By David Atkins / AlterNet
April 16, 2015
Many young people and progressives who are wary of a Clinton presidency are seeking potential alternatives, even outside the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, much of the attention of voters seeking an alternative to mainstream candidates of both parties has focused on Rand Paul. This is no accident: Rand Paul has carefully positioned himself as "the most interesting man in Washington" for supposedly being a different kind of Republican, hip and able to connect with younger voters. Paul has made it his mission to bring more of the increasingly progressive youth vote back to the GOP fold, and polling shows that Paul does have greater support among younger voters than older ones. Paul has also mounted the most aggressive social media campaign of the GOP hopefuls for president, again partly in an effort to reach younger voters.
But Paul's delicately crafted maverick image is far from the reality. Here are six things younger and more progressive voters need to know about Rand Paul.
1. Rand Paul wants more military spending and more war in the Middle East. Rand Paul has grown a reputation for anti-interventionism over the years partly by association with his stridently anti-interventionist father Ron Paul, and partly on account of statements he made during his early years as a senator. To be fair, he has staked out a slightly less rabid position on Iran than some other GOP presidential hopefuls, though that's not saying much. As with all politicians, the key is not to watch what they say but what they actually propose and vote for.
On March 25, Rand Paul introduced a budget amendment calling for a whopping $190 billion increase to military spending. The United States already spends more on war and military expenses than almost the entire rest of the world combined. Paul hasn't yet clarified what he thinks that $190 billion would be spent on, if not to facilitate more wars abroad. To pay for it, he calls for drastic cuts to climate change research, education, housing assistance, and foreign aid.
Rand Paul was even more hawkish than his Republican colleagues on dealing with ISIS, proposing a full-scale military assault that would almost certainly have demanded a resurgence of American troops on the ground in Iraq. No matter what one thinks of Hillary Clinton's foreign policy, it's difficult to argue that Rand Paul would be any kind of improvement from an anti-interventionist perspective.
2. Rand Paul would be even worse for students and the middle class than other Republicans. Rand Paul's proposed budget is cruel and shortsighted even by Republican standards, constituting a massive giveaway to the extremely wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Paul's budget would entirely eliminate funding for the Department of Education The worst case scenario there would be the elimination of funding for public schools entirely, while the best case would be allowing block grants to states to spend education money as they see fit. So if Alabama wanted to make education funding dependent on teaching students that dinosaurs lived alongside humans before missing Noah's ark, they would be allowed to do that in Rand Paul's perfect world without pesky oversight from the federal government.
But that's not all. Elementary students would lose school lunches, as well as children's health insurance programs and other food assistance. Paul made a splash with his proposal to allow students to deduct their tuition over the course of their working career, but that itself is a wolf in sheep's clothing: the plan would do little to help students burdened by student loans who cannot find a job after college, and it would further starve the government of the revenues it needs for programs like education, which Paul plans to cut. But Rand Paul didn't have any difficulty in placing the interests of big banks over those of students by voting against Elizabeth Warren's proposal to allow students to borrow money from the government at the same low rate that banks do. Meanwhile, Rand Paul also supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, including its provision that allows Americans under 26 to remain on their parents' health plans.
And it's not just students and young adults who would suffer under Rand Paul. He would eliminate the Housing and Urban Development and Energy departments, crucial instruments for improving blighted neighborhoods, helping working Americans achieve middle-class stability, and moving the country toward a renewable energy future.
Last but not least, his budget also calls for privatizing Medicare and Social Security, slashing Medicaid, and dramatically cutting taxes on the obscenely wealthy during a period of record income and wealth inequality. He also wants to repeal even the modest constraints placed on Wall Street in the wake of the Great Recession. His flat tax plan would dramatically decrease taxes on the super-rich, and raise them on the poor and middle class. In short, Rand Paul's economic policies are a betrayal of the poor and middle class, further enriching the 1% and Wall Street at the expense of everyone else. On these issues alone the glaring difference between Rand Paul and even the most conservative Democrat could not be more stark. Paul would be an utter disaster on core, bread-and-butter economic issues not only for students but Americans of all ages and backgrounds.
