberty and peace keep the flame of liberty alive in the minds of its defenders. I’m reminded of this quote by Hayek:
“We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. . . . Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this has rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.”