Rand Paul is no threat to Democrats unless they make him one

Just my periodic reminder that the only possible way mystery meat presidential candidate Rand Paul could get the Democratic votes he would require to win a presidential election, assuming he somehow survived the GOP primaries, is for Democrats to cede in his favor multiple issues that would be attractive to the Democratic constituencies.

I used to think this was impossible, but so many Democrats seem to be scared of him that I begin to think it isn’t. Just this morning, a prominent Democratic polemicist called Paul’s foreign policy positions “incoherent,” and said that “incoherent foreign policy is frightening.” I suppose this is true, but is it any more frightening than some of our recent, allegedly coherent and undeniably violent, foreign policies? And will Democratic voters perceive it to be?

This begins to remind me of the Democratic reaction to Nader in 2000. Just a week or two ago I fell into an imbroglio with Democrats who insist, 14 years on, that Gore lost because Ralph Nader stole Democratic votes (the people who actually stole votes from Gore have been airbrushed out of the storyboard). The conceit there is that the Democratic party owns votes, or in any event are owed them. But that’s not true: the Democratic party owns no votes, and nobody owes them a vote. Votes are to be won or lost. Gore and his handlers lost them — to Bush, to Nader and to every other minor party on the ballot in Florida. They can lose them again, even to somebody like Rand Paul, but only if they make it possible.

The same is true of the mid-term elections. Reflexive Democrats are nauseatingly fond of blaming the Democratic base for not voting in mid-terms. They’re still shocked by what happened to Democratic turnout in 2010; how could 2008’s ecstatic legions help but rally to the 2010 banners of the bank bailouts, Recovery Summer, the Afghanistan surge (coherent!) and Simpson-Bowles?

This year, the President goes to union-busting, employee-cheating welfare queen Walmart, one of the country’s least energy-efficient giant corporations, to announce energy efficiency policies: damn near as inspiring as Nixon to China. That’ll have union members and low-income retail workers charging to the polls. Democrats have Obamacare to campaign on, but many Democratic politicians are plainly scared to do so and anyway, the people who benefit most from it are people who remain beaten down by the economy. “I got Medicaid — because I’m too damn broke to get anything else.” Is that a winning sentiment?

I will guarantee that if Democrats get their clocks cleaned in November, the usual suspects will be out in force blaming their lessers for failing to understand the fierce urgency of now no matter what the actual factors combining to depress the turnout. One of the best lines that Stephen Colbert delivered during his savaging of George W. Bush and the press corpse at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner was this: “He [Bush] believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man’s beliefs never will.”

Well, he ain’t the only one.

5 thoughts on “Rand Paul is no threat to Democrats unless they make him one”

  1. I will guarantee that if Democrats get their clocks cleaned in November, the usual suspects will be out in force…

    They are already out there. Damn you, Glenn Greenwald and FireDogLake!

    It’s all your fault Obama had to sell us out!

  2. They lost in 2000 for various reasons.

    People who should have know better thought Bush a fine sort, a unite not a divider and all that, and later were so very shocked at how things turned out. This along with sure Gore being somewhat a weak candidate and Clinton fatigue etc., made the 2000 elections close.

    The margin of error was close enough to steal helped out by Nader voters in Florida and lest we forget New Hampshire. The voters had every right to vote for Nader, obviously. No “stealing” involved. But, like if the Senate went Republican 51-49 because purity led some voters to allow Republicans win in a close election vs. a blue dog type (who will vote with the Dems on a slew of things all the same), some of us will question their judgment.

    Anyway, off-year elections repeatedly go the other party’s way, especially when the other party won close races two or four years before in “their year.” I don’t think it particularly sane for people to give the Rs control of the Congress as a whole, even if the other party leaves something to be desired. There are degrees of blah. Rs have the Dems beat big time. As to Paul, he’s 1/2 sane on some issues, which is impressive given his party, but let me know when he supports the usual Democratic social libertarian issues … and not just in a “let’s allow states to force women to bring pregnancies to term” if they want sort of way.

    1. Hi, Joe. I’m happy to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

      I don’t care about Paul other than as a bellwether of how bad Democrats are going to be on the issues. If they don’t suck, he’s unimportant. If they feel compelled to devote a lot of attention to trashing him, they’re probably going to suck. There are issues the party in general doesn’t want to run on, but they don’t want anyone else to draw attention to the fact that they’re not running on them.

      Nader was a sideshow. The percentage of voters with incomes under $50,000 dropped from 67% to 47% between 1992 and 2000, and it wasn’t because there were so many fewer of them or because Nader convinced them to stay home. If Democrats had turned out a fraction of a percent more voters in that group, or even a fraction of a percent more in the under $15,000 group, the election would have been out of reach of theft.

      If Democrats run a solid get-out-the vote operation in contestable elections this year, they’ll probably hold the Senate. If they don’t, they probably won’t. Up to them. They’ve certainly created some difficulties for themselves.

  3. 2000 was a close election for various reasons. Would have been nice if it wasn’t, but that’s how things sometimes go. If a starting pitcher pitches well, a bad play won’t matter. Here, it was very close. And, unlike some silly people said, there was more than a “dime worth of difference” between the two. It was bad strategy to bleed votes from Gore in swing states. The net value in doing so is somewhat lacking in my mind in hindsight.

    I think the Dems can hold the Senate. They have a decent margin for error and some winnable toss up states. Paul is pretty safe — he is a sideshow & serious Dems probably realize his party’s PTB are not going to pick ‘em to be the nominee. And, he puts his foot in his mouth enough for them to be right not to do so.

    1. Gore’s performance among lower-income voters wasn’t a one-off thing. Democrats have a serious and escalating problem with one of their core constituencies, and it’s going to hurt them in any close election whether or not there’s a third party. One probably can’t count on Republicans nominating fatally compromised candidates forever forward.

      I have no idea what will happen in November, despite my faith in the capacity of the national Democratic party’s electoral machine to screw things up. I know for sure they won’t be picking up a House seat in Florida’s 13th district.

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