3. Rand Paul voted against reforming the NSA. One of Paul's supposed differences with the Washington establishment is his stated opposition to the surveillance state and his support for privacy rights. Rand Paul is indeed vocal in his opposition to the renewal of the Patriot Act, but the devil is in the details. When Paul had a real opportunity to curtail the NSA's power in November of last year, he infuriated civil liberties advocates by voting against a bill that would have dramatically scaled back NSA operations on the grounds that the reforms would be part of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act might be modified when it comes up for renewable, but it's very unlikely to be scrapped entirely.
Civil liberties advocates know that the best chance at reforming the NSA will come by making alterations to the law. Which means that when Rand Paul opposes NSA reform on a hardline stance against renewing the Patriot Act, he gets to have his cake and eat it too. He wins support from privacy-minded voters while ensuring that the establishment knows he's not a real threat to make even minor changes to how the security state does business.
Meanwhile, despite her reputation as an establishment friend of the security state, Hillary Clinton herself joined with NSA critic Mark Udall in voicing support for the need to makes changes to surveillance law to defend privacy. If Clinton were to accept restrictions to the NSA as part of a Patriot Act renewal or other related vote, she would do far more to defend privacy than Rand Paul has ever done.
4. Rand Paul opposes marriage equality and reproductive choice.Despite styling himself as a libertarian who favors privacy rights, Rand Paul stridently opposes both abortion rights and gay marriage, sticking the government in your womb and in your bedroom. On abortion Rand Paul goes further than even many of his Republican colleagues, opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Using the federal government's power to force a 13-year-old to carry her father's baby to term is hardly the portrait of freedom. When challenged, he tried to dodge the question by saying the issue wasn't worth talking about. As if that weren't bad enough, Rand Paul also took the extraordinary step of voting against the Violence Against Women Act.
On marriage equality, Rand Paul continue to take an archaic stance against the rights of LGBT Americans to marry and strengthen household stability, despite blaming the weakening of marriage for increased poverty among straight Americans.
5. Rand Paul advocates for discriminatory laws. Paul famously opposed the Civil Rights Act, including its provisions demanding that all Americans be treated equally regardless of race. He then attempted to backtrack on that statement by claiming that civil rights provisions should be left up to the states to decide, but that's an obvious dodge, given that the Civil Rights Act was passed at the federal level precisely because intransigent, mostly former Confederate states adamantly refused to integrate schools or force businesses to serve blacks as well as whites at the lunch counter.
If civil rights were left entirely up to states to decide, many states would still be stuck in the Jim Crow era. Which is precisely how conservative politicians like Rand Paul who advocate for "state's rights" in the realm of civil liberties want it. Paul's antiquated views on civil liberties match up with his support for discriminatory voter ID laws on their merits (if not on their politics), and his steadfast opposition to gay rights.
6. Rand Paul does not support decriminalizing drugs. As we've seen, Rand Paul often pretends to be something he is not on many issues, not least of which is drug policy. While his father, Ron Paul, is a strong advocate of drug decriminalization, the son has not followed in his father's footsteps. In fact, he has gone out of his way to distance himself from his father on the issue to reassure the GOP base. He has publicly assured conservative evangelicals that he disagrees with drug decriminalization, and that his father's views on the subject should not be attributed to him. Paul's stance even on marijuana, much less harder drugs, isn't "live and let live," but rather just more of the same "just say no."
It's true that Rand Paul advocates sentencing reforms for nonviolent drug offenses, but so do many Democrats, including President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. Not that drug policy really matters much at the presidential level, since Congress is unlikely to put any sort of decriminalization bill on the president's desk. On that front, the real work is happening in the states, where Democrats are leading the push for relaxation of drug laws over strident Republican opposition.
In short, younger voters and other progressives should take a good, hard look at Rand Paul before considering him an alternative to Hillary Clinton, or any other Democratic presidential candidate. On economic issues Paul is a dangerous and heartless right-wing radical. On social issues he's as reactionary as the worst Republican theocrat. Even on drugs and foreign policy, it's not at all clear that Paul would be an improvement. When it comes to the interests of all but the obscenely wealthy, Rand Paul is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Why Rand Paul is wrong for America
by Georgia Davis Powers -- CNN
When I was elected to the Kentucky State Senate in 1967, I became the first woman and the first person of color to serve in the body. Five decades later, I find it almost unfathomable that a politician from my own state is attempting to launch his presidential campaign on a record that includes questioning landmark voting rights and civil rights legislation.
