In my last post, I focused on Jeb Bush as being a very formidable threat to Hillary should he decide to run in 2016. In this post, I will focus on the threat Rand Paul would pose to Hillary should he decide to run in 2016.
I want to make one thing very clear at the outset: I am very much a Democrat, and I will never hesitate to support any Democratic nominee for 2016. However, as I explained in my last post, if the Republicans are smart this time around and nominate a Centrist Republican in 2016 and if we nominate Hillary Clinton, there's a high probability that voters will not see any meaningful difference between Hillary as Centrist Democrat and Jeb as Centrist Republican. And at the very least, this will depress the Democratic vote, and at the very worst, cause Centrist Dems to switch sides. Jeb would have a very good chance at grabbing so-called Independents, and given his embrace of traditionally Progressive issues, even some Progressives as well.
With the added danger of being more appealing to a growing populist segment of Democrats, I will explain why that would likely be true if Rand Paul runs against Hillary in 2016.
A few preliminaries. I assume we can all agree there is an insurgence of populism on the left of the Democratic Party, and in the Party itself. I also assume we can all agree that there is still a strong anti-Wall Street sentiment within a huge faction in our Party. And that the debate between Centrist Democrats and these Progressive insurgents are getting louder and louder while gaining more and more exposure. We're all good on this? Great. Now time for a brief thought experiment.
Without clicking on the links below, who among the politicians we all hear talked about for 2016 besides Elizabeth Warren has been railing against Wall Street, said "we cannot be the party of fat cats, rich people, and Wall Street", wants to bring Glass-Steagall into the 21st century, said Ronald Reagan was bad for the economy, and has strongly criticized bank bailouts? Who has also strenuously opposed voter ID, opposes NSA surveillance, voted to transfer prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay, and opposes imprisoning marijuana users and other non-violent offenders arguing that doing so disproportionately affects inner cities? Who has also received a standing ovation for a speech at UC Berkeley and blasted Dick Cheney for pushing us into the Iraq War for corporate profit? Would you vote for this person, and do you know other Democrats who would vote for this person? Did you answer yes to that last question? Yes? That would be absolutely horrible for the Democrats. You know why? That person is Rand Paul. Go ahead- click on those links now.
No, no- we’re not done with our thought experiment. I promise we’ll end soon, ok? Ok, good. Again, no peeking! Who recently delivered a great populist speech, yet told Wall Street that she genuinely believes that today’s anti-Wall Street climate and Occupy Wall Street was “foolish” and “unproductive"? If you’re a Centrist Dem, you might agree with such diagnoses. But you’d also have to admit that if we all agreed that the pull against Wall Street is becoming stronger and the populist-progressive insurgency is on the rise, such labeling of genuine grievances is at the very least tone deaf. Who supports the death penalty, opposes marijuana decriminalization, opposes giving undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses, opposed same-sex marriage, endorses legal status over citizenship for immigrants, and supports fracking? Would you vote for this person? Would any of your friends? No? That’s bad news for a Hillary Clinton-led Democratic Party. The person who has all those positions described above is Hillary Clinton.
Now, it is undoubted that Rand Paul’s arguably liberal or even progressive positions described above are unknown across a large swath of the electorate, and that Hillary’s more conservative positions are not anywhere near as well-known as to cause her problems among Democratic and/or Progressive voters. But in the era of media-soaked elections and attack ads, can you say in all honesty and confidence that these will never come up as liabilities for Hillary if she is our nominee for 2016? Perhaps you can say that the Tea Party would never support Paul’s endorsement of updating Glass-Steagall or his opposition to bank bailouts, two of his decidedly most progressive economic policies. But if this featured article in the Tea Party Tribune is any gauge of Tea Party and/or conservative support, we may want to change those opinions fast.
Yes, you can say that Hillary is polling extremely well among Democrats, even much better than in 2008. But I urge you to look at an Economist/YouGov poll from earlier this year, this poll in the primary state of New Hampshire, this poll from the battleground state of Colorado- the state that gave Obama the win in 2012-, and the fact that Rand Paul has a built-in infrastructural advantage over Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire should at the very least concern us.
Harry Enten of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight wrote a very interesting and fun counterintuitive analysis which slams the DC insider idea that voter turnout is much different between midterm elections and presidential elections. That should scare Democrats banking on an easy win for Hillary for 2016- Nate Silver’s analysis shows a Republican advantage in the Senate and the House, The Washington Post also predicting a Republican victory in this year’s midterms, and Harry Enten predicting that Democrats can have bigger losses than even 2010.
Many of you might argue that the overwhelming majority of Republican voters would never support Rand Paul in the 2016 Republican primary. I urge you to pause for a moment a reconsider these polls aggregated by Huffington Post. As you can see, he’s not even 1% behind Jeb Bush in most polls, and he wins in a matchup in 24 of these polls. As to the popular argument in our Party that all of this doesn’t matter because Paul would never get the nod from the GOP establishment, this unfortunately ignores Paul’s rising popularity among the establishment.
Next, we will look at a possibility I offered above and in my previous post: the Centrist Democratic strategy to appeal to Independent voters by shifting to the right will fail- because the idea of an Independent voter is largely a myth. While it is arguable that Hillary is trying to moderate her message between a populist and a pro-Wall Street one, I think we can all agree that a larger part of her efforts have been devoted to reaching out to the mythical Independents. Below, I hope to show you why that is going to only serve to alienate her from the Democratic base, further eliminate her appeal among “Democrat-leaning Independents, and why that is bad for our Party if they continue to rely on such a strategy for 2016.
As the graph below shows, the visions of Independent Republican voters Centrist Democrats are reaching out to is simply an illusion- nothing more than a ghost:
This suggests that voters are not abandoning their party labels because the party has become too extreme in its policy positions. Instead, many may be leaving because they see the party as getting too moderate or insufficiently aligned with its core values. Plenty of "not strong" GOPers believe the party needs to change its position on gay marriage. Yet many of those who say they are independent are actually Republicans who are committed to keeping the GOP platform anti-gay marriage.In December of 2011, Pew found that the label “libertarian” was very popular among Democratic voters under 30 (50% to 28%), Democrats as a whole reacting more positively to the label than Republicans, and self-identified Independents reacting more positively to the label. Presumably, this means that both Democrat-leaning and Republican-leaning Independents favor the term “libertarian” more so than either core base.
There are various aspects of this post I want to expand on, but in the interest of keeping this shorter and a bit more readable than my last post, I will save any further exploration to future posts. In summary, my argument is as follows (I integrate many of my points in my previous post in this summary): in an increasingly progressive climate, the Democrats should not hedge on a Centrist Democrat- such as Hillary- beating Centrist Jeb or even libertarian Rand, both of whom undercut Hillary with the Democrat’s progressive base by adopting some of the strongest and most prominent progressive issues. Paul’s transformation into a curious hybrid between libertarian and progressive is certainly convincing some figures in the progressive movement who have very devoted and stubborn followers, and it may mean our loss in 2016 if we ignore that.
Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 7:21 PM PT: The first part of this blog series can be found in my diaries section. It is entitled,Democrats Should Want Elizabeth vs. Jeb. If It's Hillary vs. Jeb, We Have Problems'. It can also be found here: http://www.dailykos.com/...