I made a promise to myself that I would not talk about the 2016 elections until at least 2015. However, since everyone already seems to be picking out their favorite candidates, I am now forced to break that promise. In this hypothetical match-up, I look at how a possible 2016 match-up of Hillary Clinton vs. Rand Paul for President could turn out to be very similar to the 2008 Democrat primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
In 2008, Barack Obama outflanked Hillary Clinton on her Left: emphasizing his record opposing the Iraq War and championing civil liberties, such as his then-opposition to the PATRIOT Act and wiretaps in general, made him much more appealing to the Democrat Party base. Hillary was seen as too hawkish for the Democrats, who largely opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan war. Fast-forward to 2016, and Hillary Clinton must now face another anti-war civil libertarian in Rand Paul, who could marshal some support from the Left for his anti-war, civil liberty positions.
Near the end of the 2008 DNC primary season when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debated, one issue that was raised was Hillary’s past support for the Iraq War. Obama hit her on it, saying “I will offer a clear contrast as someone who has never supported this war… I want to end the mindset that got us into the war in the first place,” hitting Hillary for supporting the Iraq War and upholding neoconservative wars. In 2016, Rand Paul could use the same attack lines against Hillary.
Rand Paul and Barack Obama the candidate are ideologically similar on civil liberties and military intervention. As a Senator, Rand Paul has earned the praise of both Code Pink and the ACLU for his stand against drone killing. He also filed a lawsuit to sue the NSA and has filed a bill to restore the fourth amendment, in response to the NSA spying. He opposed the war in Iraq as a citizen, before he was a Senator, much like Barack Obama the state Senator opposed the war in Iraq. For voting for the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq War, as well as coming off as a neoconservative hawk, Hillary Clinton was vilified by the anti-war civil libertarians in her party. It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest the same thing could happen to Hillary again in 2016.
Hillary Clinton is in a difficult position if she faces off against Senator Rand Paul. Does she try to apologize for voting for the Iraq War? Does she apologize for voting for the PATRIOT Act? Doing so might earn her the label of flip-flopper, much like John “I was for the war before I was against it” Kerry earned as the 2004 Democrat nominee. In 2007, Code Pink interrupted Hillary’s speech to protest her vote for Iraq; in 2013 Code Pink sent Rand Paul flowers.
Not everything looks rosy for Rand, however. Rand Paul’s positions could raise some problems within his own party, especially among the more neoconservative voters who still make up a good amount of his party. However, it is very possible that, when evaluating all the candidates, the hawks will still see Rand Paul as the best candidate for the exact reasons I’ve been discussing here. Additionally, Rand Paul will have had a full six years to make his case for why he is the best candidate and why his foreign policy views are neither unreasonable nor isolationist.
So what does this all mean? A Rand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton match-up in the 2016 election could pose problems for Hillary that are similar to the ones she faced in the 2008 Democrat primaries. If enough anti-war Democrats and civil libertarians are fed up with the NSA programs that Obama and Bush have utilized, and if Hillary doesn’t do a good enough job of distancing herself from her PATRIOT Act votes, she could be in trouble. Her base my be hesitant to vote for someone who had previously aligned herself on foreign policy issues with George W. Bush.