But that is what Rand Paul, who Tuesday declared he's running for president of the United States, is doing. His campaign team told reporters last week that his campaign announcement message would be about "expanding the Republican Party" -- a message of inclusion. But those of us listening today who he is hoping to include, heard nothing more than hype. I'm not buying it.
Since coming to the U.S. Senate, Paul has tried to sell himself as a different type of Republican. He's tried to brand himself as the GOP's minority outreach candidate. The problem for Paul, and the GOP at large, is that they don't back up their words with their policies.
Yes, it's about time that Republicans started seriously considering the fact that black voters are an important piece of the electoral puzzle. But they can't actually appeal to the community unless they have a real commitment to the issues facing minority communities. A quick survey of Sen. Paul's positions makes clear that he does not
Paul kicked off his announcement speech in Louisville by declaring "I have a message that is loud and clear: We have come to take our country back." I have no doubt that under Paul's leadership, he would indeed take our country back -- in the wrong direction -- way back to a time when we were debating the Civil Rights Act -- which Paul has done since landing on the national stage; when there was no Department of Education -- a department he thinks "should be done away with;" when women didn't have choices -- choices Paul seeks to limit in Washington; when DREAMers weren't protected from deportation -- protections Paul currently opposes.
In his inept speaking engagements at historically black colleges and universities, he has come across as condescending and lacking basic cultural competency. But Paul has also questioned the Civil Rights Act, and even claimed that private business owners have a right to discriminate. When asked about the need for a more robust Voting Rights Act following the Supreme Court's dismantling of the law, Paul dismissively remarked, "We have an African-American President."
Sen. Paul: Ferguson reflects unease in U.S. 03:04
When President Obama stood with John Lewis and other veterans of the civil rights movement in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge last month to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, he inspired us all by saying: "With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. ... With effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge -- and that is the right to vote."
America is better -- and we solve more problems -- with more democracy, not less. Unfortunately Rand Paul has demonstrated that he disagree with that basic principle. Paul tried once again from that stage in Louisville to fashion himself as the one member of his party courageous enough to try to broaden Republican appeal to constituencies they ignore year after year. But his record makes it very clear that his views are outdated, outside of the mainstream, and disqualifying for a man who wants to lead our country.
The American people deserve a leader who won't disrespect their intelligence, who won't pander to them when it's convenient, and who won't work to dismantle the progress we have made over the last five decades. What I heard today, didn't change the facts about Rand Paul's record. The American people deserve better than Rand Paul.
Rand Paul: Children Got 'Profound Mental Disorders' After Receiving Vaccines
By Igor Bobic --- The Huffington Post
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued Monday that debate over whether to allow parents more choice in the vaccination of their children was a matter of "freedom," citing personal knowledge of kids "who wound up with profound mental disorders" after receiving immunizations for diseases like Hepatitis B and measles.
"I don't think there's anything extraordinary about resorting to freedom," the potential 2016 presidential candidate, who is a ophthalmologist, said in an interview with CNBC.
"We sometimes give five or six vaccines all at one time," he said of immunizations of newborns for Hepatitis B. "I chose to have mine delayed....Do I think it's ultimately a good idea? Yeah. So I had mine staggered over several months. I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children, who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I'm not arguing that vaccines are a bad idea, I think they're a good thing. But I think parents should have some input. The state doesn't own your children, parents own their children, and it is an issue of freedom. "
For the record, the scientific community overwhelmingly supports childhood vaccinations, and there is virtually no evidence that the measles vaccine is unsafe.
Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) made an argument similar to Paul's in 2012, claiming that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine could do permanent damage to young girls.
“There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine,” Bachmann said. “She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences.”
