Rand Paul Can Try To Be His Party’s Bill Clinton, But He’ll Never Be President
This post originally appeared at Eclectablog.com.
Rand Paul continues to fling any turd he can find at the Clintons for pretty obvious reasons.
The first-term senator from Kentucky has to do something to show the GOP establishment he can be competitive in a general election, and he’s trying to keep the former president out of his home state’s Senate race so that Rand didn’t sell out to Mitch McConnell for nothing.
There’s no doubt that the younger Paul is a savvy tactician. The proof of this is that he’s ironically trying to follow Bill Clinton’s path to the presidency by staking out a series of “Sister Soulja moment“-like strategic breaks from his party.
Last week, he noted that the GOP’s repulsive attempts to stop minorities from voting are “offending” people. Paul was the first Republican to call out Ted Nugent’s “sub-human mongrel” slurs against President Obama. And he’s built lots of credibility with civil libertarians on the right and left by focusing on “drones,” which has become a code word for “civilian casualties,” which happen to be down under this president, along with military casualties and wars.
Though Paul’s own drone stance is complicated by the fact he thinks it’s cool for a drone to take out an American suspected of robbing a liquor store, his non-interventionist tendencies and willingness to negotiate with Iran do all Americans a favor, providing a hedge against the far right’s recent destructive tendencies toward war.
These anti-war stands will also lead to a deluge of attacks funded by hundreds of millions of dollars should he become competitive in the 2016 Republican primary, which has been designed to give Jeb Bush the nomination, should Jeb want it.
However, these stands are not why Paul will never be president. America is as nearly non-interventionist as he is these days. His Aqua-Buddha past and support for ending some of the drug war have seeped into the mainstream, too. Rand probably can even get away with a dad whose “institute” publishes the work of 9/11 truthers.
What voters won’t tolerate are Rand Paul’s key actual policies:
- He released a budget that calls for the immediate privatization of Medicare and Social Security along with raising the retirement age;
- He favors a flat tax, which would cut taxes for millionaires and raise them on the middle class;
- He supports personhood, which would ban all abortions and some forms of birth control, a stand so unpopular it was even defeated in Mississippi.
Bill Clinton’s strategy was to make the Democratic Party appear more moderate. Rand Paul gets that rhetorically, perhaps.
But single women aren’t going to elect a president who would appoint Supreme Court justices who believe a fertilized egg has 14th Amendment rights. The middle class and seniors aren’t going to trade the Medicare promise for more tax breaks for millionaires. One decent comment on voter ID isn’t going to erase Paul’s opposition to immigration reform — just as one trip to Detroit won’t make him an “inner city” hero.
The usual caveats apply. The economy could go bust or we could find out that #Benghazi is worse than Iraq, 9/11, Watergate, Iran/Contra, Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy combined.
But Democrats have a natural advantage in 2016, and Rand Paul would take that advantage and put it on steroids.
UPDATE: In a statement to Slate‘s Dave Weigel, Rand Paul’s Super PAC director backed off the senator’s criticisms of voter ID laws: “At no point did Senator Paul come out against voter ID laws. In terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it’s up to each state to decide that type of issue.”
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr