Roughly one year ago, I participated in the group conference call for one of the publications where I freelance. Both I and the other writers were asked to figure out which Republican presidential candidate we thought would be nominated in 2016, under the presumption that we could then cover that individuals campaign if he or she was indeed tapped to be the nominee.
While this plan didn’t pan out for a number of reasons, I still marvel at who I chose and why: Much to my retroactive chagrin, I believed Senator Rand Paul was going to be the Republican presidential candidate this year.
I made this mistake for two reasons. First, I saw Paul reaching out to groups that have by and large been disaffected from the Republican Party – particularly racial minorities and young voters – and believed that, because the GOP will need to be more diverse if it is to remain politically viable in the future, this tactic would work in his favor. In addition, I thought Paul’s libertarianism was a refreshing departure from the neoconservative consensus that has prevailed within the American right for the last half century.
Boy was I wrong.
Looking back at my failed prediction one year later, I realize that I overestimated the Republican Party. Perhaps with great naïveté, I assumed that they would care more about being relevant in the future then pandering to the basest prejudices within their own rank-and-file. While I’m not a Paul supporter and wouldn’t have voted for him this year, I believe his broader appeal and bolder ideology would have made him the ideal foil to Hillary Clinton in this election. The problem, I suspect, isn’t that my reasoning was flawed, but that I assumed reason would prevail within the modern GOP.
The fact that it didn’t really speaks volumes about this election cycle. A party which can nominate a man like Donald Trump over not just Paul, but the many other Republican candidates who aren’t flagrantly bigoted, is a party that has cast its lot with the darkest forces at play in this chapter of our history. If Paul had indeed in the Republican nominee this year, I may have a very well found myself writing an article about the downsides of the impending Democratic defeat. This would have been worse for my party, to be sure… But without question, it also would’ve been better for America.