Paul isn't the only would-be presidential candidate who is facing scrutiny over his position on child vaccinations. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) also said parents should have "some measure of choice" when it comes to vaccinating their children, before walking back his comments in a statement on Monday.
Here's where the rest of the field stands on the issue.
UPDATE: Paul clarified his remarks in a statement passed along by his office on Tuesday.
"I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related -- I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated. In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year," he said.
Media Should Remember: Rand Paul Has A Problem With Women's Health, Not Just Female Journalists
by MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS --- Media Matters
As media outlets across the political spectrum continue to assess the implications of Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) contentious behavior toward reporters, much of the analysis does not explore what irritated the presidential candidate in two recent interviews -- the observation that support for unconditional abortion bans and fetal "personhood" laws cannot be reconciled with support for exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
Almost immediately after announcing his candidacy, Paul's condescending behavior toward female reporters was widely criticized as sexist, when he "simplistically and condescendingly" refused to acknowledge his reversal on foreign policy toward Iran to Today Show host Savannah Guthrie -- a position that even the conservative National Review's Rich Lowry labeled a "flip-flop." Subsequent coverage of Paul's Today interview focused on his rudeness toward Guthrie, and even when outlets also noted he "bristled" and "ducked questions" in other interviews about his inconsistent record on exceptions to abortion bans, the extent of that contradiction was unexplored.
The questions about his support for abortion ban exceptions originated in an interview with the Associated Press on the same day as his Today interview, when Paul "dodg[ed] a central question about abortion: What exceptions, if any, should be made if the procedure were to be banned?" Paul's refusal to answer whether or not his broad support for abortion bans includes an accommodation for rape, incest, or the health of the mother continued on CNN's The Situation Room. In one exchange, Wolf Blitzer directly asked whether Paul supported an exception for victims of rape and incest. In response, Paul claimed that "there will be extenuating circumstances, and I've supported legislation both with exceptions and without exceptions":
Blitzer did not follow up with Paul about what the "extenuating circumstances" are and which of his positions on abortion bans with exceptions he currently supports.
Meet the Most Dangerous Man in Politics
GOP insiders fear Sen. Rand Paul, perhaps for good reason. He's a threat.
By Lara Brown Feb. 27, 2015
This week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, party activists are going to be listening to speeches from the large field of Republican presidential aspirants and voting for their personal favorites in the conference's annual straw poll.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has won the honor the last two years. Surely, all of his likely opponents – from former Gov. Jeb Bush to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – have their supporters working extra hard to make sure that it doesn't happen again this year.
For Paul and his nascent campaign team, this "Hunger Games" dynamic (temporarily gang up with competitors to take out other rivals) likely feels familiar. For as Paul's presidential prospects have risen, GOP insiders from across the conservative spectrum have declared him “dangerous.”
[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the Republican Party]
From Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin to Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Paul is not a candidate to be supported. The latest to enter the increasingly desperate sounding "Don't Stand With Rand" chorus is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's personal presidential nomination funder and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Branding Paul's foreign policy positions "dangerous" appears to have begun with the master "angler" himself: Vice President Dick Cheney.
But if all of these Republicans have come together to stop Rand, one has to wonder what his real threat is. According to the American Conservative, the problem with Paul is that he "says he would have opposed going to Iraq in 2003" and that "all wars should be declared by Congress." More recent criticism relates to his support for engagement with Cuba. In short, he's more constitutionally-constrained and intellectually-circumspect than the group of neoconservative war-hawks who lead former President George W. Bush's foreign policy efforts for eight years.
If the Republicans had any ability to objectively reflect on Bush's tenure, they'd realize that this is not a bad thing. Bush's choice to pursue a war in Iraq doomed his presidency. And according to political scientist Gary Jacobson, "the Obama presidency is primarily a legacy of George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq."
[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]
Why would the GOP embrace a failed foreign policy from the past, which severely tarnished the reputation of its last president and resulted in a Democratic White House? Because most seem to think that President Barack Obama's apparent fecklessness (and by extension that of his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the likely Democratic nominee) in dealing with the Islamic State group and Russia is going to be evident enough to excite Americans to re-engage more forcefully in the world. They don't seem to realize that in the 2016 debate over where we'd rather go in the future, few Americans are going to want to go back to Bush to prevent a continuation of Obama.
