Rand Paul announced his candidacy for the Presidency today, and I wish him well. I even agree with his basic approach of smaller, less intrusive government at all levels, domestically as well as internationally. It fits well with my worldview of more freedom for everyone.
But that doesn’t mean he has a snowball’s chance of achieving his goal.
The Candidate > The Philosophy
Rand Paul is a very smart man – a medical doctor – and you don’t find too many intellectually deficient folks with an M.D. appended to their names. So my contention of the hopelessness of his campaign is not due to a lack of smarts on his part. Not at all.
I believe that it comes down to the fact that, today at least, the candidate is far more important than the philosophies for which they stand. And Candidate Rand Paul does not stand in a good place for a national audience.
During the upcoming campaign, in which he will surely be pitted against HRC if he survives the Republican free-for-all, he will already have three strikes tallied against him before he even steps up to the plate.
- He is a white, southern, Republican male. Even with the “Republican” label set aside, what remains is that he is culturally isolated from the deep-blue coasts and north of this nation. Deserved or not, the fact that Rand is a southerner means that, as he dives into a political pool that stretches far beyond his homeland, he will have a huge cultural mill-stone around his neck. Additionally, he isn’t helped by the demographic tides shifting against the party nationally.
- He is philosphically a Libertarian, but in the real world? It is unclear how staunchly Rand really adheres to those philosophies, and no matter where he falls on the line from Republican to Libertarian, he will inevitably be tarred with labels like “pro-business”, “trickle down economics” and “elitist”. This, even if he trumpets a return to classical Liberalism or truly Libertarian ideals. I believe that this is in part because so few really understand Libertarian philosophies (including most Libertarians themselves), and in part because if he attempts to reinvent the Republican party or pull a Bull Moose, he will inevitably fail.
- He is a real Constitutionalist. The challenge for a modern Constitutionalist is simply this: the nation no longer knows the document, or adheres to its principles in any fundamental way. The legalisms, yes, but the philosophy behind it? It’s simply Terra Incognita to most voters today. You can’t believe what you don’t know, and among the many topics that the American electorate has rarely studied, is the political trifecta of Constitution, Federalist Papers and the philosophical underpinnings of the Enlightenment.
Whether you love or hate his beliefs, just set it all aside for a moment, and focus on the other major reason that Rand Paul doesn’t stand a chance on the national level: the media simply doesn’t take this guy seriously.
During his Senate filibuster, nearly-universal mockery (ex-Fox) drove him almost irretrievably into the penalty box marked “not to be taken seriously”. For many, he is seen as being far enough out on the lunatic fringe to disbar him permanently from consideration for national office.
Love > Hatred
Hatred can motivate, but it doesn’t inspire. And this where it gets worse for Rand, because the media loves his opponent more than it disdains him. Love’s power is that it forgives, and it forgets. Love turns a blind eye to nearly every fault.
So it really doesn’t matter what the right accuses, because Hillary is even more thickly coated in political Teflon than her husband was 20 years ago. As often as her political opponents raise accusations of Benghazi and mail servers, in the end it’s all undercut by echoes of the media’s silence in response to her now-famous question.
“What difference, at this point, does it make?”
None at all, apparently.
When love runs that deep, both sides will remain as entrenched in the resulting mire as the armies on the Western Front a century ago. Those who hated her then, always will. Those who loved her then, also will. The lines have long since been drawn.
I believe that due to the changing outlook of the American electorate, the greater number is now comprised of those who either (a) admire her politics, or (b) view the concept of a Madam President as inherently good in itself. Combined, they stand firmly in the majority.
Therefore, 2016 is not going to be a competition among differing political philosophies, as Dr. Paul good-naturedly but rather naively assumes. This will not be a fight about Liberty, or smaller government, or Republicanism vs. Socialism.
No, 2016 will be a largely cultural election.
The Right Side of History
My grandmother is a life-long Democrat. Now over 95 years old, she once voted for FDR in her 20s, JFK in her 40s and the first President Clinton as she entered retirement. Therefore, in her mind at least, she helped to win WW2, founded the Great Society and played a pivotal role in inventing the Internet.
It should come as no surprise that she was an early supporter of President Obama, and remains a tearfully staunch devotee of him today. She views the President as the end point of the Selma marches and MLK speeches of the 1960s. In her eyes, racism has been defeated: it’s sexism’s turn next.
So it doesn’t matter whether it’s Hillary, or her true favorite, Elizabeth Warren: my grandmother’s walker is doing wheelies right now at the prospect of a woman President. And that fits perfectly with her view that the federal government serves best as an agent of dynamic social change, driving the culture forward, often despite itself.
In talking about her lifetime voting record, she is fiercely proud of having been “on the right side of history throughout it all”. Today, she sees a female President as simply being the next logical step in the evolution of mankind from the mud puddle to the stars.
For her, the “who” matters this time, not the “what” or the “how”.
And that is precisely why Rand Paul, no matter how convincing his philosophical arguments, or eloquent their presentation in the upcoming months, has so little chance of winning in 2016.
Because he is standing on the far shore of that cultural river.