Restless GOP

Rand Paul has probably stirred some of the biggest debates over any candidate that has thrown their hat (or likely will) into the Presidential contender ring. One of the reasons why is that he seems to be the anti-GOP GOP which dips into some of the Democrat strongholds.

For one, Paul has been spending time in town halls and gatherings listening to minorities (really listening) and talking about issues that are important to them. Issues such as the non-criminalization of pot possession or allowing certain ex-prisoners to be able to vote again. The fact that he listens rather than lectures has caught the attention of some in the black community and has them thinking.

Recent polls have suggested that more blacks identify as conservative in the worldview than ever before (by double digits nonetheless) are showing cracks in the monolithic black vote. It could also have something to do with the fact that a lot of black people think that the Democratic Party has taken them for granted. Whatever it is, winning the support of even a small percentage of black votes increases his chance of winning (if he can survive the primaries).

Another plank in Rand’s platform is taking a more hands off approach in foreign affairs. While this gives traditional conservative voters pause because of their view of the United States on the world stage, Rand does have an important point; when we have removed dictatorial secular regimes they have been replaced with religious extremism which are even worse. ISIS is a prime example of that.

On the other hand, he is willing to name the enemy – that being Islamic extremism which is more than what our current President can say. That kind of clarity helps leaders to make better decisions when in office rather than trying to force world events through a certain political lens. For sure, the current approach to see everything through political lens has not worked. In fact, it’s made things worse (“it was a anti-Muslim video, cough, cough) and made those who would kill us feel emboldened and make us appear weak.

Interestingly enough, many of Rand’s position are quite conservative, even on the social issues. But what makes him attractive to the younger set is that instead of campaigning on all these social issues, he talks about liberty and freedom in ways that attract the young. I believe he also supports medical marijuana probably helps too.

So while Rand Paul might be the white male grand satan of liberalism on paper, he certainly doesn’t come across that way in person. He appears to be more thoughtful rather than simply righteous. Intelligent without being smarmy. Approachable rather than distant. Practical rather than ultra political.

So I give him some props but it’s going to be a long road particularly with the GOP bench being a lot deeper this time around.

Rand Paul and Voter ID

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I met Rand Paul on a flight from Nashville to D.C. 

Conservatives are great with military strategy but suck at political strategy. The issue of voter ID for me has become akin to the the Bush vs. Gore case back in 2,000 where a lot of Democrats are still sour over that and believe that Bush stole the election. The reality is that even the most liberal estimates of possible voter fraud would not overcome the margin of victory in the last two Presidential elections. Obama ran the table when it came to electoral votes.

I believe that the use of photo ID would improve the integrity of elections at a local and national level. I also believe that the bar against using photo ID for voting is way too low – most poor and older people have a form of photo ID, whether it is for driving, obtaining a library card or signing up for some form of entitlement. The number of poor, black people who don’t have an ID is probably extremely low and states can implement measures to help those few who don’t.

Texas, a state that has many people in rural areas who should have photo ID problems had no systemic problems in their last election even though voter ID was required. There were a couple of issues but the election officials worked with those affected to ensure that they were able to vote and no legitimate person was denied the ability to vote.

Unfortunately, for many black people, the issue of voter ID brings up a lot of emotions from memories of voter suppression in the past. Rand Paul has been working hard to broaden the GOP base because he believes, and rightly so, that the GOP has real solutions that can lift many black people out of poverty and into the middle class. But there are decades of mistrust between the black community and the GOP and you cannot erase that when one of your party’s priority issue is something that reinforces that mistrust.

So rather than lead with an issue that has not affected the last two national elections, Rand starts with issues that gets the black community listening and possibly more support from the minority community. 

Rand is also correct that it is a state’s rights issue because each state is charged with holding elections and choosing electors who go to Washington to vote for their state. That is a Constitutional issue, the Federal government cannot mandate it. The government could issue a photo ID Social Security Card that could be used for identification at a voting booth. And if Rand does win, his DOJ pick would be able to side with the states trying to implement voter ID laws before the Supreme Court.

I’m personally all for photo ID to ensure election integrity. But I would rather deal with it after the next Presidential election rather than make it a deal-breaker for the next GOP candidate. If the GOP can broaden its base and win the trust of many, it will be much easier to sit down and have a conversation about election integrity especially when you have proved that you are interested in helping their voting bloc get out of poverty and succeed.