This evening, you and your neighbors have the opportunity to head to your local caucus and discuss the race for the White House. For months, national candidates have interrupted your breakfasts, invaded your fairs, and generally become temporary residents of your 99 counties. Some people disagree with the amount of power you wield over our political system, but that’s a conversation for another day. The fact that you have a tremendous amount of influence over our politics means that your decision on who to support in caucus will cause lasting ripples in the outcome of our nation’s Presidential politics.
To that end, I encourage you to caucus for Rand Paul.
A few questions may jump to mind when I mention the Kentucky Senator, the first of which being: “isn’t he one of those guys with no chance of being the nominee?” That, my Hawkeye friend, is completely up to you and your neighbors, isn’t it? Once the snowball(s) of Presidential nominees start, your concern is more valid. However, Iowa is really the only state before which a candidate can truly use the line “how can we have a frontrunner when no votes have been case?”
“Ok,” you respond, “yes, we have the power of making a frontrunner regardless of polling. But, Rand Paul isn’t really the candidate we are talking about at the moment. Everyone is talking about Trump, Cruz, and Rubio.” This post isn’t about why you shouldn’t caucus for Trump, Cruz, or Rubio. In fact, each man has significant positives in their campaigns that shouldn’t be overlooked. However, the problem we can already see is the internal partisanship that is creating potentially lasting fault lines in our Party. An “outside of the top of the polls” candidate acts to re-mix the political dialogue and encourages voters to be open-minded.
“Ok,” again you say, “fine, we’ve been getting annoyed with the Trump-Cruz-Rubio ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ mentality anyhow, but, really Rand Paul?” Yes, and here’s why: Senator Paul is a completely distinct voice on the Presidential stage. Now, some of you may say that that voice is one that we don’t need, but a difference of opinion in the Republican Party should not be something that’s frowned upon. Certainly bringing up he issues of criminal justice reform, the failed drug war, racial disparities in incarceration, policing practices, and foreign involvements are all issues were Republicans are having considerable discussions with their neighbors and friends. I defy you to find where any of the “frontrunning” candidates have staked out a position on these daily life issues for millions of Americans. While, at the end of the day, may not agree with Senator Paul’s positions, the fact that we are not ignoring a dialogue taking place across our country is critically important.
“Ok…” at this point you may be getting exasperated, but I encourage you to hold on, “sure, Rand Paul is a different voice and, yeah, he’s talking about things that most Republicans are afraid to talk about, but, he’s just not my choice to be the nominee.” Recent polls show that between 30 and 45% of Iowans have yet to firmly make up their minds about who to support in the caucus. Yes, these folks are leaning one way or another, but they could be convinced to swing their support behind another candidate. That’s my goal in writing this article. I have no interest in convincing you why Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio are not deserving of your support. I would hope, regardless of the outcome of the primary cycle, that you would support the nominee of the Party. However, in the short term, being forced into a “trichotomy” of Trump-Conservative-Establishment limits the options of voters rather than making the race an open debate over the issues facing the Party and the nation. To the point: without Rand Paul in the discussion, the libertarian piece of our Party’s dialogue drops out.
“Good,” you may say “libertarians are just drug smoking peaceniks who spent too much time reading philosophy and not enough time in the real world.” Ok, now there’s no reason to that that tone. We both know that Rand Paul’s father Ron Paul got over 21% of the vote in Iowa just four years ago and won the delegate majority in your state. Iowans are not opposed to a libertarian message. Rand Paul comes closer to the establishment views on issues than his father did (to the chagrin of some of his supporters). His goal has been to intertwine the libertarian movement with the Republican Party. While some of the harder libertarians may not agree with this, if you plan to vote in the Republican Party, you should appreciate the attempt to bring in the number of people who would otherwise be adrift or voting for the Democrats.
“So,” you say, “you want me to support someone I may not agree with on everything in order to give people in other states more options?” First, I think you should consider some of what Rand Paul has been saying. The nuances to the libertarian-Republican mindset are probably those that could do great things for the country (especially if you truly want to make American great again). However, if we are looking at this from a purely utilitarian standpoint: yes, your duty in Iowa is to be a responsible custodian of our Party’s candidates and to separate the wheat from the chaff (in the context of Iowa, this is typically selecting the preferred conservative candidate). Your goal should not be to ultimately pick the winner, but to narrow the field based on viability and message.
So, my Hawkeye friend, it comes down to it: duty. You have the heavy burden of going first. Certainly you will act as the winnower for repetitive social conservative campaigns like those of Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson. However, you also have the responsibility to preserve political novelty and choices in the race. Not only does Rand Paul enrich the breadth of the conversation going on within our Party, his ideas create dialogue wherein your knowledge about other candidates is deepened. When you head in to your caucus this evening remember that our nation is looking, desperately, for new ideas. I encourage you to do your part for our national dialogue and support Rand Paul for the GOP nomination.
Disclaimer: the foregoing in not an endorsement of any candidate by the author, Matthew McDaniel. Mr. McDaniel is a candidate for Baltimore City Council and has made no endorsements for President of the United States. Mr. McDaniel has not been paid or received money from any candidate or campaign for his views or those expressed herein. More on Mr. McDaniel’s campaign can be found here.