Ron Paul has been a staple of conservative politics for decades. From 1976 until 2012, the elder Paul served in the House of Representatives as the congressman from Texas’ 22nd district. He ran for the nation’s highest office three times, in 1988, 2008, and 2012. In 1988, he received .5% of the popular vote as a member of the Libertarian Party’s ticket. In 2008 and 2012, he sought the Republican Party’s nomination for president and failed in each endeavor. Never did he come close to attaining the Presidency, never did he gather any sort of base of voters.
Rand Paul, Ron’s son, will seek the nomination for President from the Republican Party in 2016, inserting the Paul name into a third straight election. Rand offers similar policies. His foreign policy is also isolationist, he is staunchly anti-government, and he is largely backed by the Tea Party that supported his father in 2012.
However, Rand has searched to enlarge the electorate that supports his libertarian cause. Young Americans are increasingly socially liberal and fiscally conservative, a policy standpoint that back the younger Paul. Rand visited Ferguson, Missouri in an attempt to expand the Republican brand to the minorities of America, including blacks and hispanics in their historical all-white men party. As mentioned in my previous post, the Republicans need to expand their electorate if they have any hope of winning in 2016.
While Ron and Rand may not differ much in their policies, Rand’s chances of election are significantly higher because of the current libertarian-leaning political climate and his wish to expand the Republican base of voters.
Ted Strickland, the 73 year-old former governor of Ohio and the current head of the Center for American Progress, a well-respected think tank located in Washington, D.C., is running for one of Ohio’s two senate seats in 2016. In a recent poll, he led the incumbent, senator Rob Portman, an establishment Republican who resides in Terrace Park, by nine points. He has already captured the endorsement of Ohio’s Democratic Party, a year before the Democratic primary. The only problem to his candidacy: P.G. Sittenfeld, a 30 year-old Cincinnati City Councilman who is running against the former governor.
First of all, let it be known that I am biased. I worked in Sittenfeld’s office last summer, and will work on his senatorial campaign this summer. Sittenfeld has been criticized for his lack of experience, his youth, and his lack of any sort of policy record. According to reports, he promised Strickland that he would drop out of the race if the former governor joined. Yet an incredible start to fundraising convinced Sittenfeld to stay in for the long haul. After the first quarter of fundraising, Sittenfeld had collected $750,000 to Strickland’s $670,000. But he has two problems: name recognition and the party establishment. Most outside of Cincinnati do not recognize Sittenfeld’s name, as he has only served in one public position, as Cincinnati’s City Councilman, for which he amassed the greatest number of votes among all candidates. To solve this looming issue, Sittenfeld is taking an impressive 88 county tour, where he is visiting all 88 of Ohio’s counties to spread his name to the furthest corners of the state.
The party establishment has also largely come out in support of Ted Strickland, the familiar face they believe can defeat Portman in the general election. However, with his age, Strickland would almost certainly be a one term senator, leaving the party with another fight for the seat in 2022, when the seat would next come up for election. Sittenfeld could hold the seat for a generation. While these two do not differ much in their policy, I know P.G. personally as an incredibly smart and charismatic individual, who I believe could make a difference in Washington. Instead of allowing the party leaders determine a candidate, the people should decide, and will, in the Democratic primary next year.
As each party gears up for 2016, an apparent demographic problem presents itself to the Republican Party. America’s electorate is gradually steering away from the Republican base of white voters toward a more diverse future. Hispanics, blacks, and other ethnic minorities are turning out in greater numbers, aiding the chances for the Democratic Party to retain the White House. In 2012, Barack Obama lost by 20 percentage points to Mitt Romney among white voters. Yet, he still won the overall vote by a rock solid 4 percentage points, enough to win the election by 126 electoral college votes. White voters represented 90% of the votes Romney acquired, while they compiled just 56% of Obama’s total votes. In 1992, 32 percent of the population under 20 was a minority. Today, the number stands at 47 percent, a troubling statistic for conservatives who continue to ignore the rapidly changing demographics of America.
If you look through records of the past six presidential elections, one bloc of eighteen states and the District of Columbia have voted Democratic in every single election. This group coalesces to form 242 electoral college votes. The reverse side of the coin, the states that bleed red every four years, total only 102 electoral college votes. This lopsided statistic gives a clear early advantage to the Democrats’ nominee, who is largely expected to be Hillary Clinton after she announces her campaign on Sunday. Her task will be to collect 28 electoral college votes, a much less daunting task than her opponent, who will try to grab 168.
