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This article in the New Republic – an admittedly liberal publication – gives Rand Paul and his presidential aspirations a fair shake, and is worth reading either for its prescience, or so that years from now you can look back on 2013 and go, ‘How crazy was that?’ when discussing the dark and hopefully final throes of the Tea Party. Could be either, or, really, both.

When Paul launched his political career three years ago, he was viewed in much the same way as his father, or, as Senator John McCain once called him, a “wacko bird.” He was identified with the same marginal issues (drug legalization, neo-isolationism) and the same marginal constituencies (anarchists, goldbugs). But this year, Paul has emerged as a serious candidate. He has started actively campaigning for the nomination earlier than any of the other Republicans mulling a run. Already, he has racked up multiple meet-and-greets, dinners, and coffee gatherings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. While his father may have been an also-ran, national polls show Rand Paul as one of the top contenders for the GOP nomination. In private, Paul has been meeting with key GOP power brokers, including the Koch brothers, and he has courted techies at Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, and eBay. “We’re doing something that Ron never did; we’re reaching out to major donors,” says a Paul adviser. “Not everyone is giving us money, but there’s definitely some flirtation going on.” According to this adviser, in the last six months, RAND PAC, Paul’s national political operation, has raised more than a million dollars. “He’s very politically talented,” says a former senior official at the Republican National Committee. “He is absolutely a contender.”

In his efforts to court new audiences, or to bring what he calls “tough love” to friendly ones, Rand Paul is aiming for a bigger, broader base than Ron Paul—or, for that matter, Mitt Romney—ever captured. But though he has staked out more moderate or traditionally Republican positions than his father, at his core, Rand retains the same pre–New Deal vision of hyper-minimalist government and isolationist foreign policy. In other words, Paul has managed to take the essence of his father’s radical ideology—more radical than that of any modern presidential candidate—and turn it into a plausible campaign for the Republican nomination.

I have increasingly mixed feelings about Rand Paul as a Senator, or Rand Paul as a legislator, or Rand Paul as a Person of (Any) Influence. He’s very closely aligned with issues I personally support (the aforementioned drug legalization, his series of Verb the Noun bills “intended to make senators more diligent: the Read the Bills Act, the Write the Laws Act, and the One Subject at a Time Act”) and issues that I strongly oppose (the dismantling of the New Deal, the defunding of the federal government, institutional racism), and likewise with certain constituencies (Libertarians and Tea Partiers, respectively). So the idea of Rand Paul as President is a bit hard to muster.

Rand Paul as a candidate, however, is not hard to imagine – we are, after all, currently witnessing it – but it is hard to imagine him winning.

The biggest argument against Obama in 2008 – and one that has not faded too far from memory, as we are bearing witness to it as well – was his lack of experience, an argument made, I might add, by many people who may consider themselves Rand Paul constituents. Two terms in the Illinois State Senate, one term in the U.S. Senate, then president. Rand Paul, however, does not even have the pre-U.S. Senate experience Obama had. Before the current term – his first term – as Senator, Rand Paul was an ophthalmologist, a position that may or may not lend itself to governmental leadership (though I admit it does lend credibility to his anti-Obamacare stance). But it is not political experience, and it is a definite soft spot with a target painted on it for whoever his opponents will be, both in the primary and in the general. Hillary, particularly, if 2016 lines up that way, would tip the experience scales pretty drastically. So would Biden, though they almost certainly would not be pulling from the same pool of voters. The problem for Republicans, though, is that Paul could very possibly win the primary, based on current circumstances. His outsider, anti-government image could sufficiently rile up the base and build a new super-conservative, neo-Tea Party movement on which he rides to primary victory, essentially being to conservative Republicans what Obama was to Democrats in 2008. But nationally he is seen as too much of a symbol of the far-far-right, of the sort that both scares and infuriates liberals, while the whole of the country, as we’ve heard about with the rise of minority groups and young people, is swinging left. No time for a Rand Paul presidency. The Republicans would be best served, when the time comes, with nominating someone with much more broad popular support, who can win nationally, rather than trying to tern anti-Obama super-con fervor into its own party. If Republicans “fall in line,” as the saying goes, Paul is not the establishment candidate here to form up the ranks. It’s the wrong time.

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Small Dip Seen In Unemployment Numbers, First Drop Since January
As has been widely reported, the face of the American electorate is changing. This has never been so well exemplified as it was on November 6, 2012, when a majority of Democrats across the country and across the broad spectrum of elected office were swept to victory on a tide of minorities, women, and special interests that segments of the GOP had either offended, marginalized, or persecuted – or all of the above. Their success has been recognized as marking a new era in American politics, as the broad base on which politicians depend shifts and teems with new life and newfound influence. The demographic ground is shifting tectonically under our feet, and intends to continue its current trends, according to NPR:

Paul Taylor, director of the Social & Demographic Trends project at the Pew Research Center in Washington, says the country is on a trajectory to become a majority nonwhite nation by the early 2040s. Today it’s 63 percent white; by 2020 it will be about 60 percent white.

The forecasts made by Taylor are based on immigration trends, birthrates and mortality rates. “As the complexion of the population changes,” he says, “so too will the complexion of the electorate. In 2012 it was 28 percent nonwhite, a record. By 2020 it will be more than 30 percent nonwhite.”

This may not seem like a big shift, until you realize that Obama won the presidency by a 3.7 percentage point margin over Romney. Single points can make a huge difference in electoral politics. From the Pew Research Center:

The minority groups that carried President Obama to victory yesterday by giving him 80% of their votes are on track to become a majority of the nation’s population by 2050, according to projections by the Pew Research Center. They currently make up 37% of the population, and they cast a record 28% of the votes in the 2012 presidential election, according to the election exit polls.