The only way to break this "referendum" argument (which Obama won in 2012 and his current approval ratings suggest he'd win again if the election were held today), is to create a "new third way." Paul is offering the GOP this, but whether Republicans can stomach the change is going to be anyone's guess. The president of the Cato Institute appears hopeful that the Republicans will.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele got it right: Paul is " the most dangerous man in politics."
I’m A Libertarian. Rand Paul Is Just Another Big Government Hypocrite.
on April 7, 2015 at 2:10 am
The Libertarian ViewRand Paul is taking a big gamble by announcing his campaign for president. He began by releasing some hype videos touting his outsider status in a field crowded with Washington elite types The media is deep into his branding as the “Libertarian Republican candidate.” The left has already gone apoplectic over past comments about the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and ther sundry items that make good copy in a media environment that thrives on outrage.
I say it’s a gamble because his home state, Kentucky, does not allow a sitting Senator to run for two offices at once, and his Senate seat is up for grabs in 2016. If he does not win the GOP nomination and the presidency, it’s back to the private sector for Rand. Not that such a fate would be completely terrible for him. The guy is, after all, a doctor. He’s also now a doctor with 5 years worth of Washington contacts and more than likely his choice of think tank or lobbying gigs if things go south in ’16.
The usual suspects are going to line up to tell you why Rand is the devil, up to and including how he’s named after patron demon of the left, Ayn Rand (he’s not, actually; Rand is short for Randall). Their reasoning may have some spice here and there, but most of their criticism hinges on emotional appeals and triggers that mean very little.
On the other side of the conversation, Paul’s supporters tend to portray him as a Tea Party champion who is simply “playing politics,” and insist that he is building himself into a libertarian Trojan horse, swaying the Republican leadership into thinking that he is mainstream enough to get behind. As a libertarian, however, I’m here to give you the real reason why Paul is just another charlatan who wants to be in charge of the sausage factory.
Rand’s father, Ron, remains something of a hero to many libertarians. He had issues of his own (not paying close enough attention to what was published in his ghostwritten newsletter in the 80s and early 90’s, for example). Ron, however, remained capable of not forcing others to live under his personal code when he found their behavior distasteful. When he disagreed with use of drugs or abortion, he said it should be up to the states to set their own boundaries. He argued that abortion and other medical procedures in particular were not within the purview of the federal government and did what he could to limit government funding. That’s not really much of a surprise though, since the elder Paul’s whole shtick was limiting the role and funding of the federal government in all areas.
Rand, however, has voted yes and sponsored or cosponsored every single bill that has passed in front of him that sought to limit abortion or grant personhood at conception. Rand has no problem using the government as a club to beat people into submitting to his sense of moral superiority. Rand’s failure to live and let live extends to marriage as well. He deemed same sex marriage a “moral crisis” and, in response, called for a new Great Awakening with tent revivals and sugar sprinkles on top.
He hedges on these statements in an attempt to ape his father, saying it should be up to the states to decide. In the younger Paul’s case, this is simply punting the football to avoid having to make a definitive policy statement because the writing is on the wall as it pertains to same sex marriages. His numerous and explicit comments extolling the virtues of so-called “traditional” marriage leave little doubt that he would give little to no support to any federal protections for marriage freedom. No word on whether he wants to actually revert to the kind of traditional marriages involving bride prices and enslaved rape victims.
Paul also has a murky record on foreign affairs. His first two years in the senate were fantastic for libertarian observers. Down with drone kill lists! Cut off all foreign aid! Close excess military bases! Stop going on empire building military excursions for made up reasons and creating more people who hate us! There was finally an actual conservative in the senate. Only now he votes for sanctions, advocates massive increases in defense spending, and shills escalating funds to pet governments just like the rest of the Republican crowd. It’s been really sad to watch someone who seemed to have some fairly consistent positions devolve into just another vote whore pandering to his bosses.
