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Why Rand Paul Lost My Vote

Politics

While pursuing minority voters is an admirable goal, could Rand Paul's pandering backfire and cost him some of what should be his base?

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) walks to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The National Security Agency's authority to collect bulk telephone data is set to expire June 1, unless the Senate can come to an agreement to extend the surveillance programs. (Image source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

As a libertarian-leaning Constitutionalist, I enthusiastically supported Ron Paul in the last two elections. So nobody who knows me was surprised when I declared my early excitement and support of his son, Rand, as a possible presidential prospect even before he won his Senate seat. Both father and son extol so many of the liberty-centered virtues that once made this country great and which are so rarely articulated today.

However, unlike his more ideologically-pure father, whose “take-me-or-leave-me” approach wasn’t one to sacrifice even a sliver of his beliefs for electoral victory, Rand is a bit more pragmatic. As someone who was at times frustrated by Ron Paul’s intransigence on even seemingly unimportant issues to the detriment of his public perception (come on, does anybody in the country actually think killing Bin Laden was a bad thing?), I can appreciate Rand’s desire to at least keep his finger on the pulse of what collective America is feeling.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) walks to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Image source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Does that mean I want a president who bends to every poll? Of course not! But, we all know there are certain intellectual positions to which one must at least give lip service in order to have a shot at winning the Republican nomination – a main one at this point, among others, being the “Iran as boogeyman” Neocon narrative.

I can also appreciate Rand’s desire to bring more minority voters to the Republican Party. The man doesn’t just talk about it – he actually visits the places no other Republicans will go and engages the people many have given up on winning. I admire it, I applaud it, and I respect it.

However, is it OK to admire, applaud, and respect his efforts while still acknowledging the fact that it’s not likely to work? In this politically correct age, probably not – but since I’ve never been one to care much about political correctness, I will anyway.

The highest percentage of the black vote any Republican has gotten in the last three decades is Gerald Ford’s 17 percent. Ronald Reagan managed 14 percent in his 1980 sweep. George W. Bush won 11 percent in 2004.

Even by Rand’s own (might I add delusional?) estimation, only a third of African-Americans are even open to voting for someone not named Hillary Clinton in 2016. Given that no conservative candidate has ever won even close to a third of the African-American vote, and given that their share of the electorate is generally somewhere around 12 percent overall, how much time should a liberty-minded candidate truly spend trying to woo a demographic that generally won’t be wooed, at least not in enough numbers to really make a difference?

How much bending over backwards should he do?

A man holds a sign up during a protest rally against the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina on June 20, 2015.  AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV

The same principle applies to Hispanics and their pet issue, immigration reform. In this case, less than 10 percent of the total electorate still tends to vote overwhelmingly Democrat, although granted they do vote Republican at a higher rate than African-Americans. Bush managed 44 percent in 2004, more than any Republican candidate in history. John McCain, for all his pandering about immigration reform, only managed 31 percent, while Mitt Romney’s share in 2012 sunk to 27 percent. Is Rand Paul’s wishy-washy position on immigration reform and border security really going to win him the Hispanic vote?

The point is, while reaching minority voters with a liberty-minded conservative message is indeed a worthy goal and certainly worth some effort, and we should welcome those like-minded minorities who come into the fold with open arms, endless politically-correct pandering to a demographic with diminishing returns is going to inevitably alienate your true base which is, boring as it may seem, plain ole’ white married folks.

Which brings us to the latest social justice cause de jour: Eliminating the Confederate battle flag from every facet of American view except museums, Civil War reenactments, and the occasional trailer park porch. Given the ear-piercing howls of the left and those on the right who agree with them, one might think it was the Confederate flag itself, not Dylann Roof, who committed those horrific murders in Charleston. Of course, Rand Paul, in typical pandering-politician style, has decided to add his voice to the hand-wringing, sackcloth and ashes-style penance, calling for its removal as, “a symbol of human bondage and slavery.”

According to a new, post-Charleston CNN poll, 57 percent of Americans see the Confederate flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than of racism, a number pretty much unchanged since 2000. Indeed as expected, the view is sharply divided by race, with a majority of African-Americans seeing it as a symbol of racism. (Oddly enough, older African-Americans, the ones who actually had to endure systemic, government-supported racism, are less likely to support the purge than their younger counterparts – for example, 80 percent younger than 54 want to remove the Confederate flag from government property, as opposed to 63 percent 55 and older.)

No matter how you slice it, the fact remains that this Stalinesque push to remove any vestiges of those “evil” Confederates is bound to alienate a significant percentage of the very voters Rand Paul should be able to count on as his base. So, when Rand adds his voice to the commissars, those of us in Southern flyover country to whom that flag represents the honor of thousands of Americans who fought and died for their homeland, not slavery, bristle just a little. We care about a lot of things, including getting along with folks of all races, but we don’t give two hoots about what the “beltway” says is politically-correct.

To this point I’ve never flown the Confederate flag on my front porch or put it on the front of my car, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the Pharisaical leftist howling of the past couple of weeks has made me, and LOTS of other people, want to. Just ask those in my home town who participated in a Confederate flag waving parade across our region.

To us, although it’s certainly been misused, that flag isn’t about racism. It’s about a band of underdogs deciding that freedom and self-determination against an over-reaching Federal government is worth fighting, and dying, for. That’s a message someone like Rand Paul, more than anyone, should understand.

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