Politics
Rand Paul gives his victory speech after winning the Senate Republican primary election in Bowling Green, Kentucky, at Bowling Green Country Club May 18, 2010. Rand Paul, a doctor and son of libertarian Republican Representative Ron, beat Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson for the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in a race seen as an early test of the strength of the movement.           REUTERS/Jake Stevens   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR2E2EG Rand Paul gives his victory speech after winning the Senate Republican primary election in Bowling Green, Kentucky, at Bowling Green Country Club May 18, 2010. Rand Paul, a doctor and son of libertarian Republican Representative Ron, beat Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson for the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in a race seen as an early test of the strength of the movement. REUTERS/Jake Stevens (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR2E2EG  

Can Rand reach young progressives?

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Matt K. Lewis
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      Matt K. Lewis

      Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor to The Daily Caller, and a contributing editor for The Week. He is a respected commentator on politics and cultural issues, and has been cited by major publications such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. Matt is from Myersville, MD and currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Follow Matt K. Lewis on Twitter <a>@mattklewis</a>.

If only Nixon can go to China, then maybe only Rand can go to Berkeley. (Or, at least, maybe only Rand can get a standing ovation at Berkeley.)

Speaking of ovations, I’ve got to applaud him for being willing to go into hostile territory.

When it comes to winning nontraditional Republican votes, not showing up has been the self-fulfilling cardinal sin that keeps on giving.

So kudos to Rand for doing just that.

But, having said that, I want to caution everyone that these profiles in courage wouldn’t matter much in a heated General Election, where Hillary Clinton’s team (and outside groups) would surely paint Paul as an evil, racist, villain. It might not be enough to cost him the election, but it would certainly drive a wedge between Paul and the students he was wooing with his speech.

Good luck finding any Berkeley Students For Paul, come 2016. Hillary the warmonger would still do better at Berkeley than Rand the peacenik. That’s just how it is. Partisan habits are hard to break.

This is not to discourage such outreach. In fact, failing to meet unrealistic or overly ambitious expectations is the surest way to discourage folks from trying.

And I’m not picking on Rand, either. This principle works against any Republican trying to change the electorate. Let’s take Gov. Susana Martinez or Sen. Marco Rubio. Their ability to speak Spanish is hugely important, but it wouldn’t be a silver bullet guaranteeing the Hispanic vote, either. At least, not in 2016.

Talk is cheap and old habits die hard. The truth is that the only way for a realignment to really occur is for someone to first win an election, and then govern consistently.

So if President Paul were to spend eight years actually governing as a civil libertarian (ending drone strikes, etc.), then — over time — Berkeley students might begin shifting their allegiances. Even then, it wouldn’t sustain if his successors reverted to their old ways.

Likewise, if President Martinez or President Rubio were to spend a good deal of their eight years in office communicating to Hispanics, and persuading them that conservative policies comport with their aspirations for achieving the American Dream, Republicans might — after eight years, or so — get more than 50 percent of the Hispanic vote (and this would only sustain if their successors didn’t revert.)

Rand should be applauded, but let’s also realize that a long journey begins with one small step. And that’s just what this was.