Rand Paul has virtually disappeared from the media and the polls.
Even his die-hard supporters can’t tell you what the senator has been doing or saying for the last month.
But if the presidential wannabe from Kentucky wants to return to viability — and visibility — as a 2016 candidate, he has to separate himself from the GOP’s boring herd at tonight’s debate on CNBC.
Here’s some free advice for Rand Paul from a career libertarian newspaperman:
First, rip off that ill-fitting Republican mask you’ve been wearing for five years and let people see your inner libertarian soul.
Then start sounding more like your father Dr. Ron, not less.
You need to start tapping more deeply into that young demographic that your father appealed to in 2012 merely by being his own lovable, Fed-bashing libertarian self.
For starters, and especially for early primary voters, Rand, tonight you need to begin branding yourself as an unabashed Pro Peace, Pro Pot and Pro Uber libertarian.
It’s probably already too late for Rand Paul.
But boldly pushing the principled libertarian angle on peace, pot, Uber and homeschooling in Iowa would have great appeal across both parties and independents and especially among college-age voters. Plus they are strong anti-establishment positions in a year when being against the establishment is no longer a strike against you but an asset.
Being for Peace, Pot and Uber for libertarian reasons would not just be more honest. It’d quickly bring Rand Paul the media attention he desperately needs before he mounts his next filibuster.
He’d be able to separate himself from the mangy crowd of GOP establishment candidates and their tired conservative ideas while allowing himself to proudly stick up for the principles and values libertarians love and want to implement.
Rand Paul should blast and shame Marco Rubio tonight for his awful prohibitionist stance on marijuana by sticking up for personal freedom; defending states rights comes second. Ditto for Christie’s horrible drug-czar position on drugs.
(Speaking of pot, our friend Matt Welch of Reason.org has a deeper, more substantive “Dear Rand” letter that urges Sen. Paul to separate himself from his fellow debaters this evening and foresquarely call for the legalization of marijuana.)
Rand Paul also should be mocking Rubio’s tough talk about using troops to fix the Middle East hell we made with our previous bloody foolish military interventions and regime toppling fiascos. Ditto for Fiorina’s sure-to-fail Mid-East foreign policy.
Trump, for all the dumb and dumber stuff he says, has done a huge favor for a libertarian like Rand. Trump’s politically incorrect statements and ideas have lowered, or maybe raised, the bar on what radical things a candidate can say without being punished by the voting public or the media.
Because of Trump and his refreshing “so-what-if-I-said-something-politically-incorrect” attitude, the national liberal media, thankfully, has lost its power to destroy a candidate over a single gaffe at a coffee shop or something like Howard Dean’s scream in 2004.
Thanks to Trump, Rand Paul can take more radical libertarian positions on his natural issues without fear.
Homeschoolers, for example, are often Christian evangelicals but they are almost all soft libertarians at heart; they deeply understand the importance of freedom from government and school choice and they have made sacrifices to practice it in their everyday lives. They should be Rand Paul’s natural constituency — not Rick Santorum’s.
Another issue tailor-made for Rand Paul is Uber.
I’m an Uber driver in Pittsburgh. I know from experience (1,700 trips, 3000-plus riders) that Uber is universally loved by young people.
It’s also a great libertarian issue because Uber’s ride-sharing business model — micro-transit at its best — is destroying the local government cab monopolies that have tortured the poor and carless citizens of every major city in North America for nearly 80 years with high fares and horrible service.
Only the bad guys hate Uber — existing taxi interests and their big-city political pals and protectors like NYC Mayor DeBlasio.
Uber is well established in Des Moines, for example. As far as I know, Rand Paul hasn’t publicized himself taking Uber rides in Des Moines or, better yet, becoming an Uber driver there for a weekend night. Where are his campaign people sleeping?
I’m sure others would like to see Rand Paul tear off his cheap Republican mask and unleash his inner libertarian.
He needs a unique brand. He needs to become the pro peace, pro pot and pro Uber candidate, not to mention the anti-war, anti-IRS, anti-Big Government, anti-Nanny State, anti-surveillance state candidate.
Coming out of his libertarian closet tonight won’t win Rand Paul the GOP nomination or the White House. It may even lose him his seat in the Senate. But it’ll make it a lot easier for him to stand out from his fellow Republicans in 2020, when he runs against President Clinton.
Ex-newspaperman Bill Steigerwald is a career libertarian and author of Dogging Steinbeck, which exposes the truth about “Travels With Charley” and celebrates Flyover America and its people. Blogs, photos, a 1960 Steinbeck/”Charley” trip timeline and more are at TruthAboutCharley.com.