Rand very badly wants to be president and it is beyond evident that he is willing to compromise his principles to get there. His endorsement of sanctions on Iran is especially troubling because the only people who really pay for sanctions are the regular workaday citizens who suffer the crippling inflation, crashing job markets, and lack of resources (particularly medicines) that sanctions wreak. A government under sanctions will simply divert resources to whatever its end and the citizenry is left to deal with the consequences. This, to me, is an unforgivable ethical failing and is exactly the kind of thing that a supposed “libertarian” should be frothing at the mouth to crush. But Rand is busy soft shoeing it to the Heritage Foundation as a good thing.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul. Photo by Gage Skidmore.
Paul is also on the wrong side of the War on Drugs, advocating for the dismissal of mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana, yet keeping marijuana itself, as well as other drugs, illegal. Ending mandatory minimums is a good thing, but viewed through the prism of the millions of destroyed lives and wasted resources that the drug war has brought us since Nixon began it, it’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic—45 years after the sinking. How anyone advocates for shrinking the penal system while supporting the War on Drugs escapes me. Paul also says he opposes the militarization of American police forces, to much the same effect. American drug policy has made government at all levels–as well as its cronies–tons of cash and Paul has demonstrated that he does not have the ethical backbone to derail that funding train.
On numerous occasions, Paul has claimed to be a strong civil libertarian, even to the point of loudly calling for the dismantling of the Patriot Act, but he has supported the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provisions with amendments granting government the ability to indefinitely detain US citizens and has also supported US law enforcement’s use of drones against citizens, which was one hell of a turnaround. He also voted “no” on legislation that would have reformed the NSA and protected citizens from abuses within that agency. In what kind of sick Bizarro World scenario does that idea become compatible with fancying oneself pro-civil liberties?
We could continue with reams of reasons why Rand Paul is a bad choice for President, and still we’d just be scratching the surface. Is he a better pick than Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, or Chris Christie? Marginally. The bottom line is that they are all garbage, and he slots right in there with the rest of them.
Rand’s official campaign slogan is, “Fight the Washington Machine. Unleash the American Dream.” Do not allow yourself to be fooled by this cute narrative of the libertarian outsider who is shooting to bring down the Republican establishment. Jeb Bush is most likely (deservedly) going to be the yardstick of machine politics that everyone else will be measured by, but if anything, Cruz is a shade more outside the establishment than Paul, simply because his religious crutches have a sharper point on them and his spiel is a little tougher on a couple of the Tea Party pet issues.
Paul talks a good game on certain topics, but has proven time and time again that he is just another big government hypocrite ready and willing to use government force to define the lives of others.
Rand Paul will never be president To be a viable White House contender, you have to be within your party’s mainstream on public policy. He's not
JONATHAN BERNSTEIN --- Salon
Paul the Younger hasn’t disguised the plain fact that he’s running for the 2016 Republican nomination for president; he’s already begun making appearances in early primary and caucus states, and this week he started putting in motion the machinery for a presidential campaign. It’s always possible he won’t be running in 2016 – but for now, he’s certainly running for 2016.
And yet … Rand Paul faces very long odds. Perhaps not quite as long as his father did in his numerous presidential runs, but long enough.
There are basically two questions to ask about whether someone would be a viable candidate for a major party nomination. First, a candidate must have conventional qualifications. Paul certainly clears that hurdle, although not all that impressively. By 2016, he’ll be finishing up a full Senate term. That’s a little more than Barack Obama had (presumably Obama’s state legislative service meant little on this score). It’s more than Mitt Romney, a one-term governor, had. It’s the same number of years as George W. Bush, although Bush had the added qualification of having been reelected. So there’s no real barrier there.
But the second question is the one that probably knocks him out: Viable candidates must be within their party’s mainstream on questions of public policy. That’s particularly true for issues over which large, influential party groups can exercise a virtual veto. And that’s what’s extremely likely to happen to Rand Paul in 2016.
