NOTE: The following is a fictional news story set in the year 2020, in a world in which Rand Paul has won the 2016 presidential election and is preparing to seek re-election. The following is not necessarily intended as a serious prediction of the events that may unfold, but merely a hypothetical scenario:
A LOOK BACK ON THE LAST DECADE
The 2016 presidential election seems to many Americans to be a generation ago. By 2016, the economy had plunged into paralyzing stagnation after an unprecedented “triple dip” recession in the financial crisis that had begun in 2007. Consumer confidence had fallen to an all-time low, even as spiraling inflation had driven stock prices and the Dow Jones Industrial Average up to soaring highs that most economists acknowledged were artificial.
President Obama’s approval rating had dropped into the low 30s after his decision to put 20,000 American combat troops on the ground in Syria to assist the post-Assad transitional government, which in February 2014 led to a coordinated suicide bombing attack on multiple American barracks, resulting in one of the largest single losses of American troops since the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
In 2015, mass rioting due to the Graham Feldman case (the young political activist who was the first to be arrested by the US military on American soil and detained indefinitely without trial) threatened to tear apart the social fabric of several major West Coast cities. Views of the US government abroad had similarly deteriorated as leaks revealed dozens of drone bombing incidents in Pakistan that had killed large numbers of innocent civilians.
THE 2016 RACE
The decisions of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden to forgo the 2016 presidential race opened up the path to the eventual nominee, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who fought a difficult and bitter race with her home state’s popular governor, Andrew Cuomo. Even despite the aching economy and the plummeting favorability ratings of President Obama and his party, Sen. Gillibrand seemed to have successfully distanced herself from the unpopular administration and its mistakes, and looked poised for a comfortable win in the general election.
The Republican nominating race, just as acrimonious and hard-fought, saw a wide field of candidates with no obvious frontrunner until after Sen. Rand Paul’s decisive win in the New Hampshire primary. The GOP seemed to teeter on the brink of internal schism when Sen. Paul’s main primary opponent, Jeb Bush, hinted that he may not support Paul as the nominee and billionaire Donald Trump talked about starting a new third party promoting American militarism. Paul’s now-famous “Arlington Speech,” rallying Old Guard conservative support for his nomination, successfully held the Republican coalition together. Threats of a nominating challenge to Paul’s candidacy by Jeb Bush at the Republican convention went unfulfilled, and the well-oiled 2016 Republican Convention gave nominee Paul a significant bump in the polls.
Paul’s early lead over Democratic nominee Gillibrand began to bleed away after what many saw as a lackluster performance by Paul in the first debate. Paul clearly redeemed himself in the latter two debates, however. A surprisingly energetic performance by young newcomer Rep. Justin Amash against Gillibrand’s running mate Gov. Deval Patrick in the Vice Presidential debate is believed by many pundits to have helped seal the GOP’s win on November 8th, 2016. Paul was able to win over the swing states of Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, but his denunciation of farm subsidies and the auto bailout played a large role in causing the GOP to lose the hotly contested states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The loss of the Rust Belt turned out not to be fatal, as Paul’s support for bringing the troops home, civil liberty reform, and drug policy reform helped sway even left-leaning independents, turning New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico red for the first time in years. Paul carried 291 electoral votes to Gillibrand’s 247.
The situation facing the country when Rand Paul took office in January of 2017 was bleak. With the economy slowly hemorrhaging jobs, the value of the Dollar plummeting, an out-of-control budget deficit, and several foreign relation crises, Paul had his work cut out for him.
THE BEGINNING OF THE PAUL ERA
Just how did Rand Paul manage to turn it all around? Some credit President Paul’s successes with mere luck, though most economists now believe Paul’s strict fiscal management and market-oriented reforms were what helped spur the economy back into high gear.
The President’s economic policies, now popularly referred to as “Randonomics” (perhaps as much in reverence to the President as to the 20th century capitalist philosopher Ayn Rand) have resulted in a renaissance of free market economic theory. The President’s successes have particularly breathed new life into the once-small school of thought known as the Austrian School, which had for decades been championed by lone voices in the wilderness such as Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and the President’s father, former Congressman Ron Paul. Once-forgotten books by deceased economists like Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard, now re-printed in new editions, have rocketed to the top of the best sellers list in recent months, thanks to the stellar economic growth under Paul’s administration.
THE MINI-DEPRESSION OF 2017
The President’s successes did not always seem a sure thing, however. The spring of 2017 was rocked by a sharp economic downturn that saw the national unemployment rate reach a high of 18%. The President’s approval rating, which had started the year at over 60%, sunk dramatically. Some Democrats in Congress even called for amending the Constitution to permit a recall of President Paul and Vice President Amash. The Mini-Depression of 2017 is believed to have stemmed from President Paul’s executive order mandating harsh curtailment of money supply expansion and his draconian cuts to federal programs and spending. Interest rates skyrocketed and large corporations across the country laid off workers as the Federal Reserve’s monetary “printing presses” came to a halt and federal subsidies to industries were slashed left and right. Consumer spending dried up overnight as Americans saved every penny in anticipation of complete economic collapse.
