Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky may be the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
Paul decisively won the March 8, 2014 CPAC straw poll with 31 percent, his neo-libertarian sidekick, Sen. Ted Cruz, was second at 11 percent. Jeb Bush and the Karl Rove faction of the party registered 1 percent.
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According to a recent column in The Washington Post, Rand Paul is now leading the Republican field. This is showing up in some recent presidential preference polls. It is puzzling to many political pundits.
Polls don't usually mean much this early in an election cycle. It's usually all about name recognition. Former secretary of state and former first lady Hillary Clinton obviously leads among Democrats, with Vice President Joe Biden trailing far behind.
In the GOP contest, former governor and Fox television star, Mike Huckabee, polls well; so does former governor Jeb Bush and so does former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. All the other candidates who ran for president last time register small numbers too. But why Rand Paul?
Yes, his father, former Congressman Ron Paul, ran for president three times but in a career that spanned a whole generation he never led the GOP in a national poll.
Part of the reason lies in the fact that Sen. Rand Paul, if he wins the nomination, will be the first viable candidate since Ronald Reagan to lead a political movement.
In this case, the "constitutional movement," which includes conservatives, libertarians, and others across the whole left to right spectrum. In fact, it represents more than a movement it represents a new political re-alignment, the first of its kind in several generations.
During most of our lifetime, the debate was about the role of government in the lives of the people. Liberals wanted a "liberal" use of government involvement, conservatives wanted a "conservative" use of government, relying more on free markets. But the point of reference was always the role of government in meeting peoples needs, it was in relation to that point that one was liberal or conservative.
The U.S. Constitution was a factor, but mostly in understanding the politics of the Cold War where conservatives were actually more liberal about spending for defense and liberals more conservative.
Conservatives said providing a common national defense is constitutional. Liberals said all of this military spending was robbing the poor of this country and hurting our own people.
Liberals accused conservatives about not caring for the poor. Conservatives accused liberals about being soft on communism and flirting with national destruction.
In the past, candidates were touted as liberal or conservative but only Reagan and Goldwater were considered to be actual leaders of an ideological movement. Liberal movement leaders? FDR? Later, Adlai Stevenson? Hubert Humphrey? Maybe? Not really. All were successful politicians and thus too involved in the process to have the ideological purity of a movement leader.
Today the old liberal-conservative argument is almost obsolete. The end of the Cold War has been a big factor. There is no life and death struggle about left and right. We have settled on a range of responsibilities that government should be able to assume and are now quibbling over details. "You said I could keep my own doctor, you're a liar."
A good illustration of how irrelevant the philosophical argument has become was the recent presidency of George W. Bush. In his last year in office, facing a worldwide depression, this Republican president nationalized American banks.
The constitutional movement represents a new realignment of the political landscape. It includes a variety of voters from the left to the right and everything in between.
The argument is less about liberal and conservative and more about getting back to the Constitution. It is about ending corruption. The special deals.
It is less about left and right or even, up and down, the rich and the poor, and more about in and out. Insiders are seen to be gaming the system, taxes, Wall Street, the regulatory agencies, banking. There is great cynicism about this and even despair. It's as if only suckers depend on a free marketplace. The American dream is over.
It is not lost on many that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer on a massive scale under Barack Obama.
While many poor people and certainly all people of color celebrate the rise of Obama, now that he is passing, some on the left are wanting to get serious about doing what they thought a person of such humble origins would do, namely, reform the system. Stop the looting. End the cycle of corruption.
Hillary represents a dynamic cultural moment and that will be hard to resist. The media will be transfixed by the idea of a woman following an African-American into the White House. But no one seriously believes that this woman, who in 1979 miraculously turned a $1,000 commodities investment into $100,000 within 10 months, is going to do anything about reversing the corrupt system that has clogged our economic arteries.
She can only win a red-blue contest. It will only be an argument about who gets the power and which insiders get the taxpayers' money.
If 2016 become a contest of significant ideas on how to end the corruption Rand Paul will win. He is the only candidate who has any.
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