On his way to Las Vegas to wrap up the opening week of his candidacy, US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) took a detour to a state where Republican candidates have often experienced major difficulties with the electorate.
“I think living in California, you know how hard it is for a Republican to win, right?” asked Paul to a crowd of about 100 activists who showed up at the headquarters of Entrepreneur Magazine in Irvine at 7:30am on April 13 to meet with the candidate.
“Some of that is because the brand is broken. So what I say is, we have to believe in what we believe in, but we [also] have to expand the audience and be willing to listen to it.”
With his inclusive tone, Paul urged activists to transform the Republican Party. Going beyond their support for the Second Amendment is part of it. To him, the GOP must become “the party of the entire Bill of Rights,” a sentiment Paul had already shared with Sean Hannity promptly after his 2016 announcement.
But the stronger message of unity surfaced when he stated:
“We [also] need to be the party of the Fifth Amendment, [which] says that everybody is treated equally under the law, no matter what color skin you have, no matter where you came from, no matter who you are, you should be treated fairly under the law.”
This attitude could resonate with the US immigrant population, which dominates in states like California. After the event, attendee Maria Daily, who recently attained citizenship, argued that “Hillary is just too close to Bush and Obama [politically], so [Rand] can distinguish himself from her status-quo positions.”
To the young activist who is excited to cast her first vote, she wants Paul to win, but if he doesn’t, she “hopes his campaign spreads the message of liberty.”
Paul’s battle against Washington in the name of minorities has been well documented. After the Ferguson protests in Missouri, the Kentucky junior senator used his op-ed in Time magazine to remind readers of the frailty of the common individual before the power of the US criminal justice system. In Vegas, Paul explained that “the war on drugs has created a culture of violence and puts police in an impossible situation.”
In front of the young and diverse Irvine crowd, Paul did not focus on the war on drugs alone. He also touched on the consequences of the war on terror:
“Sometimes we’ve gotten crazy in our fear of people who’d attack us, we went all like: let’s just lock people up! They don’t need trials; let’s just send them to Guantánamo Bay!”
To Paul, our answer to the tragedy we faced in the early 2000s goes against our values:
“The hell we don’t need trials! Does anybody remember what happened to the Japanese in California? There have been times in our history that we really messed up. Madison said that you wouldn’t have to worry about how much power you gave to government if men were angels. We know men are not angels. Men and women are not angels; that’s why we need the Constitution to try to restrain the government.”
His strong defense of the entire Bill of Rights found a receptive audience in Southern California. According to local activist Michael Wigle, Paul’s announcement got everybody suddenly excited about the 2016 race.
“Most people [who] heard that Rand was running were either excited or interested. That actually made phone banking a little difficult because so many people had already donated this week after he announced.”
To Derek Leininger, the former director of events of Arturo Alas’ 2014 congressional campaign, Rand Paul is the strongest candidate and could even beat Hillary Clinton. But before aiming that high, Derek said, “the campaign needs to focus on the primary before putting in too much energy on the [general] election.” According to Leininger, who holds a master’s degree in public administration, “the hardest part for Rand will be to get the nomination as the GOP establishment does not like change.”
Noah Johnson, the treasurer of the Los Angeles County chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus, stated that “people are sick of war.” Speaking as a private individual and not as the spokesperson for the RLC, Johnson said: “It’s exciting to see so many different types of people getting together behind a candidate. If Rand wins the primary, he’ll win the support of some anti-war liberals and many independent [voters] who are dissatisfied with the status quo in both parties. These votes will be critical in the election.”
To all of the attendees who gave their views, Rand Paul’s campaign is unique, but to Erin Letarte, the Los Angeles Regional Director of the Republican Liberty Caucus of California, Paul’s campaign “has more to offer to the American people than any other campaign.”
Alluding to Paul’s time in the Senate, the young Ohio native claimed, “Paul has been talking about things that no one else, from either party, dares to discuss.” The Kentucky senator’s presidential campaign “is different,” as Paul “seeks to accomplish things that have long been the will of the people.”
Wigle agreed with Letarte. “Paul is bringing new ideas to the table that everyone is excited to hear.” Because the candidate is “not afraid to speak up,” Wigle said, “the establishment [is] very afraid because they know that people are ready for something fresh.”
If the activists are right, the fight for the Republican Party’s nomination could be the most exciting primary of 2016.
This article originally appeared on Watchdog.org.