Fact: The Republican Party has won the popular vote for president twice in the last seven general elections: George H.W. Bush in 1988 and George W. Bush in 2004. (George W. Bush won the electoral college in 2000, but lost the popular vote.)
Fact: A true conservative has not won the Republican primary ticket since 1984.
Possible Reason: A large bloc of conservative voters (a reported three million in 2012) sat home rather than reward the Grand Old Party (GOP) for habitually nominating moderate-to-liberal candidates for the Republican primary ticket. In frustration, some conservative Republicans have stopped donating money to the Republican Party, and others have even renounced their party loyalty, preferring to call themselves conservatives, strict constitutionalists, and anything and everything but a Republican.
Problem: Former presidential candidate, and current conservative political commentator, Pat Buchanan has stated on numerous occasions, the demographic shifts, and some societal changes in America have led to an almost insurmountable hill for the Republican Party to achieve victory on a presidential level.
Fact: As has been stated in a previous article, from 2014 to date, the Republican Party has rarely fared better in all of the other elections –from the Senate and the Congress down to the state legislatures– but there is enough evidence on the presidential level to suggest that the doomsayers may have a point on this topic.
Possible Solution: More conservativism. Conservative commentators, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin suggest that the answer to the dilemma facing Republicans in presidential elections lies in a prospective candidate providing the American electorate with evidence of unapologetic and consistent conservatism. The commentators suggest that anything less –as evidenced in the last two elections– is providing the electorate a race between Democrats and Democrat-lite. Nominate a true conservative candidate, skilled in delivering a message in a fluent, optimistic, and succinct manner, and that candidate will be rewarded for appealing to the traditional instincts of most Americans. These conservative commentators suggest that Ronald Reagan’s two landslide victories were emblematic of this.
To this, Republican voters regrettably respond: “Ronald Reagan is dead.” Does this mean that we can’t hold him up as a “shining [beacon] on a hill”? No, but to abstain from voting in all subsequent elections, based on the idea that there isn’t a candidate on the ticket as conservative as Ronald Reagan was, is becoming so frustrating to some of us that we feel compelled to lift the lid on the actual presidency of Ronald Reagan to display the fact that Reagan wasn’t as conservative as the theoretical Reagan is now theorized to have been. Ronald Reagan was a theoretical idealist that espoused ideals as beautiful as this country’s greatest leaders, but when he attained the office he was forced to deal with the realities of his position, and if he wanted to solve the problems facing the nation, he would be forced to compromise with the liberal House Speaker Tip O’Neill to achieve those goals.
I would submit that if a modern candidate were to mirror the former president’s accomplishments as president, that candidate would cause many Republicans to sit home on Election Day because that candidate wasn’t Reagan enough. Having said that, Republican voters, this voter included, would love to have a fourth term of Ronald Reagan (if George H.W. Bush’s term as president was the third). We would love to have a candidate that we could check, check, check, on all of his conservative bona fides.
And the deep, dark secret –that no disgruntled conservative will tell you– is that we currently have six declared and potential candidates for the office of president in 2016 that, if the ”How Conservative Are GOP Presidential Candidates” chart on the Five Thirty Eight Politics website is to be believed are more conservative than Ronald Reagan ever was. This chart measures the various candidates’ conservativism on three different scales that include public issue statements, congressional voting record, fundraising, and a combined average score. Rand Paul ranks as the third most conservative candidate in these scales, even when controlling for his decidedly liberal public issue statements. By the same measures, Ronald Reagan ranks as the thirteenth most conservative politician, behind Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who ranks seventh, Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) eighth, and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) first. So, when one measures all of these politicians by the indicators listed above, we see evidence of the effect that the Tea Party has had on the Republican Party, BUT each candidate has a THIS! and a THAT! that has them on the various “never support” lists that have been created by all true, modern day conservatives.
The question that every conservative Republican voter has to ask themselves, if this chart is to believed, is not whether or not these candidates are actually as conservative as Reagan was, because it appears as though they are more conservative, but if they can they live up to all myths and illusions conservative, Republican voters have created for what Reagan was?
Anyone that has listened to a Rand Paul speech would say that while he may diverge from some major issues that President Reagan held dear, the Senator is close on many issues.
If Paul could be said to be Reagan without the optimistic good cheer, the sense of humor, and some would say the over-the-top charm, the question is how does a more straight conservative message poll with today’s voters?
The latest Real Clear Politics Average of six major polls currently (5/10/15) have Senator Paul at -3 against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; a Public Policy Poll (4/15/15) of New Hampshire citizens has him at 12% against the other potential opponents for the Republican primary; a Huffington Post Poll lists his favorable to unfavorable ratings at 34.5% to 36.3%.
If politics were a business, and they experienced seven straight quarters of losses, as conservatives have in seven straight primaries, the loyal shareholders that remain would basically say, we need some radical changes in corporate policy to make our business profitable again. We believe in the product, if we didn’t we wouldn’t still be shareholders, but what we’ve been doing lately is obviously not working. We need to try something different.
The something different in this case might be found in a throwaway line the Five Thirty Eight Politics article uses to characterize the decidedly liberal public issue statements of Rand Paul:
“(His) libertarianism creates a public statements score far more liberal than the other indicators.”
The characterization of Rand Paul’s fundraising sources and his overall score are an important determination, but there may be no better window into the soul of Rand Paul than his Congressional voting record. On this statistic, the Five Thirty Eight Politics website lists him as the most conservative candidate running for office in the last thirty-five years. More than Reagan, Romney, Rubio, Walker, and even Cruz on this scale. Yet, when Rand Paul speaks to college students, minorities, and all of the voting blocs that Republicans traditionally have trouble securing, his “decidedly liberal/libertarian positions” receive responses that many consider more than just polite.
Those of us that have witnessed liberal Democrats follow a blueprint that some have suggested follows a “sound like Reagan on the campaign trail and vote like Ted Kennedy once in office” strategy to victory, believe that the two-for-seven Republicans, and the oh!-for-seven conservatives, may need to try a reversal of that strategy. This is not to suggest that there is anything disingenuous about Rand Paul’s public statements, as some of his libertarian ideals may lead him down decidedly different paths than Ronald Reagan’s, but his voting record is as far from Ted Kennedy’s as we’ve seen in a Republican candidate for president in the last thirty plus years. Whether or not this strategy can turn Paul’s poll numbers around and eventually translate into some votes, is unknown at this point, but with the Republicans record in the last seven elections some Republican voters believe that our party may have to try something decidedly different if they hope to win another presidential election in our lifetime.