Rand Paul's campaign reported $2.5 million in donations for the entire third quarter, a precipitous drop from his previous reports and a fraction of what rivals Ben Carson ($20 million) and Jeb Bush ($12 million) brought in. That and anemic poll numbers have inspired many to not only pronounce Paul's presidential campaign dead, but to gleefully declare the so-called "Libertarian Moment" over.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Anyone who believes the presidential election is a barometer of how libertarian America is becoming doesn't understand libertarianism and isn't paying attention to what's happening in the real world. Libertarians don't believe government solves anything, no matter who is running it. The purest libertarians refuse to vote on principle.
As radical as that might sound, almost half of all eligible American voters behave the same way, if not for the same reasons. Let's face it, most Americans couldn't name three policies held by the frontrunner in either party and couldn't explain one in detail.
This is often ridiculed in the myriad You Tube videos where men and women "on the street" are asked basic policy questions and don't have a clue what policies their candidates support. You're supposed to assume they're stupid.
For the most part, they're not stupid. They just don't care. They may say they support this or that candidate when a microphone is shoved in their face, but in reality they live their lives, do their jobs and run their businesses without giving politics a second thought. This is an inherently libertarian worldview and it's growing.
60% of eligible voters haven't voted in a presidential election since 1968. Even less vote in the mid-terms. Take your own unscientific poll. Ask 20 people you know what they think about politics. You'll more than likely find "not interested" far ahead of conservative or liberal.
What Americans are interested in is the market and what it can offer them, regardless of what the government says or even legislates. Sharing economy companies like Uber and Airbnb are growing exponentially because they offer higher quality products at substantially lower prices. They are able to do so precisely because they either sidestep or openly flout the protectionist regulation supported by their established competitors.
During both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations and majorities in Congress, gun sales have exploded in the past fifteen years, despite strong anti-gun rhetoric following highly publicized mass shootings. This isn't limited to red states in flyover country. Gun sales have even seen a meteoric rise in deep blue California.
Even what has been accomplished in electoral politics has had a strong libertarian bent.
Almost half of U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana in open defiance of federal law. Four states have legalized recreational use. They have consistently used the libertarian non-aggression principle as their reasoning: if it does not harm the person or property of someone else, the government shouldn't have the power to prohibit it.
An overwhelming majority of states legalized gay marriage before Obergefell v. Hodges. While many of those were the result of state or federal district court decisions, ten states legalized it by statute through their legislatures.
Regardless of how it became law, the tide of public opinion had obviously turned. Same sex marriage was in America's future. This is something libertarians supported for forty years before Obama and Hillary Clinton flip-flopped in its favor.
The stamp of libertarian thinking is all over public opinion on this. A recent poll shows a majority of Americans support gay marriage, but oppose forcing businesses to serve same sex couples if they don't want to. Both conservatives and liberals would see this as inconsistent or self-contradictory.
It isn't. It's perfectly consistent with the libertarian principle that government force should never be brought against those who have not aggressed against the person or property of another. Libertarians believe that neither the same sex couple who want to enter a voluntary marriage contract nor the devoutly Christian bakery owner who chooses not to support them (however misguided that decision might be) has done so.
The future will be even more libertarian than the present. Technology and the marketplace are threatening to render centuries-old government institutions largely irrelevant. What meaning will trade regulations have when 3-D printers disrupt the manufacturing industry? What will the who-will-build-the-roads crowd say to libertarians when hovercraft technology reaches its full market potential? How will the Federal Reserve control the economy when Bitcoin or its successors reaches theirs?
Rand Paul's campaign may very well rebound. It may not. For the future of libertarianism, it really doesn't matter. The marketplace is leading the libertarian revolution, as it always has. If Rand Paul wants to get back on the train, he should forget trying to sound like a mainstream Republican and dance with the libertarians who brung him. They are the future, with or without him.