In the ensuing panic, President Paul held a series of press conferences with leading free market economists who advised Congress to wait out the economic “cleansing” process and allow American industry to restructure itself and reallocate resources. Congress ignored the President’s pleas for patience and, in a bipartisan effort, passed a mammoth economic recovery bill to the tune of just over $3 trillion. President Paul vetoed the legislation, resulting in an uproar that drove several key Republicans to switch their allegiances to the Democratic Party. An attempt by Congress to override the President’s veto fell short, and in response, Sen. Gillibrand launched a call for the impeachment of the President as a final resort.
A SURPRISING RECOVERY
However, by the end of the summer of 2017, the unemployment rate had inexplicably dropped from 16% in May to 9% in August, even with record numbers of Americans re-entering the workforce to look for jobs. By the beginning of 2018, unemployment was down to 3%, American job growth had come roaring back, and the President had been vindicated.
Though she had initially fought President Paul in a highly visible and politically embarrassing row, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen professed in January of 2018 to be a convert to the President’s economics, proclaiming in a speech to Congress, “We are all Hayekians now.” Yellen requested re-appointment to the Fed chairmanship, which the President denied. Instead, in a surprising move in 2018, Paul nominated the little-known but charismatic investment mogul Peter Schiff to the Federal Reserve chairmanship.
Schiff shocked the financial world during his appointment hearings by promising to be the “last Fed Chairman,” and vowing to work to abolish the Federal Reserve system. While this initiated a vigorous debate in the US Senate, the President’s abundant political capital and soaring popularity rating resulted in the ultimate approval of Schiff to the post. True to form, Chairman Schiff has been nicknamed the “Empty Chair,” refusing to take a paycheck from the Fed, and spending most of his time not managing the nation’s financial system, but traveling the country on a speaking tour building public support for the abolition of the Federal Reserve.
THE PAUL DOCTRINE
The improvement in the economy is not the only thing that President Paul has taken credit for. Many observers note that positive sentiment toward America is at an all-time high around the world, thanks in large part to the “Paul Doctrine”.
President Paul’s swift strides in getting the Patriot Act and other domestic surveillance laws repealed, extricating American troops from foreign countries, and closing down bases throughout the Middle East, have been widely hailed by the international community, and have made Paul a top contender for the next Nobel Peace Prize. Acts of Islamic terrorism against the United States seem now to be a distant bad memory, as Al Qaeda and other international jihadist organizations dwindle and find themselves perpetually on the run from strong liberal movements across the Muslim world.
Students and political activists in Iran, claiming inspiration from America’s example, rose up and overthrew their regime in August of 2018. The revolution was one of the most peaceful and bloodless of the past century, as many in the Revolutionary Guard simply laid down their weapons and joined the movement. With the Ayatollah in exile in an “undisclosed location” in Europe, the new Iranian republic has modeled their unprecedentedly liberal Constitution after what political scholars refer to as the “New Washington Consensus,” with an emphasis on separation of powers, free democratic elections, and the fostering of free market capitalism. Paul made it a point to be the first to establish diplomatic ties with the new Iranian government and, in an historic move widely compared to Nixon’s visit to China, President Paul flew to Tehran in September of that year and met with newly elected President Ramin Jahanbegloo.
Taking a cue from Iran, several Arab countries have also embarked on massive reforms toward freedom and market capitalism. Even North Korea’s reclusive dictator Kim Jong-Un recently announced a program called the “Great Advance,” bringing an unanticipated end to the “Juche” doctrine that had kept North Korea in poverty for generations. Kim has begun to allow aid workers and international inspectors into his country, as well as initiating what he calls a “Chinese” economic approach, thereby opening up North Korea to foreign industry and investment.
THE RECOVERY WAVE
In November of 2018, with the economy booming, Republicans swept the mid-term elections in the so-called “Recovery Wave,” taking back both the House and the Senate, and filling them with allies of the President. This has allowed President Paul’s roadmap to fiscal responsibility to proceed at a highly quickened pace. While the massive federal budget deficit was successfully reduced by small percentages in 2017 and 2018 under Paul’s stewardship, 2019 saw the deficit reduced to a mere $800 billion. Though progress on reducing the budget deficit has been slower than the President had initially hoped, he and congressional Republicans lauded the passage of the 2020 federal budget with a deficit of only $200 billion. Paul is promising that 2021 will see the elimination of the deficit and the first actual budget surplus since the year 2000, a feat that many thought impossible only a few short years ago. While tax revenues have not actually increased, as some supply-side economists predicted would occur due to Paul’s laissez faire reforms, they have surprisingly not decreased by an appreciable amount, even with several large tax cuts passed in the past two years.
With Gillibrand, Patrick, and Cuomo alongside several others having formed presidential exploratory committees for the 2020 election, the early polls do not look promising for the Democrats. Even Democratic pollsters are conceding that 2020 is shaping up to be a “Reagan-like” challenge for the Democratic Party. Numbers indicate that Paul’s 2016 states have remained deeply red, the Rust Belt states that Paul lost in 2016 have swung sharply back into the red column, and even California and the New England states are seemingly in play for Republicans this year. The thriving economy and unparalleled international popularity of America have resulted in sky-high approval ratings for the incumbent President. Barring any major missteps, pundits across the board believe any Democrat will be hard-pressed to say that President Paul does not deserve four more years.
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