5 ways Rand Paul is trying to grow the Republican Party

Everyone Republican talks about the need to grow the party. But how many are actually doing it?

Sen. Rand Paul has tried to reach out to groups the GOP has generally ignored or dismissed more than any other member of the party and it has not gone unnoticed.

S.E. Cupp penned an op-ed last month explaining why the Republican Party needs Rand Paul, citing his willingness and interest “in reaching out to demographics that have either traditionally been hostile to conservatives or that conservatives have ignored — including women, minorities and young voters.”

Even while National Review’s Rich Lowry was criticizing Paul’s foreign policy as “dewy-eyed,” he conceded that “the GOP benefits from having” him because he doesn’t “look or feel like a typical Republican.”

When Paul spoke at Howard University last year many said it was a disaster. However CNN’s Donna Brazile Tweeted:

Here are 5 ways Rand Paul is trying to grow the Republican Party.

1. He speaks Silicon Valley’s language

rand chalk
Paul writing on the chalkboard at Facebook HQ

When Rand Paul spoke to Google employees in June 2013, he was unaware that only a week later we would learn that several tech companies had given the government permission to mine user email and social media data through the NSA’s secret PRISM program.

“I’m not going to lecture you on matters that you know better than I do. But I am an advocate of privacy, and I would like to make a plea to those who are here, who are active, who are interested in the issue of privacy: Google, the entity, and you, as part of Google, need to be great advocates of privacy” Paul said.

He continued, “One of the reasons why I believe this is that there may come a day when people see Gmail and think that stands for Government Mail.”

Paul’s prescience here struck a nerve with the tech community. John Henke, a libertarian blogger, pointed out that the technology world is “instinctually libertarian in that they have a ‘leave us alone’ ethos.” Accessing that instinct, especially in a post-Snowden world, was a no-brainer.

To this day, the technologically-inclined crowd remains impressed with Paul’s savvy. Fortune published a piece this week telling an unlikely “love story.” 

Wooing the Patagonia-wearing, Blue Bottle coffee-sipping denizens of Silicon Valley, and especially San Francisco, may seem like a fool’s errand for much of the GOP, but not for Paul, who recently made his second swing through the Bay Area.

Indeed, his libertarian leanings, which can rankle Republican Party pooh-bahs, resonate in the Valley, where folks are messianic about private enterprise’s potential to solve all the world’s challenges.

2. He is reaching out to progressives

Paul at UC Berkeley

When it comes to the issue of privacy, Rand Paul has the ear of progressives.

Last month, Miles Mogulescu wrote a piece for the Huffington Post titled “Rand Paul Eats Obama and Clinton for Lunch on Government Spying.” Yes, you read it right, The Huffington Post.

There’s not much I agree with Rand Paul on regarding domestic issues, particularly his goal of radically downscaling Social Security, Medicare, taxes, and regulation of banks and business, and his stance on most social issue.

But Rand Paul may be the only politician with national standing — and the only potential serious 2016 presidential candidate whether Democrat or Republican — who’s willing to confront the greatest contemporary threat to our constitutional liberties which is the vast government spying apparatus set up by Bush/Cheney and enhanced by Obama.

For that reason, if for no other, this progressive is glad that it looks like Rand Paul is running for president and getting national media attention.

Salon’s David Sirota called on progressives to champion Paul’s ideas on privacy as well, rather than merely saying that it’s “’horrifying to see’ principled progressives cheer on Paul’s attempt to force the Obama administration to answer basic questions about civil liberties.”

“I have a lot of problems with Rand Paul,” he wrote, “But I think that on issues concerning national security and the domestic security state he is as right as anybody in the Congress—and there aren’t a lot of people in Congress who are good on those issues.”

Nor can we forget the resounding applause Paul received when speaking at UC Berkeley, an environment that has traditionally treated conservatives with more hostility than not.

3. He is reaching out to African-Americans

rand howard
Last year, Paul delivered a speech at Howard University, in which he asked the questions: “How did the party that elected the first black U.S. senator, the party that elected the first 20 African-American congressmen, become a party that now loses 95 percent of the black vote? How did the Republican Party, the party of the Great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?”

Those questions and others sparked the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin — one of Paul’s biggest critics — to write: “[Rand Paul] is a force to be reckoned with; liberals and conservatives ignore him at their own risk. If nothing else, he demonstrated that a forceful reiteration of history can illuminate the Republican Party and that conservatism deserves a fair hearing. That’s more than 90 percent of Republicans have done.”

Despite Jon Stewart opining that the speech was a cheap and “awkward” attempt — “the Republicans left black, now they want to go back” — Rand Paul’s effort in this regard amounts to more than an overwhelming majority of Republican leadership.

4. He’s reaching out to Hispanics

“If we are to change people’s attitudes toward … the Republican Party, we have to show up and we have to have something to say,” Rand Paul commented on immigration a month ago. “I hope to be part of that dialogue.”

He added that Republicans need to do a better job of making it clear that it is not “just the party of deportation,” and toning down racial rhetoric is a big part of that.

”The bottom line is that the Hispanic community … is not going to hear us until we get beyond that issue,” Paul said on another occasion.

“They’re not going to care whether we go to the same church or have the same values or believe in the same kind of future of the country until we get beyond that … We’ve got to get beyond deportation to get to the rest of the issues.”

Paul’s willingness to reach out to both African-Americans and Hispanics is consistent with his idea that “We need a [Republican] party that looks like America,” which, in turn, explains why he was tapped to open the GOP’s Minority Outreach Office.

5. He is reaching out to Millennials

Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Held In D.C.
As Millennial distrust and discontent with big government and other institutions grows — preferring social tolerance, self-reliance, pragmatism, love of liberty and fiscal conservatism instead — so too does their interest in libertarian ideas.

This is crucial, considering the Millennial demographic will make up about two-thirds of the voting population by 2020.

In an exclusive interview with Rare in February, Jeff Frazee, the executive director of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), said that “the size and the scope of the problem of government is causing young people to seek bigger ideas and bigger solutions.” As a result, YAL has seen the youth movement grow before its very eyes, having over 500 chapters and 125,000 members throughout universities nationwide.

When asked if Paul was the most electable candidate with libertarian leanings, he replied: “As a pure libertarian he might not be perfect, but he is a man with principles and a love for liberty. I think he’s probably the most electable candidate of any of the candidates with libertarian leanings.”

Frazee added, “He is a giant step in the right direction,” a fact even some of Paul’s critics are unable to ignore.


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