By 2050, the Hispanic share of the U.S. population could be as high as 29%, up from 17% now. The black proportion of the population is projected to rise slightly to 13%, while the Asian share is projected to increase to 9% from its current 5%. Non-Hispanic whites, 63% of the current population, will decrease to half or slightly less than half of the population by 2050.

These minority groups gave eighty percent of their vote to Obama, and have traditionally voted Democratic in similar numbers before Obama came along. This means that a drastic increase in their numbers over the next couple decades provides a drastic increase in the Democratic base, and in votes for Democratic candidates (and depending on how Obama’s plans for immigration reform pan out, the shift could have an even greater impact). That is, unless Republicans can reform their image in an effective and timely manner, and shed or at least marginalize the more extreme elements that make them unappealing to, well, everyone but themselves. The party of old, white and ostensibly self-made men is severely lacking in minorities, and perhaps cripplingly so (just take a look at the famous national convention photos of the two parties side-by-side; the Dems are an array of color, while the Reps are indistinguishable from one another). A major overhaul is needed. They need a leader to do this, and whoever emerges as the face of the New Republican Party could very well be their nominee in 2016.

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From Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire:

A GOP Civil War Looks Possible

Nate Cohn: “The Republicans could nominate a unifying candidate in the 2016 primaries–you never know–but a contested primary would probably break along geographic lines. In retrospect, the 2012 primary might have been a sneak preview. Even though Romney possessed vastly superior resources and acceded to every substantive demand of the right, the GOP primary electorate divided neatly between north and south. Southerners concerned with nominating an authentic conservative never embraced Romney: Despite the help of a divided field, Romney only broke 31 percent of the vote in one southern state, Florida. Geographic polarization ensured that the 2012 Republican presidential primary lasted until April. The fiscal cliff vote shows that such polarization is becoming the rule rather than the exception. If a blue-state Republican secures the GOP presidential nomination thanks to winner-take-all contests in blue states like New Jersey and California, Krauthammer might actually get his civil war.”

The Cohn article from which this is quoted is worth reading too.

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According to some – and god, do I hope they’re right – Colorado and Washington are in the process of Pied Piper-ing the country towards marijuana legalization. Some states have come very close already, but either had legalization ballot measures voted down (Oregon, California, Nevada) or preempted by state legislatures (also California). In an article well worth reading, Rolling Stone has it that seven particular states are next in line to face reality and undergo this transformation – Oregon, California, Nevada, Rhode Island, Maine, Alaska, and Vermont, in that order – and they make individual arguments for each. Most have already drastically decriminalized marijuana, and some have allowed medical marijuana. So the incentive to make the short leap to legalization really comes down to two things: money, and a desire to avoid wasting the time and resources of law enforcement (which, I suppose, are really just one thing: money, in the form of new revenue from taxes and in the form of savings from freeing up law enforcement to do, you know, police work).

Regarding Oregon (emphasis mine):

[G]iven that Oregon’s biggest city, Portland, will be just across the Columbia River from prevalent, legal marijuana, the state legislature will be under pressure to create a framework for the drug’s legal use in Oregon – in particular if the revenue provisions of Washington’s law are permitted to kick in and lawmakers begin to watch Washington profit from the “sin taxes” on Oregon potheads.

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US Secretary of State Clinton gestures during a news conference after the meeting of the Action Group on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in GenevaToday on Hardball with Chris Matthews, a topic flying through the political news-ether that snagged on the sharp outcropping of Matthews’s rundown was the possibility of Hillary Clinton running for president. The commentators seemed to think she would, eventually, come around to it, which jells with everything else I’ve been hearing, and which I think will make for an eminently interesting election season in a few short years.

Though I wouldn’t have voted for her in 2008, I think I would in 2016. I also think she has a good chance of doing well, thanks to three factors. One, she starts with a large amount of goodwill, which she had in 2008, partly due to her own gravitas, and partly, I imagine, carried over from her husband’s administration and the way she handled his philandering (and perhaps a certain amount of that may be pity, or at least relatability disguised as pity, and in turn disguised as support and enthusiasm). Two, Bill has transformed over the past four years from a weakness into a strength. A behind-the-scenes account says in 2008 Bill was seen by Hillaryland as a huge liability, for a variety of reasons, and was thus kept out of the spotlight. Now, however, the Former Philanderer has drastically improved his image, the Obama campaign serving as his political rehab. In July 2012, his approval rating hit 66 percent, an impressive peak at the time, and then on September 5th, the day of his expectation-exceeding convention-revitalizing speech – which did a lot for Clinton on its own, winning him the mantle of not only best convention speech, but highest approval rating of the convention – his approval hit a peak of 69 percent. Second place went to Michelle Obama with 65, and the president came in third with 53. In October, Esquire magazine released polling information on a hypothetical race between Clinton and Romney – among other things – in which Clinton thoroughly trounced the actual Republican nominee, 65 percent to a tragic 30. So Bill has obviously gained back some of his previous clout, which would undoubtedly serve Hillary well (he could pull through at last-minute campaign events, as he did for Obama in the final weeks of the race).

And three – and most importantly – Hillary has proven herself with four years of phenomenal job performance as Secretary of State, particularly in taking the blame for security in Benghazi. It is number three that has most swayed my opinion, and as of right now, I’d have no problem giving her support in a primary, or a general.

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