LAS VEGAS, April 8, 2015 — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced the first of his four presidential campaigns. By laying the groundwork now, Paul’s children will be ready to run some time between 2032 and 2040. This is assuming that Ron Paul has finally stopped running.
There are serious campaigns and sideshows, and Rand Paul is determined to prove he is not driving the clown car.
Dr. Paul himself is an accomplished eye doctor. His admirable charity work includes traveling to Africa and performing corrective eye surgeries for poor children.
From an outreach standpoint, his willingness to speak in some of the toughest minority neighborhoods is commendable. It boggles the mind why other candidates are reluctant to do this.
The problem with any Paul campaign is that with the candidate come his supporters. Many of the older ones truly do care about fiscal issues. They rightly worry that a plummeting dollar is a major threat to America’s health.
His younger supporters are another matter entirely. They can deny it all they like, but applause lines do not lie. They want free marijuana. They also have a well-deserved reputation for boorish behavior. Screaming at people who disagree is not the best way to bring new people into the fold. While Paul supporters insist that the bad actors are only a fraction of the movement, this is a fig leaf used to whitewash the bad behavior. If even one McDonalds franchise is unclean, it affects the entire company. No other Republican candidate has supporters with a fan base so rabid that it crosses over from passionate to destructive.
Even if the worst of the young supporters somehow managed to control themselves, the Paul campaign will still run into the brick wall of political reality. The primary calendar was specifically designed to weed out candidates like Paul.
The Iowa caucus comes first. Iowa does not elect a president. It elects a pope. Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson have all done well in Iowa. Whoever is the most socially conservative Christian wins. Dr. Paul can claim he is pro-life, but that is not the same as devoting his political life to Jesus. Paul is a Libertarian, and most Libertarians are pro-choice on abortion and favor gay marriage. Paul could not lurch to the right on social issues without losing some of his base.
New Hampshire provides a much better area for Paul’s message. The Granite State motto of “Live Free or Die” is a perfect haven for Paul’s message of personal liberty and freedom. Taxes and guns play a larger role than social issues. Paul could win New Hampshire, just as Pat Buchanan did and Paul’s father almost did.
The problem is that after New Hampshire comes the cold reality of South Carolina. If Iowa is lukewarm to Paul, South Carolina will be downright hostile toward him. The entire heart of the Paul message is the non-interventionist anti-war platform. South Carolina is military country, with the Citadel and other pro-defense organizations carrying sway. Paul has no chance in South Carolina.
Rand Paul, like his father, wants to remake the entire Republican Party in the Paul image. They want to purge the GOP of the neoconservatives who strongly supported the Iraq War. When the votes were counted in 2012, the paleocons received their same 10 to 15 percent of the vote that they always get. They have never built on that total.
Making matters worse, many of the Libertarian voters will not vote for any candidate other than Rand Paul. They are Libertarians, not Republicans. This gives the rest of the GOP even less reason to listen to them, not more. Ron Paul did not even endorse Mitt Romney in 2012. To be fair, Rand Paul did. Rand’s willingness to be a team player actually bothered many of his supporters, who stayed home.
The Paul movement acts as if it is built on core principles, but at its core it is a very unprincipled movement. Rand Paul should run for president as a Libertarian, just as Gary Johnson did in 2012. Paul supporters know that they cannot win this way. The answer is that if Libertarians cannot win, maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe enough people just disagree with the heart of the Libertarian message. To use the GOP apparatus while disparaging a large chunk of what the party stands for is outright dishonesty.
Paul supporters can claim that they will build on 2012 gains, but 2012 was the peak of anti-war sentiment. The rise of Boko Haram, ISIS, al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups has swung the foreign policy pendulum squarely back to the neocons. The paleocons can argue this, but screaming will not prevent them from being wrong.
This is before getting to Israel. Most Republican candidates support Israel. Evangelical fervor is one reason. Principled morality is another. There is a place for the Paul position on Israel. It is located in the Elizabeth Warren “Code Pink” wing of the Democrat Party.
If Paul does do well early, he will meet the same fate as Pat Buchanan. Other candidates will be pressured to drop out and rally around one mainstream GOP candidate in an anti-Paul effort. For every passionate person who will only vote for Rand Paul, there are more Republicans willing to vote for anyone but Rand Paul.
Rand Paul will win the social media primary. Any article praising him will have the most Facebook “likes” and “shares” and the most “tweets.” Meetup groups where people yell “Stand with Rand” will flourish. When actual votes come in, elderly people who either have no computer skills or are too busy to play online will drown out the white noise.
Young Paul supporters will demonize their critics and insist that such criticism is based on fear. The rest of the GOP is not afraid of the young college Paul supporters. We just find them annoying.
Dr. Rand Paul would make a fine Treasury secretary or director of Health and Human Services. As for the top job, when he is done running for the fourth time in 2028, the next generation of Pauls can begin their campaigns to get their 10 to 15 percent of the vote.
If Paul supporters disagree, which they can inevitably will, the way to silence the skeptics is to prove them wrong. Ron Paul did not win a single primary or caucus in 2012. Time will tell whether his son can build on zero and win one contest out of 50.