If the Republicans hope to capture the presidency in 2016, they need to nominate an establishment candidate who will not alienate centrists within the party or independents across the country. The two assumed-candidates from Florida, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, appear as the two names that check these boxes. They appeal to minorities, as both support immigration reform to help immigrants already in the country. Rubio is a Latino, Bush has a Latina wife. The only other candidate who is focusing on widening the appeal of the Republican Party is Rand Paul, the Tea Party senator from Kentucky. In any other scenario, I see a steep hill for the Republicans to climb.
Ted Cruz is well known as a right wing firebrand, a man who does not compromise. In 2013, he shut the government down for sixteen days almost single-handedly with a filibuster of the budget that featured him reading his kids Dr. Seuss’ widely acclaimed children’s book, “Green Eggs and Ham.”
On Monday, he announced his candidacy in a 25 minutes speech to the Liberty University student body. The irony of the university’s name: Liberty forced all 13,500 of its undergraduates to attend the speech. During his 25 minutes, he espoused his conservative values and took a few stabs at establishment assumed-candidate Jeb Bush. Cruz accomplished this by discussing his direct opposition to the Common Core standards and immigration reform, two topics that conservatives largely side with Cruz on, yet Bush supports.
Although there is only a slim chance Ted Cruz captures the nomination for President from the Republican Party, he can still change the course of debate in the Republican primaries. Indubitably, Cruz will push his colleagues to the right, making incendiary comments to appeal to those on the far right watching the debate. And debate he will: Cruz is a national debate champion and attended Princeton undergrad and Harvard’s Law School. Although I do not agree with his ideology, I cannot deny that the man is an incredibly intelligent intellectual.
However, what happened one day after his announcement caught the attention of conservatives. Cruz and his wife signed up for Obamacare, the legislation that Cruz himself has spent so much time trying to take off of the legislation books. Previously, the couple had acquired insurance through Cruz’ wife’s employer, Goldman Sachs. However, she is leaving Goldman Sachs to work on his campaign, leaving Cruz with the choice between Obamacare and the private insurance markets.
P.S. Read this for a good chuckle at the expense of Cruz
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have spent months hashing out a deal with the leaders of Iran – Hassan Rouhani and Ali Khamenei, among others – in which the United States and other Western nations would lift economic sanctions in return for Iran suspending its nuclear program.
However, Congress is set upon preventing this deal. They are not without reason; many do not believe they can trust Iran, and Iran’s primary target for nuclear weapons is Israel, our chief ally in the region. To this end, House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to speak in front of a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu faces reelection in just 5 days time, and his visit should provide a boost to his foreign policy credibility. Although it irks many that Boehner sent this invitation without first consulting President Barack Obama, this is not when Republicans crossed the line.
It was not until Tom Cotton authored a letter to the Iranian leaders exclaiming the Constitutional system of the American government that the Republicans truly caused lasting damage. The letter can be seen here. Essentially, Cotton and his colleagues informed the Iranian leaders that they were dealing with a lame duck president, and that Congress wielded the real power. This not only undercuts the leader of the free world, it damages American foreign policy and credibility abroad. Tom Cotton is a military veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and for that I offer him nothing but respect, but he was elected to the senate only two months ago and does not even sit on the senate’s foreign policy committee. What’s worse is that 46 of Cotton’s fellow Republicans signed onto the letter, leaving Obama and Kerry exposed as they enter into final negotiations over the nuclear deal.
President’s Day, the third Monday of February each year, is a day in which we recognize the accomplishments of America’s presidents. The date is assigned as it is typically between Abraham Lincoln’s birthdate, February 12, and George Washington’s birthdate, February 22. To celebrate President’s Day, here are my five favorite Presidents of all-time:
1. Teddy Roosevelt
It’s an indubitable fact that Roosevelt was the manliest commander in chief. Before ascending to the country’s highest office, he discovered, navigated, and then named an Amazonian river 625 miles in length. After leaving the White House in 1908, he travelled to Africa to hunt for two years before returning in time to try for the presidency one final time in 1912. At a stump speech during the 1912 election, where he gained 27% of the popular vote as a third party, he was shot in the chest, yet still gave the 90 minute speech.
