Already polling better than all Republican contenders, Hillary Clinton is expected to kick off her 2016 presidential campaign this Sunday. Perhaps the news was upsetting to Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who walked out of an interview and had his staff turn off the lights today when Paul Lewis, a reporter for the Guardian, asked him about the contrast between his proposed criminal justice reforms and the mindset of white GOP voters.
“You’re standing for the Republican nomination, all the research shows that Republicans, white Republicans who will determine the outcome of this race, don’t think criminal law is applied in an unfair way, so how are you going to win the nomination with this…” Lewis asked before being cut off by Paul.
“I think your premise is incorrect,” Paul said. “I think I can take that message into a white Evangelical church anywhere in Iowa and give the exact same speech and be received well.”
Lewis then tried to quote a recent Washington Post and ABC poll, before Paul pointed at him, looked at his staff, said something unintelligible and walked out.
Lewis got back in front of the camera to explain what happened when the lights in the room were turned off.
Lewis was asking a perfectly fair question of Sen. Paul, who made a big campaign stop in South Carolina this week without saying a word about the shooting death of Walter Scott or the subsequent arrest of Officer Michael Slager. Paul’s petulant past refusal to address serious questions about his father’s racist newsletter has now carried over into the campaign as he gets rude and argues with reporters who ask him about uncomfortable topics. It’s not exactly ‘leader of the free world’ behavior.
But if Rand Paul is thin-skinned and unwilling to explain his dissonances, Ted Cruz seems determined not to let his “libertarianish” rival win any support from the culture warriors of the GOP. Attending the Network of Iowa Christian Homeschoolers’ annual “Iowa Homeschool Day at the Capitol” in Des Moines yesterday, Cruz told the crowd that a “jihad…is being waged right now, in Indiana, and in Arkansas, going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Yes, folks, Cruz really did accuse gay people of fighting a holy war against the right wing conservatives who’ve spent decades trying to maintain anti-gay sodomy laws, legalize discrimination against LGBTs, and make life miserable for anyone who isn’t ‘straight’ under the rubric of their narrow religious convictions. The word for this kind of rhetoric is “projection bias.”
The son of a radical preacher and birther conspiracy theorist, Cruz actually seems to believe that he can personally reverse the trend-lines of opinion on marriage equality and win as an anti-gay candidate — a kind of political-climate denialism to match his views on global warming.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the TV reality show stars who gave us nineteen moronic zealots and counting and attended the Homeschool Day event, are the quintessential example of the demographic Cruz wants to reach: self-righteous bigots who keep their kids out of public schools to protect their little minds from ‘liberal’ influences such as science, reason, and diversity. Apparently, Cruz thinks the Duggars have already raised enough little gay-haters to outnumber the “gay jihad” at the ballot box in 2016.
In contrast with Cruz, LGBT activists still have questions for Hillary Clinton, but these lines of inquiry afford her an opportunity to expand her appeal rather than shrink it. Clinton has also been pretty consistent on her views about police shootings and unequal justice, and unlike Rand Paul she doesn’t risk alienating potential primary voters by elaborating on her opinions in interviews. It’s a long, long road yet to next November, but she can do better than either of them in her first two weeks of campaigning by keeping her cool and withholding her endorsement from shrinking casts of bigots.