Rand Paul Needs Schooling Part 1
October 2, 2010 2 Comments
Rand Paul needs some education on campaign-running. In this article, when asked for specifics on one of the staples of his campaign, he responded that it was impossible to give specifics until after the election. Apparently, he’s taking his cue from incumbents in Congress, where it is common to postpone controversial votes until after the election.
I have several issues with this—as a voter, as a political scientist, and as someone with a wee bit of experience in campaigning.
First, annoying as it is, it is understandable when incumbents postpone controversial votes until election season has concluded. Why? Well, we all know the answer to that question. In a general election, politicians tend to swing toward the middle, to court the largest possible number of the electorate. A controversial piece of legislation may alienate moderates, the base, or both. It’s acceptable (if annoying if that particular legislation is important to you) because we have a solid voting record from incumbents that we as voters can judge from. With a brand-new politician, running for his first-ever political office? Not so much.
I spent two years in student government at Western Kentucky University. I learned quickly that voters want specifics. As a rookie to the whole scene, I fell into the trap of using idealistic platitudes as my platform. It was easy to do, because I really did want to “help the students.” My decision to join was based off my being a student, noticing issues that needed to be addressed, and deciding I should do something about them. Once elected, I met the then-Chief of Staff, who answered my questions and pushed me to come up with specific solutions. I did. As a senator, I got off easy. Later, when I chose to run for an executive position-the students, and the student paper, the College Heights Herald, weren’t having any of it. They wanted specifics. This is a problem, what exactly are you going to do about it? Where exactly do you stand on this issue? I was well-prepared, but I had one thing going against me: reality.
I had two years under my belt by this time, as well as Dr. Sandra Audrey’s Campaign Management class. I was prepared with specifics, but not the specifics that the students wanted. Parking, they asked, what was I going to do about parking? Silly me, I was honest to a fault. Nothing. We’re in the middle of Bowling Green, we have nowhere to put more convenient parking lots, even if student government had the clout to push the university to fund a multi-million dollar project. I gave specifics, but not exactly what they wanted to hear. I was experienced, but I didn’t have that mix of specificity, platitudes, and the dismissal of the hurdle logistics and reality. I lost.
Rand Paul could learn a thing or two from the Student Government Association of WKU. You don’t get to, as a rookie, make grandiose statements about an issue, and then refuse to elaborate. With this budget thing, Dr. Paul, you could go about it a whole of different ways. Some conservatives will like, some liberals will like, and some that everyone or no one will like. People need to hear the how.
You also don’t get to say that you’re too busy to figure out how exactly you want to do those things that you want to do. You’re campaigning for public office—your job, if elected, will be to figure out how you want to do those things you want to do, and then do them. Especially if you’re the libertarian you say you are—you won’t have an established party behind you to do everything for you. Campaigning is a full-time job. I sympathize. I ran myself, as well as running the 2008 campaign for Bowling Green commissioner Slim Nash. Doing those things while being a full-time student, I really sympathize. But the thing is, you can’t complain. It’s part of the job. A politician cannot complain about how hard it is, because he chose to do it, and a massive amount of his electorate is struggling to make ends meet. Who wants to hear a well-off doctor complain about the difficulty of running for office, when you may be struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table? Many of his supporters, or potential supporters, will never even dream of running, because just surviving is taking up all of their time, money, and energy. In short, it’s not a politically savvy thing to do. I know. I and my fellow SGA members did it, and we got ripped apart by the students and the campus media, and then we lost.
Rand, here’s some advice from me to you. Go speak to some of the current and former SGA members at WKU. It’s pretty close to home, so it shouldn’t take up too much of your time.