Rand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton: A Radically Transformational Presidential Election Fighting Over Peace and Prosperity?

By Ralph Benko

randpaulRand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton? In a context of emerging peace, prosperity, and human rights? This would be big.  Transformational, even.Peter Bein art, in the Atlantic Monthly (among many, many other political observers), has concluded that “Rand Paul is the 2016 Republican Frontrunner.”  And two of the Washington Post’s top political observers, Chris Cillizia and Sean Sullivan, say “Hillary Clinton is the biggest frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination ever. Yes, ever.” The next presidential election is not going to be  “Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden.” It bodes to be transformational.

The playing field, meaning the world, has changed.  It has changed in fundamental ways.  These are ways behind which our political class  lags.

Yet our political process, as sloppy and slow as it is, has thrust to the fore the two candidates who, by all appearances, best grasp that  change.  Rand Paul and Hillary Rodham Clinton would frame the debate —  and the alternatives they offer — based on real clear and present issues rather than outworn dogma.

Sen. Rand Paul appears, to this columnist, to best grasp and present  the model of classical (small l) liberal (small r) republicanism of any  of the present contenders. He stands for smaller government, civil  liberties made sacrosanct by inclusion in the Constitution’s Bill of  Rights, and free enterprise. He defines himself as “an outspoken champion for constitutional liberties and fiscal  responsibility, and a warrior against government overreach.”  Also, he makes his case with affable optimism and amiable gentility rarely seen within the GOP since Ronald Reagan left the stage.

Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton appears, to this columnist, an eloquent champion of (big L) Liberal social democracy. In her Remarks at the Sorbonne, in 1999, she reportedly stated that

“We have lived with the benefits, for 50 years now, of the agreements  that were made at the end of WWII, coming out of Bretton Woods to create new financial architectures. Today, we have outlived the usefulness of  that particular set of arrangements. And we now have to face up to  creating a new architecture that will help us tackle runaway global  capitalism’s worst effects; ensure social safety nets for the most  vulnerable; address the debt burden that is crushing many of our poorest nations.”

This columnist strongly leans toward liberal republicanism as far  better adapted to create a climate of equitable prosperity, job  creation, and human dignity. He also considers it better suited to the  American temperament. Yet … there is nothing inherently illegitimate to a social democracy if implemented with full respect for the “consent of  the governed.”

The perennially happiest countries in the world, after all, such as Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and  Sweden all were, last time this columnist looked, social democracies.  One of the three principles in America’s “mission statement,” the  Declaration of Independence, is the unalienable right to the pursuit of  happiness. H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism, in A Little Book in C major, as ‘The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.’  Unless one is a Puritan happiness is nothing to be sneezed at.

So there are two competing visions for America’s future direction.  The 2016 presidential election has transformational potential because  the world, almost unnoticed, has transformed. Peace, prosperity, and  human rights are emerging as the fundamental reality of the 21st century around the world.

The electorate is beginning to wake up to this change. Thus our  political leadership is going to have to wake up to it. For one who  aspires to lead America outworn dogmas need to go. It would appear that  both Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton are transforming their own political  parties along fresh lines. Whichever of them (or a dark horse who  captures the mood of the electorate even more proficiently) prevails  this portends the possibility of a fundamental political transformation.

We in the media generally have done a terrible job reporting to you  the nature of how the playing field itself has changed. This columnist  was one of relatively few mavericks to point out that peace and  prosperity are breaking out, and with profound implications. Please do  not blame us wretched pixel-stained wretches. The evidence is that our  readers find stories about peace and prosperity dreadfully dull. And  columnists do not like being bores.

Nevertheless, hello peace: As noted in a 2011 Forbes.com column The End of Politics: The Dawning Irrelevance of Obama and the GOP:

“The reduction in world mayhem seems alien. TV news and  newspapers present freighted drama, not dry facts. That obscures the  trend. Also, a dramatic peace trend sounds implausible to those  habituated to war.

“But scholars of such matters observe that the number of war battlefield deaths has dropped by a factor of 1,000, falling from 500  per 100,000 in prehistoric times, to 60-70 in the 19th and 20th century  (notwithstanding epic wars) to… less than one such death per 300,000 now in the 21st. Genocide deaths have dropped by well over a factor of 1000 from 1942 to 2008.

“Much of this is documented in Steven Pinker‘s book The Better Angels  of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Joshua Goldstein’s Winning the War on War, and in a new study by the Human Security Report Project.”

And hello prosperity. As noted in As 2012 Comes To An End The World Has Never Been Better, The UK’s The Spectator crisply explained Why 2012 was the best year ever:

“It may not feel like it, but  2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has  there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West  remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are  charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the  fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural  disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.

“In 1990, the UN announced  Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. It emerged this year that the  target was met in 2008. …. Buying cheap plastic toys made in China  really is helping to make poverty history. And global inequality? This,  too, is lower now than any point in modern times. Globalisation means  the world’s not just getting richer, but fairer too.”

Peace and prosperity are breaking out. And now Foreign Policy, in Ken Roth’s December 30, 2013 Silver Lining; The Year 2013 in Human Rights, clues us, with a slightly muted trumpet, to the fact that human rights are breaking out worldwide as well. FP: [“T]here has been human rights progress in many areas in 2013. That is  of obvious importance for the immediate beneficiaries, but it also  should encourage efforts for progress on persistent abuses elsewhere.”  While one could quibble with certain of its selections, this article  goes on to lay out an unarguably impressive litany of human rights  advances.

As Forbes’s own Christopher Helman observed in a discerning article The Happiest and Saddest Countries, 2013:  “[I]n the United States faith in governance is at an all-time low. The  fiscal cliff, the sequester, high unemployment, the federal shutdown,  the embarrassing roll out of Obamacare. Not only are Americans disgusted with Washington, our allies are, too….”

Historically speaking, great nations typically do not fail from their government’s moving too far right or too far left. They fail from  myopic officialdom.  They fail from their governing class not  recognizing, and capably handling, the presenting issues of the day.

One of the greatest virtues of America’s liberal republican political structure is its remarkable resilience. The “faith in governance is at  an all-time low” because our government officials are a little slow on  the uptake about absolutely fundamental shifts of the playing field.

But culture shifts slowly. Politics has been more or less defined for a century by war, poverty, and indignities. That’s over. It is  disappointing, although not quite reprehensible, that our leadership —  and we, the people — are rather slow in adjusting to the startling new  epoch emerging.  Yet adjusting they, and we, are.

Rand Paul and Hillary Rodham Clinton have emerged as the leading  contenders of their respective parties because they best exemplify  recognition of how the playing field is changing to one, however  imperfect, of peace, prosperity, and human rights.  And how best to  engage with, and support, these trends.

The world has changed, and changed fundamentally. Each party’s  frontrunner presents as a capable, dignified, advocate for his and her  party’s vision of how to realign the federal government with the  emergent order of peace, prosperity, and human rights. Dr. Paul’s vision is one of classical liberalism. Madame Clinton’s is that of social  democracy.

America’s future hangs in the balance. Which candidate more clearly  recognizes that the fulcrum of the balance is the worldwide outbreak of  peace, prosperity, and human rights?  That candidate will have a decided advantage in the upcoming presidential election.  It’s a really big  deal.

Paul vs. Clinton: liberal republicanism vs. social democracy.

Republished with permission from Forbes.com

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