On the heels of his recent plunge into the 2016 Presidential race, Rand Paul has been called an “authentic” candidate by many members of the American media. In most ways, the Kentucky Senator certainly is. His love for liberty, distrust of surveillance, and desire to restrict the growing executive branch are all clear examples of his authentic sales pitch. Although, he is a lot closer to a used car salesman when it comes to the realm of foreign affairs.
Paul has flip flopped on cutting off aid to Israel, alongside altering his stance on other foreign policy and national security related issues. But rather than simply admit that this is true, which it pretty objectively is, he has remained in complete denial.
To be fair, perhaps denial isn’t the best description. Senator Paul knows that he changed his viewpoint, he just refuses to admit it. What’s that called again? Lying! Fibbing in no way disqualifies him from being President of course. Anybody who thinks we’ve had a President who has never told a lie needs to get their head examined. Even Abraham Lincoln lied, because he was a human being. President are humans, and all humans lie.
If Republicans want someone who is “authentic”, they should ditch Paul and go with Senator Cruz. He is more authentic than any of the others in the field, because he is the one candidate I can truly say won’t change his worldview in any significant way to pander to voters, which is also the primary reason many media elites think he is unelectable.
Even so, count me off of the Lose With Cruz rollercoaster. I don’t want “authentic”, I want problem solver, executor, and coalition builder. Senator Paul is showing real potential with the last one of these, which is why he is still on my short list of potential 2016 nomination picks.
While this is certainly a plus, herein also lies the problem for Senator Paul – over-reaching when building up his electoral coalition. Yes, the Senator is making strides with many different groups of Americans. The issue is, there are only so many voters a single candidate can get in a democracy as diverse and fractious as the United States electorate. Appeal to minorities and libertarians with an anti-police militarization column back in August of last year, and you potentially alienate the majority of the GOP base, who are still tight law and order conservatives. Change your stance on foreign aid? You might pick up a few more evangelicals and Orthodox Jews for whom support for Israel in non-negotiable, but the libertarian network that supported your father might call you a traitor.
So as not to sound too critical, let me point out that Senator Paul has been doing a fantastic job thus far balancing out all sides. By and large, his father’s support base is still with him. Many libertarians are surprising rational enough (and I say this as a libertarian myself) to see that he is only taking more traditional conservative stances in order to win the nomination, not because he suddenly became a traitor to the cause. In essence, he is playing a game his father never played, in order to actually have a real shot at winning.
This game is tricky enough in the primary, but it will be even more challenging in the general. You see, during primary season, Senator Paul will be competing with other right wing politicians for the votes of right wing voters. In other words, not much movement is required to bring voters closer to your camp. In the general, he will be competing with the Democratic nominee, a so called “blue wall”, and a years old get out the vote machine targeted at minorities, young people, and single women. How can the Senator overcome these obstacles, and reach out to underrepresented constituencies for the GOP, all while simultaneously keeping conservatives, libertarians, social traditionalists, war hawks, and establishment money interests happy on the right. The best circus clown in the world couldn’t juggle all that.
Most large election winning coalitions are formed when the political environment is favorable to the winning party. Think 1932, 1980, 2008. In these Presidential election years, the national climate was so hostile to the incumbent party that the opposing party won a large margin in the popular vote, and electoral college. Unless 2016 shifts more in the Republicans’ favor, with possibilities like further Obama unpopularity, a sudden economic crash, a nuclear Iran, or other such unfortunate events, the Presidential race may very well remain up in the air, like it was in 2000 until the last minute.
Senator Paul is going to need more than a message of coalition building to be able to win. Moderate voters will vote for someone they perceive as a problem solver, for example. But not a panderer. People don’t always vote for someone who they agree with on most things. Many people vote for who they like more, as a person. If your entire campaign strategy revolves around appealing to everyone, you may end up appealing to no one.
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