Texas Congressman Ron Paul has officially suspended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination—as though he had a choice. Paul’s brand of conservatism did not sit well with Republican voters. His views on the economy got everyone excited, but his dovish foreign policy did not receive a warm reception among hawkish Republicans. Paul lost because he violated one of the first rules of campaigning: Don’t try to teach voters.
Campaign messages have to be easily digestible. Candidates have to convince voters that they share the same views, or that if they present new views, they have to do so in a way that does not conflict with the voters’ current beliefs. Paul did just the opposite when it came to foreign policy. Paul tried to convince Republican voters that a non-interventionist foreign policy was the only foreign policy that adhered to the principles of limited government and liberty. When the moral and constitutional arguments failed, he tried to convince voters that American foreign policy was hurting our domestic economy by driving up the national debt. Republicans wanted none of this.
Paul’s message was not one of American Exceptionalism like Mitt Romney’s and Rick Santorum’s. Rather, Paul suggested that if we don’t want countries interfering with us we shouldn’t interfere with them. At times the message seemed naïve, and at other times it seemed to resonate as a message of liberty. But at no time did it seem Republican.
In some ways it is a shame that Paul is out of the race. He provided a fresh perspective on how we should look at politics. Through the lens of liberty and limited government he was able to appeal and appall Republicans and Democrats depending on whether the discussion was on international or domestic issues. He did not fall along the traditional left-right continuum that characterizes American politics.
In order to win the nomination, Paul needed to convince Republican voters that their claim to limited government at home needed to be applied to US foreign policy. The message was consistent, but not one Republicans were open to. You can’t change voters’ minds; at least in the short term.
In case you don’t know, Ron Paul has a son, Rand Paul who is a freshman Senator from Kentucky. Rand Paul’s message is the same as his father’s. Both are more libertarian than Republican, and both share similar views on foreign policy. When a candidate explains his policy positions by referencing Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, M1, and fiat currency, it takes voters a while to catch on. Ron has broken ground, Rand just has to start building.
Ron Paul is retiring from Congress, thus giving him the ability to be a surrogate for Rand on the campaign trail. Whereas Rand can be confrontational and brash, Ron is likable. So don’t be surprised if you see Rand Paul running for the highest office in the land in 2016 or 2020 depending upon how this year goes. Also, don’t be surprised if Ron Paul uses his 104 delegates as leverage to get Rand a good speaking slot at the Republican Convention in Tampa later this summer, or even a key cabinet seat if Romney is to win the general election.
Of course a lot can change between now and when Rand Paul gets his shot at the White House. All I’m suggesting is that we may see a Paul in the White House one day; it just won’t be Ron Paul. But Rand is well-positioned to carry on the family business, which, given their proclivity for limited government, seems odd that the family business is government.