Monday, August 25, 2014

Rand Paul is wrong about himself, Democrats, the Republican Party, and 2016

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Rand Paul, riding a wave of egomaniacal hubris given his current position at or near the top of national Republican politics, thinks that Democrats are scared of him:

"I think the American public is coming more and more to where I am and that those people, like Hillary Clinton, who — she fought her own war, 'Hillary's war,' you know?" Paul said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"And I think that's what scares the Democrats the most — is that in a general election, were I to run, there's going to be a lot of independents and even some Democrats who say, ‘You know what? We are tired of war. We're worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war because she's so gung-ho.’"

Uh, no, not so much. There are some progressives to the left of the Clintonian Democratic center who don't much care for Hillary, and who certainly object to the warmongering aspects of the Democratic foreign policy elite, but in the end they wouldn't abandon her and the party (even if they voted for a progressive alternative in the primaries). Furthermore, while Americans are, by and large, tired of -- and generally opposed to -- the sorts of military misadventures that Bush and Cheney led the country into, isolationism (or at least non-interventionism) as represented by Paul just doesn't have the level of public support he apparently thinks it does. Besides, Hillary, like Obama, isn't "gung-ho." If you want "gung-ho," just look at Paul's own party, and therein lie the deeper problems for him.

As Booman writes, commenting on a Salon article by Sean McElwee, "the tenets of libertarianism are not consistent with the values of Republican voters. More:

Of course, Rand Paul has already begun to respond to these cross-currents in the Republican Party. He voted against immigration reform despite being for open borders. He's taken a more hawkish line of foreign policy. He is not going to run his father's pure libertarian campaign that, save on abortion, made no concessions to the above concerns. But Rand can't flip-flop-flip his way through these minefields indefinitely. He is going to have to take some definite positions and stick by them. And, most importantly, he is presumably running for president in order to attempt to implement his true vision, which he developed under his father's tutelage without any concern for what Republican primary voters would think about it. As he twists and contorts himself now in an effort to be a little of everything for everyone, he's just maneuvering.

If he were to win the nomination, many business elites would bolt the party, including those on Wall Street, in agribusiness, and the defense industry. Foreign interventionists would come back to the Democratic Party in a reverse flow of neo-conservatism. The party's advantage with the elderly would be greatly diminished. Social conservatives would be demoralized and would stay home.

To try to offset these losses, the party could make fresh appeals to young voters by going to the left of the Democratic Party on foreign policy, surveillance, the War on Drugs, and Prison Reform. But this would rip the GOP apart.

All of this may happen to the GOP anyway, whether or not Rand Paul actually wins the nomination. If he gets enough delegates, he could turn the Republican National Convention in Cleveland into an internecine civil war. 

It would be a bit dramatic (and premature) at this point to suggest that a Republican civil war is coming, but it's certainly possible. While Republicans generally fall in lock-step behind their leaders, the deep divisions within the party are clear, and what's clear is that Rand Paul, whatever popularity he may currently enjoy, stands in stark opposition to core elements of the party, including Wall Street business interests and the warmongering militants who jingoistically seek global American hegemony or who at the very least seek to express American might through military action.

Sure, Paul could attract disaffected independents and maybe even a few Democrats, but he'd face greater trouble trying to hold together a fragmented Republican coalition. It just seems unlikely he'll even find himself in the position of having to try to do so.

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