Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On Monday I wrote...

...that Jeb Bush would win the Republican nomination, but "Rand Paul [might] stick around a little to make it interesting (and audition for VP)." Yesterday I read in Politico that Paul may already be done. 

Wow! That was fast.

So what happened? The piece mentions "deep fundraising and organizational problems," "an underfunded and understaffed campaign beaten down by low morale," and "an undisciplined politician who wasn’t willing to do what it took to win." *

While I'm sure that's all accurate, it's also "inside baseball" that you could only learn from websites like Politico. But the piece also mentions two of Paul's signature policy stances, "a restrained foreign policy, and ... outreach to minorities," that I've been meaning to write about for some time now. And what I've wanted to write is that those are both losing issues with the Republican Party base.

Take Paul's "restrained foreign policy," or "dovishness," or "isolationism," or whatever you want to call it. While the freshman senator from Kentucky made quite a splash a couple of years ago with his 13-hour filibuster against hypothetical drone strikes directed at U.S. citizens on American soil, I think he misread the response from other Republicans. And that is that Republicans would have no problem with drone strikes so long as they came from a Republican president. The problem is that President black guy from Kenya Obama just can't be trusted by the paranoid, delusional GOP base. And that, I think, is why Paul's filibuster was so popular: not so much the whole drone thing, but the fact that he stood up to Obama. Republicans love that!

The Republican Party, you have to remember, is largely based on fear. And therefore the default position will always be a muscular defense and a Dick Cheney-type national security. (Direct drone strikes at traitors in the U. S.? Have at it!)

The second issue, outreach to minorities, has focused on, among other things, criminal justice reform. From an article in the Washington Post (my emphasis):

Rand Paul has made criminal justice reform an important bullet on his political to-do list. He was one of the few white political leaders to speak out forcefully during last summer’s contentious debates around the subject after several unarmed black men and boys were killed during encounters with police officers. He has co-sponsored legislation in Congress to reform mandatory sentencing laws and to change policies that permanently stigmatize nonviolent juvenile offenders, which have disproportionately affected African Americans.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! 
Now, while everyone knows the GOP needs to reach out to blacks, Latinos and other minorities if it ever hopes to win the White House again, it's supposed to do that by selling them -- somehow -- on ideas like repealing Obamacare, or that tax cuts for rich white people will actually benefit them. (Republicans actually believe stuff like that; it's adorable, isn't it?) 

But as for what Richard Nixon used to euphemistically call, "Law and Order," there's no reason as far as they're concerned to change what they're already doing. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Republicans want to see more people in jail, not fewer (and I shouldn't have to tell you which people). As in foreign policy, like I mentioned above, Republicans are motivated on domestic issues like crime by fear. (Why do you think the NRA is so popular among the -- once again -- paranoid,  delusional base?)

So the eventual 2016 GOP nominee (probably Jeb) will be strong on defense and also strong on law and order -- you can take that to the bank. Republicans always are; think St. Ronald Reagan. 

Oh, and the party's standard-bearer will also be against immigration reform -- the base will demand it. If there's one thing that Donald Trump has done it's to highlight the division in the party between the establishment, which wants reform, and the base, which doesn't. Now, how Jeb squares that circle is anyone's guess. But you can be certain that if he gets pushed to the right on immigration like Romney he'll lose the general election; if he doesn't, the base will stay home (or vote for a third-party candidate). Hello President Hillary!

* Maybe Rand Paul just doesn't have the fire in the belly after all. (Did he miss his chance in 2012?) Maybe the ophthalmologist will just return to private life in Bowling Green, Kentucky after one term in the Senate.

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