Rand Paul’s presidential bid is all but over. He hasn’t announced dropping out yet, but he’s at 1 percent to 3 percent in the various polls. Reports say he is putting more time and effort into his re-election campaign for the Senate.
Current polls say the front runners for the GOP nomination are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Marco Rubio, usually in that order. (A very recent Investors’ Business Daily / TIPP poll has Carson ahead of Trump and Rubio ahead of Fiorina, but it’s Investors’ Business Daily.)
What does this tell us about the Republican base?
I have yet to figure out the appeal of Ben Carson, unless people have persuaded themselves he can steal the coveted Black Vote from the Democrats. He may be attracting the evangelical / culture warrior vote, but that’s the only explanation I can think of.
Fiorina doesn’t stand for anything except Fiorina. What stands on issues she has taken are all GOP boilerplate, and she’s failed to say much about many domestic issues, such as social security. So her appeal can’t have anything to do with issues. She has recently added an “answers” feature to her website, in which one may ask a question about her stand on an issue and get “answers.” I typed in “what do you plan for social security,” but none of the “answers” that came up had anything to do with social security. I did learn she plans to get tough with China, though.
That leaves us with Trump and Rubio. Trump is clearly the least libertarian candidate in the field. He’s essentially promising to be a dictator and get stuff done by ordering it done. Rubio seems to be the only conventional politician with a shot at the moment, possibly because he’s not Jeb!, who is fifth in all the recent polls.
Anyhoo — Awhile back libertarian-leaning Republicans were certain that a small-government, pro-liberty, Randian economics libertarian position represented the future of Republicanism. But it seems the base didn’t get that memo. They want a tough guy (or Fiorina) who will be dictator and break heads and get tough with foreign people. Oh, and they want someone who will stick it to liberals.
A month ago Michael Lind wrote that Donald Trump’s popularity among the teabaggers exposed them for what they are — not “small government” freedom fighters but old-fashioned right-wing populists.
Think William Jennings Bryan or Huey Long, not Ayn Rand. Tea Partiers are less upset about the size of government overall than they are that so much of it is going to other people, especially immigrants and nonwhites. They are for government for them and against government for Not-Them.
Today, Conor Lynch writes,
Trump has vindicated the left’s suspicion that the Tea Party is not a small government libertarian movement, but a kind of white-identity populism akin to the 1960s reactionary movement led by politicians like George Wallace. Right-wing populists have long been dubious of foreigners, immigrants, minorities and elitists — both in the intellectual and monied sense. Sound familiar?
Trump has taken advantage of the fears and insecurities of a significant portion of white Americans, who see the influx of non-white immigrants — Hispanic, Asian, Muslim — as a threat to their way of life. In their view, Muslims are terrorists (i.e., Syrian refugees are members of ISIS — even though half are children), Mexicans are rapists and job-stealers, foreigners are cheaters, black people are lazy, and so on. They also distrust intellectuals and experts. Consider, for example, the denial of scientific realities like climate change and evolution. Even though the vast majority of scientists agree that human beings are warming the planet with their carbon output, most Republican supporters simply refuse to believe. Overall, the Tea Party movement appears to be a combination of white-identity politics and anti-intellectualism.
This is not exactly earth-shattering news for most of you, of course. I think the only ones caught by surprise are actual libertarians.