Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has been making headlines of late which could be indicative of his intentions to run for the 2016 Republican nomination for the presidency. Although he has yet to formally announce his intentions, Paul’s public appearances and speeches would lead one to believe his emerging candidacy is imminent.
Like most in the political realm, Paul has an impressive resume. He is a doctor of Ophthalmology and is a graduate of the Duke University School of Medicine. During his advocacy for reduced government spending and lower taxes, he has founded and or led several conservative organizations that adhere to a smaller government and lower taxes philosophy such as the North Carolina Taxpayers Union and the Kentucky Taxpayers United organization. He is a proponent of citizen privacy and opposes the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. Paul has a record of standing on his principles and demonstrated his resolve during a 13 hour filibuster in opposition to President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA in March 2013.
He has a history of acting independently of traditional Republican strategies. In March 2014, in an effort to enlarge the GOP base, Senator Paul is reportedly quoted as saying that the Republican Party will have to learn to agree to disagree on issues like traditional marriage. While the comment on its face sounds congenial enough, it likely does not stand up to party scrutiny and may not bode well for him when this particular issue represents much of what lies at the heart of conservative core values.
In addition to occasional departures from Republican strategies, Rand Paul’s emergence as a presidential candidate in 2016 may be hampered by his occasional independence from traditional Republican ideologies as well. The GOP has become the political party that conservatives most closely associate with. There are many social issues that have an impact on elections and it can also be argued that voters could balk at voting for a candidate who is willing to compromise on what have been benignly called “social issues” but that are more accurately identified as “moral issues” for conservatives. A more problematic reason for the GOP’s failure to grow the party’s numbers could stem from the growing popularity of secularism in America and conservatives’ perception of a culture of decaying morality.
Senator Paul and the GOP have a difficult road to tread in order to unify its party. Compromising and agreeing to disagree on the core values of its conservative base may not be the most productive way to accomplishing that seemingly daunting task. It appears that the Democrat Party, which includes nearly all who subscribe to the liberal ideology, is in the process of losing control of the Senate in the upcoming midterm elections, likely the result of that party’s failed domestic and foreign polices executed by President Obama. The notion of free healthcare promised through the imagined success that came with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, in spite of the fallacy that it is, and the legal victories surrounding same sex marriage, in and of themselves will arguably not be enough to win the day for the Democrats at a time when the country is afflicted with bigger government, a sputtering economy, higher taxes, out of control national debt, corrupt leadership, the ever increasing threat to personal freedom and President Obama’s last minute whipped up “strategy” to destroy ISIL.
The GOP and Senator Paul have yet another concern. It has finally recognized that the Tea Party continues to be a political threat. Unlike the GOP which is still attempting rediscover itself, the Tea Party has shown it will not compromise the very core values that Paul is apparently willing to agree to disagree on. Problematic for the Republicans is the widening gap between liberal and conservative values and the realization that on many, if not most social and moral issues, the gap is not bridgeable. Nonetheless, the Democrats still must cope with the repeated failures of their domestic and foreign policies and the accelerated loss of national luster and global respect under the Obama presidency.
With the country being more than two years away from the 2016 election, there is always the possibility that new issues could surface and change the political climate for all parties. This week, the United States began an aerial assault against ISIL targets in Syria and there is growing controversy over the necessity to return ground troops to Iraq. If ground troops do return, it would be an admission that Obama erred in his decision to acquiesce to public opinion polls to withdraw and is once again leading from behind.
For Senator Rand Paul or any other 2016 GOP presidential hopeful to emerge victorious, they will have to identify with issues that unite all Americans, such as how to deal with the growing threat that ISIL poses, and do so in a manner that is substantially more favorable than the Democrat’s strategy. More importantly, the candidate will have to understand and demonstrate commitment to the concept that certain conservative values are unequivocally non-negotiable.
Opinion by Mark Politi