4/8/14

I do not envy Rand Paul

4/8/14
He's got a really tough job.

As Senator? Please, that job's nothing compared to being the libertarian diplomat in conservativeland (and sometimes liberalland).

He differs from his father Ron, in that he actually seems to want to win over conservatives and all their variations, while staying (mostly) true to his libertarian ideals. As a libertarian myself, I often wonder why many conservatives and liberals do not join together, considering we all tend libertarian on many issues. It's tempting, therefore, to try to bridge the gaps, to bring these seemingly disparate groups together under common cause. I mean here's just a few things most of use can agree on:
  • Increasing transparency and accountability in government.
  • Curbing waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • A simpler tax code (not necessarily lower or higher taxes, just simpler).
  • Privacy protection from both corporate and government entities.
  • Ending corporate welfare.
It's good he's trying. And even if he doesn't win over any lefties, you would think he would do fairly well with conservatives, especially during the Obama administration. But that's not the world we live in.

Here in realityville, politicians frequently miscalculate. For example, one isn't granted carte blanche after scoring a few political points, to unnecessarily demagogue about Dick Cheney and the Iraq war after all these years. Why pick at those scabs when our current president is eagerly inflicting new wounds? Rand is going to have to explain that to the hawkish conservatives he needs, if he ever wants to be more than a Senator. He's got enough explaining to do for them already.

With all due respect Rand, please don't go full Ron Paul. Even this lefty thinks you went too far:
Make no mistake: As someone who opposed the Iraq War, I enjoy watching Cheney get slapped around on the issue as much as the next gal. But it’s one thing to accuse the former veep of ideologically driven Machiavellianism; ’tis quite another to suggest that he did what he did out of loyalty to his Halliburton cronies. That is a far darker charge that, while already generating glee on the left, is also the kind of right-on-the-knife’s-edge-of-nuttiness conspiracy-spinning likely to bite Paul on the butt as he tries to capture his party’s nomination. [emphasis mine]
I don't mean to tell the libertarian diplomat how to do his job; I'm sure he's got far more qualified and capable people than I for that. I'm just pointing out the sad, pathetic fact that people suck, especially politicians--even ones you like. And I like Rand Paul. Even if he thought the Iraq war was entirely based on Halliburton's bottom line, I would still vote for him over Jeb or Hillary.

Here's the thing about presidents: Let's pretend your perfect candidate is on the ballot. You agree with him/her on every single issue. From taxes to foreign policy, abortion to gay marriage, which football team is the best, and on down to your favorite beverage--all prioritized exactly the way you want it. And better yet, your candidate not only wins, he/she wins by a huge landslide--giving the president-elect an undeniable mandate.

You have a few months to bask in the glory of your shared victory, and then watch the historical inauguration over and over (since you obviously recorded it, fanboy) so you can glutton yourself with gleeful tears of joy. But after that inauguration, the honeymoon is officially over. Oh, it won't feel like it's over, but it is. Work has to start. President Perfect now has to negotiate all those pesky checks and balances. And he/she doesn't really have all that much power (thankfully).

That new tax policy you wanted: guess what, it's Congress's job. That health care reform you wanted: Congress. National debt? Congress. Gay Marriage? Supreme Court. That big fancy new immigration law the president spearheaded? Congress shat all over it. Well what about those executive orders you wholly supported? They got badly interpreted and poorly applied in the labyrinth of bureaucracy. Your neighbor's annoying dog? Your dogcatcher hates you.

But not so fast, you say: the president has a lot of power when it comes to foreign policy! To which I respond: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr., Bill Clinton, George Bush, Jr., Barack Obama. Virtually the same foreign policies, plus or minus a few scandals. But your president is different! To which I say: yes, but the environment in which he/she operates remains the same, and largely dictates his/her foreign policy, of which Congress has quite a bit of say in. You can vote out the man, but you can't vote out the system. You can change your clothes, but you can't change the weather.

Let's pretend Rand Paul is an extreme isolationist (which he's not): all other things being equal, our foreign policy would change some, yes, but only to the extent Congress and the American people allowed it. Elected officials don't routinely contradict will of those who put them there, nor do they routinely ignore the changing wishes of their constituents. If President Paul recalled every member of the military and cut all ties with our foreign friends, Congress would delay the recall to a virtual standstill (it takes funds to move people), and the president would be out of office within the month, likely sooner. The only way such a thing would happen, is if the vast majority of us wanted it to happen, in which case, you probably wouldn't be complaining.

Realistically, I don't see our foreign policy changing much, regardless of who is elected. And in some ways, that's unfortunate.

I've digressed a bit to illustrate what would likely happen (almost nothing), versus what people fear might happen (we get invaded by every other country) should this scary libertarian guy get nominated. This is why Rand the libertarian diplomat has a difficult job. He's different. We've never had a libertarian president before (at least for a long, long time). We may not like or agree with Jeb Bush, but at least with him we'll get the same turd sandwich we got before, and by golly, we'll like it!

Rand has the awful task of persuasively painting himself as different enough to bring about change we want, but not so different to bring about the scary change we fear. Considering righty libertarians, lefty libertarians, hawkish conservatives, social conservatives, and moderates all have different hopes and fears, uniting them will require a very precarious dance. If he pulls off the nomination, I will be very impressed. I don't envy him.

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