In South Carolina, Ron Paul finished in last place — fourth out of the four remaining candidates. This isn’t exactly the “revolution” that my friends have been expecting. So how are they dealing with this dose of cruel political reality? And where do libertarians go from here?
If you’ve read much here, you know that I believe Paul has no chance of winning. None. Zero. Nada. It’s not that I don’t like him. He’s probably my favorite statist. But he can’t win, because he’s advocating things that the majority just plain don’t want. After the complete collapse in the first southern primary, I thought I’d skim through what my Facebook friends were saying about the situation. Without calling any names, here are the sort of things that were being said Saturday night among my Paul-supporting friends:
— “Obama must go, so no matter who our nominee is, he’s far better than the current occupant of the White House.” Really? In what ways is Mitt Romney — the father of RomneyCare — an improvement over Barack Obama? In what ways is Newt Gingrich — the man who wants to attack Iran — an improvement over Obama? As bad as Obama is, when it comes to substantive issues — not rhetoric — how are any of the other GOP choices an improvement over Obama?
— “The MSM [mainstream media] is silencing Ron Paul’s message, so that’s the only reason he’s not winning.” Actually, Paul has gotten a tremendous amount of television time over the last year or two, especially compared to the percentage of the electorate that supports him. He’s had plenty of chance to make his case and he’s spent millions of dollars on ads, too. Anyone who believes he’s being silenced isn’t paying attention. It’s just not true.
— “The election was a fraud. The networks were already calling it for Gingrich before half the votes were counted, so it was obviously rigged.” Networks call elections based on exit polling and projections based on how key precincts are going. It’s a combination of art and science that’s pretty accurate in predicting what’s going to be a result when the rest of the votes are counted. They’re projections. They have nothing to do with rigging elections.
— I stumbled upon one discussion of a convoluted conspiracy involving the establishment funding both Gingrich and Santorum in order to stop Paul — who they’re afraid of — before they let Romney win. I’m only mentioning this looney theory because it shows the lengths to which people will go to find reasons to explain what’s going on. Instead of just accepting that others don’t support their candidate, they make up things that have no evidence to support them.
— “The campaign is just about educating people and I’m sick of people who don’t get that. If you don’t support Ron Paul, you’re opposed to liberty.” I saw a lot of that general sentiment last night. There was a good bit of anger toward those relatively few of us who have withdrawn from the system, as though we somehow caused hundreds of thousands of South Carolina voters to flock to Romney, Gingrich and Santorum. Ummmm, no. We’re not responsible. (And we’re not responsible for following whatever path you believe is the right one. You do your thing. We’ll do ours.) Besides, anyone who believes that a campaign is an educational mission is being fooled. An effective campaign is about finding people who generally already agree with you and organizing them to collect others who generally already agree with you. Some tiny fraction of people change their minds in campaigns — every election. A statistically tiny number of people will become libertarians because of this campaign, but not much will change. Roughly 10 percent of the public was generally libertarian 10 years ago. That’s still true today, after countless libertarian “educational” campaigns.
— The other things mostly fell into the category of denial and boosterism: “Ron Paul will still be the president, so just relax,” and, “We refuse to accept anyone but Ron Paul as president.” No, Paul isn’t going to be president. Not this year. Not in four years. Not ever. It’s a fantasy. Refusing to accept that is stopping you from spending your time looking for alternatives that might work.
I’m sympathetic to what Paul supporters want, so I’m not opposed to them and I’m not one of those trying to paint Paul as a crazy uncle who wants nutty things. (My biggest concern is that he doesn’t go far enough toward individual freedom.) But libertarians are supposed to be the hyper-rational people of the political world. What I’m seeing from them right now is just as irrational and conspiratorial as the worst of the people of the major parties.
At some point, libertarians have to accept that most people don’t want what we want. They have to accept that continuing to talk and hand out literature and put up signs isn’t going to change the world. At some point, they have to admit the reality that neither Paul nor any other libertarian is going to get elected to change the country or the world.
So the real question is when the alleged rationalists are going to get rational and join those of us who are trying to figure out how to prepare for the coming post-statist world. The evidence is all around you that you’re not going to elect someone to save you.