Rand had alienated much of his father’s base with consecutive endorsements of establishment fixtures Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell, and a lot of liberty people around the state quietly grumbled that the apple had fallen too far from the tree.
Those of us actively working to grow the liberty base and keep our people involved spent a lot of time defending Rand against accusations of selling out. We had seen too much real success here in Iowa to believe that the future of libertarianism lay only in message candidates and internet activism. We knew that a Rand Paul presidential run could do what two Ron Paul runs could not — bring libertarians together with conservatives and tea partiers into a winning coalition.
Quietly, the Ron Paul army left the Gary Johnson purity police behind and began gearing up for Rand 2016.
A Time For Choosing
Many of us only noticed Ted Cruz as an accessory to the great Rand Paul filibuster of 2013 — a guy we knew had enjoyed strong support from libertarians for his senate run, and a fitting sidekick for the heir apparent.
But as time wore on, Rand seemed less and less inclined to identify with the liberty movement, describing himself as “libertarian-ish” and seemingly desperate to dissociate politically from his father and the movement he spawned. Libertarians around Iowa and the nation balked as he added Maine Senator Susan Collins to his endorsement list, lined up a private meeting with Goldman-Sachs executives, and even accepted an invitation to a DC fundraiser for Iowa’s establishment Governor, Terry Branstad, even as the Governor spent his political capital actively trying to oust the Paul faithful — including myself — from the leadership of the state party.
Other problems began to surface with the evangelical and tea party voters we hoped to win over before 2016. When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, Rand Paul went on the record praising the majority opinion — regarded by some as an anti-Christian polemic — and suggesting that Republicans simply “agree to disagree”. Later, Paul stumbled on the same issue by going AWOL during the Indiana religious freedom law controversy.
Those of us stumping for Rand early knew this would cause a firestorm within the Christian community, as the gay marriage issue had already begun a rapid metamorphosis into a credible threat to religious liberty.
A Movement to Identity
A few weeks after the meeting, Cruz’s staff quietly began informing us of the Senator’s intent to announce, and asking us for commitments to support him for President.
Such a choice is hard enough for anyone, but for members of the tight-knit liberty community, it was even harder. We knew that Rand would be rolling out his campaign soon, and banking on all of his father’s supporters to fall in line. Undercutting Rand’s political machine by publicly advertising libertarian support for his competitor was asking for trouble.
I just didn’t know exactly how much trouble.
After a lot of thought and prayer, counsel and research, my wife and I became some of the first members of the Liberty Movement to publicly endorse Cruz.
Iowa’s Secret Swing Vote
In the lead-up to caucus night, all the talk was centered on the Iowa evangelical vote — the dominant block of voters that had carried Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum to consecutive wins in prior elections.
Forgotten — as usual — was the fate of the 26,000 caucus-goers who voted for Ron Paul in 2012.
Cruz’s campaign focused primarily on evangelicals as the larger voting bloc, but understood the significance of the libertarian vote, and made sure to include a pitch to liberty-minded Republicans at nearly every campaign stop in the final weeks. The idea of a candidate not named Paul actually working to earn the libertarian vote was a novelty in itself, and appealed to a lot of grassroots liberty folks used to being despised by both the establishment and the moral majority.
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