Policy-wise, Teddy brought the Progressive Era into full swing by busting plenty of trusts and helping to build the Panama Canal. He brought the conservation movement to the forefront by ensuring the safety of 125 million acres of forestry. After a period of forty years of presidents whose names you can’t remember, Roosevelt captured the Nobel Peace Prize for facilitation negotiations between the Japanese and the Russians.
2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FDR guided the nation through man’s most deadly war, instilled confidence in banks after America’s biggest economic collapse, and served an unprecedented and now unconstitutional four terms in office.
He was clearly a partisan president who drastically increased the size of the federal government to the chagrin of conservatives. He instituted the first minimum wage, the first welfare, and enacted the New Deal, liberal legislation that stands to this day.
3. John F. Kennedy
Kennedy is America’s youngest elected president, ascending to the White House at the ripe age of 42. He was a visionary and an intellectual who focused on foreign policy with the Soviet Union during his three years in office.
He stood tall against Nikita Kruschev in the Cuban Missile Crisis, forcing the Soviets to vacate their weapons of mass destruction from Cuba. On the home front, he created the Peace Corps with an executive order, sent federal troops to desegregate the University of Mississippi, and proposed a civil rights act before his assassination in November of 1963.
4. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is the clear American leader who would appear on anyone’s list. However, I include him on this list with a grain of salt. Clearly, Lincoln is a leader of men who guided the North through America’s toughest test, the Civil War. However, Lincoln is often given the label of a Civil Rights leader, yet he was not. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a military tactic, not as a result of righteous motives. Without a war, he would not have ended slavery. During the war, he also went above and beyond his Constitutional powers.
That said, Lincoln is one of the greatest orators of American history. Even if he did not have the right motives, he did free America’s slaves. He defeated the South, even with a slough of terrible generals.
5. Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Johnson is best known for Vietnam, one of the greatest fallacies of any president. He continued to send America’s youngest adults to Southeast Asia via the draft in a pointless, deadly war. However, domestically he was a dominating force for change. Everything John F. Kennedy was not, he was, and vice versa. While he struggled with the more intellectual questions of foreign policy, he pushed the Great Society legislation through Congress. He passed the Civil Rights Act of 1965, improvements to the welfare system, and initiated the War on Poverty.
Honorable Mentions: Barack Obama, James Madison, and George Washington
The framers set up the electoral college to remove the population one step away from the election process – to prevent mob rule. However, big money has further removed public opinion several steps from the election process. As Freedom Conferences, another name for a gathering of conservative politicians and donors, gather in Iowa and in California, the new influence of money on politics is readily apparent. After two recent supreme court cases – Citizens United vs. FEC and McCutchen vs. FEC – loosened up financial regulation of PAC donations, large donor groups, such as that headed by David and Charles Koch, will play a larger role in the 2016 election.
Instead of speeches to the public, closed-door meetings will decide the Republican nominee in 2016. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have already travelled to Las Vegas to meet with Republican superdonor Scott Adelsen, a casino mogul. In 2012, Adelsen kept Newt Gingrich’s foundering campaign afloat for months. In the past couple of days, the Koch brothers have released the number that they plan on donating for the 2016 cycle – $889 million. That’s twice what the Republican Party will spend, and double what the conservative Koch group spent on the 2012 campaign.
However, do not go away with the opinion that this is a Republican problem. For each David Koch, there is a Tom Steyer – an equally large liberal donor. This nation was founded on principles of republicanism, and money corrupts politics to the point that those with more money have a much larger say on policies.
Take, for example, the 2013 vote on universal background checks. No issue has had popular support in recent memory like universal background checks did. After the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, 91 percent of Americans supported the bill to make a criminal check on all potential gun owners. However, the leaders of the National Rifle Association were among the dissenting 9 percent. Wayne LaPierre, the group’s vice president and lead spokesman, threatened to halt the flood of money supporting conservative politicians should they vote for the bill. And with LaPierre’s words, the bill died in the senate.
As we look forward to 2016, the disproportionate influence the wealthy have on politics should stand as a large issue – not for Republicans, not for Democrats, but for Americans. Let primaries, let delegates, let voters, and not just the rich ones, decide elections.