Why Are We So Shocked Rand Paul is Pandering to His Voting Base?

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The newest bout of Rand Paul reaming comes after his recent trip to Iowa where the senator met with 15 evangelical pastors known for having clout with faithful GOP caucus goers. Much to the chagrin of libertarians everywhere, Paul assured the neoconservative crowd that he does not support ending the war on drugs (favoring decreased sentences instead) and that he is an advocate for the “traditional family unit.” In his speech he clarified:

“I’m not advocating everyone go out and run around with no clothes on and smoke pot… I’m not a libertarian. I’m a libertarian Republican. I’m a constitutional conservative.”

Didn’t we already know this? Is he not a member of the Republican Party? Paul has all but officially announced his candidacy in the 2016 election, and don’t we all know it’s never too early for the Republicans to begin campaigning – it’s going to take a lot of time to undo the damage done by recent Republican leaders. As Rand himself has said, “We have to evolve, adapt or die.”

Though many self-proclaimed libertarians hoped a Rand Paul presidency would yield all the policies (or lack of) pushed by his father, Ron Paul. Here’s the thing, though: Rand is not his father’s political doppelganger. He is more conservative and more mainstream – and he’s never tried to hide that fact.

Politics is an ugly, zero-sum game. Those who win are scarcely ever the most deserving; they are the ones who most successfully play the game. It wasn’t brilliant political ideas that won Obama the White House in 2012, but ingenious marketing strategy and vigilant Romney bashing. Obama maintained the extremist vote (and their contributions) as well as an overwhelming majority of support from three key demographics: Hispanics, women, and African Americans. It seems that Rand is taking a page out of the Democrat’s playbook by trying to appeal to the voting base at large without offending anyone – from moderates to neocons – even if this comes at the detriment of his earliest fans: the libertarians.

But we must recognize, liberty lovers, we are still the minority. It’s not going to be easy – perhaps even possible – to have an authentic libertarian candidate elected into the White House today. Reeling from the persisting War on Terror and an insecure economy, America is still afraid of freedom and of a society capable of self-regulation. With the ever-deepening schism in political orientation and divided government, no candidate will be electable if she or he cannot garner support from independents, moderates, idiots, and extremists alike.

So Rand Paul traveled to Iowa and made a case with influential neoconservatives on why he should be their candidate in 2016, and he left with a collection of new supporters. “I see a very good future for Rand Paul here in Iowa,” said Evangelical Brad Cranston of Heritage Baptist Church. “He has a Biblical world view. When you start with that, you really get us listening.”

Emotional appeal will win people over every time. Rand Paul is playing the game of politics well, and he must continue to do so if there can be any path for him that leads to the White House.