When Senator Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race, his supporters were justifiably disheartened. So many had worked hard for the cause and felt Paul was the only candidate pushing a liberty message.
But as I wrote when Paul exited, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come in just the last eight years.
A recent Politico piece helps put this in perspective. As Lauren French writes, “With Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul out of the race, the GOP field has been burning up Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s phone lines, hoping to win an endorsement from the influential member of the House Freedom Caucus.”
Mulvaney is a Republican congressman from South Carolina, and presidential candidates see him and his liberty-leaning colleagues as an important part of the Republican constituency. Can you imagine that being a consideration during the Bush presidency? Even six years ago, liberty Republicans barely registered as a factor. Remember when Mitch McConnell took the rare step of endorsing against Rand Paul during his Senate primary?
Of the House Freedom Caucus, French writes, “Mulvaney has gotten…calls from most of the 2016 Republican hopeful… So did many of his fellow Paul supporters in the Freedom Caucus. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash and Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador said they were both the recipients of eager calls from campaigns angling to discuss an endorsement.”
While this doesn’t mean that Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz will adopt libertarian positions overnight—or even ever—it shows how liberty Republicans can begin to affect the political process in a tangible way if we’re enough of a constituency. Politics is, as always, a numbers game.
If there are enough liberty Republicans in Congress representing a sizable base of supporters, we will matter. So will our ideas. There will never be a perfect utopia in which only libertarian thought exists in Washington. But we can certainly keep up the fight and potentially become a dominant faction, especially as young liberty Republicans age into positions of leadership.
This is a point that Congressman Justin Amash has made time and again. When I was disheartened by Trump winning the New Hampshire primary, Amash wrote an encouraging note on my Facebook page (how cool is social media?!) that really spoke to the point.
I have about 40 colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus who agree with my principles and positions to a degree I never would have imagined just a few years ago. I’ve run openly as a libertarian Republican (without using Ron Paul’s more paleoconservative rhetoric that appeals to Trump voters), have been challenged aggressively, and consistently win by large margins. Things are moving in our direction in the background, even as things get worse in the foreground.
I believe this is absolutely true. And I’m happy to know that the House Freedom Caucus has more influence now than ever.
As for Amash’s presidential plans now that Paul is out? He’s hinted at where he’s leaning.
Amash told French, “It’s not a close call comparing Ted Cruz to the rest of the field. We’ve been playing phone tag but I’m going to continue to have conversations with Ted.” Amash added that he thinks Cruz is “an excellent candidate.”
Amash, along with Ron and Rand Paul, endorsed Cruz during his U.S. Senate campaign in 2012. Throughout the presidential race, Cruz’s thinking has straddled the line between liberty-friendly and more establishment.
Disappointingly, Cruz came out against Apple’s recent stand opposing the FBI’s attempt to destroy their encryption standards. On the other hand, Cruz is the most likely of the remaining Republican candidates to support NSA reform.
As Rare’s Jack Hunter recently wrote, liberty Republicans have a lot to think about if they decide to back another presidential candidate. There is no monolithic or ideal choice. But we can certainly focus on growing our ranks within the GOP on a state and federal level, even if the presidency is currently out of reach. And in doing so, we can make a difference.