There are just too many public policy areas, and too many important groups within the party in those areas, for Paul to really be viable. It’s possible that Paul and Republican Party actors could work out some sort of deal on “war on drugs” issues; after all, there are limited things that a president can do without Congress, so Republicans who favor current drug laws and enforcement strategies might be willing to live with him as long as he signaled that he wouldn’t make it a priority in a Paul presidency. It’s also possible, indeed likely, that on some of the fringe issues where he and most Republicans disagree that there would be no real objection to a nominee who disagrees with them. I think that might be true, for example, on many civil liberties issues. There are, for better or worse, very few people on either side (and in either party) for whom civil liberties is a central issue.
There’s just no way, however, that the people within the Republican Party who care about foreign policy and national security would easily accept Rand Paul. It’s bad enough for Paul that the neoconservative faction would want nothing to do with him, but the realist Republicans, those associated, for example, with President George H.W. Bush, would be almost equally opposed to Paul’s anti-interventionist policies.
Not only is there no precedent for anyone with so many, and such important, conflicts with party orthodoxy, but there’s really no precedent for anyone coming very close during the modern (post-1968) era. Not only that, but all the cases that might be said to be similar on some level happened in the early years of the reformed system, when the novelty of the process yielded some results we haven’t seen from 1980 on:
But even so, I think that kind of analysis shortchanges the role of party actors in the process. Basically, there’s nothing to prevent a factional candidate from winning in Iowa and New Hampshire. The system isn’t built that way; in fact, with the large fields that early primaries and caucuses typically attract, several candidates have won in those or other early states without coming anywhere close to the convention, much less the White House.
But if those candidates are opposed by important party actors, they get steamrolled soon after – as Newt Gingrich found after winning the South Carolina primary in 2012, or Paul Tsongas after winning in New Hampshire in 1992. And as fields narrow, the concentration of party resources – not just money, but interest groups, politicians, the party-aligned press – is almost certainly too much for someone opposed by those party actors to overcome.
Is it impossible for Rand Paul to win? It’s politics; it’s usually a mistake to say things are impossible. Paul could modify his positions enough that those who oppose him do not feel obliged to work to defeat him. It’s even possible, but highly unlikely, that Paul and his allies could flip the Republican Party on key issues.
And it’s not just policy disagreement: those Republicans who care little about issues and ideology but care a lot about winning elections would be very reluctant to put a candidate on the ticket who, beyond his disagreements with Republicans, has embraced a host of issues that would rapidly give him a reputation as far from the mainstream in the general election.
Rand Paul could certainly be relevant in 2016, both in how he attempts to push the GOP toward his issue positions, and in the effects he has on contested primaries. He may well wind up with more delegates at the convention than his father had (but again, there’s no guarantee of that; we’ve yet to see how he’ll hold up to a national campaign).
But a serious chance of winning the Republican nomination? At the very best, he’s right on the fringe of being a viable presidential candidate. More likely, he’ll simply duplicate what his father has done. There’s a long way to go, but I see no reason to believe that Rand Paul will win the 2016 Republican nomination for president.
Jonathan Bernstein writes at a Plain Blog About Politics. Follow him at @jbplainblog
As a senator, Paul is firmly anti-choice, though he's right that he does tend to keep things fuzzy when asked if he believes that rape victims should be forced to carry their pregnancies to term. Paul has a perfect voting record with National Right to Life, the organization behind the the law that just effectively criminalized all abortions performed in Kansas during the second trimester. (That law, by the way, has no exceptions for rape or incest.)
And then there's his sponsorship of federal personhood legislation that would extend full legal rights to fertilized eggs, a move that bans most, if not all, abortion and could make certain forms of birth control illegal.
Because Paul's personhood proposal holds that the full weight of the 14th amendment kicks in "at the moment of fertilization," methods of birth control that may prevent implantation -- like the copper IUD when used as emergency contraception -- could become, as the New Yorker so bluntly put it last year, "weapons of murder."
As the AP explained, "exceptions in any abortion ban are a politically sensitive topic for Paul and some of his rivals. They want to nudge the party away from a focus on such social issues, but they know that winning the nomination requires some backing from religious conservatives who press for strict if not absolute limits on abortion." Paul's sensitivity notwithstanding, however, the media should note that the substance of his inconsistencies is at least as compelling as the candidate's reaction, especially when "polls show that a vast majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape and incest and to protect the life of the mother."