Part of Ronald Reagan’s brilliance was not apologizing to critics. Instead, he explained confidently and cheerfully why limiting government is a better approach than growing it, and would produce better results for normal Americans. It drove crazy the sophisticates who were sure they were way smarter than him.
It also cheered millions of Americans who knew Reagan was right. Before and since then, however, they often despaired of finding a leader who could go toe to toe with the liberal establishment, defend conservative principles, and not sound either like an accountant extolling a strong balance sheet or a Sunday school teacher calling sinners to repentance.
In 2012, the liberty movement searched from candidate to candidate, looking for a standard bearer they could rally behind—someone not just with exceptional skills and resume, but with a Constitutional vision of freedom and limited government, and the ability to make a comfortable, appealing case that touched average Americans.
But a new crop of leaders is rising. The field for 2016 could present the opposite “problem;” with several able, articulate, and philosophically strong possible candidates. Instead of a brutal triage that culls the field by blemish or blunder, leaving a last man standing, the primaries might be a race for distinction. The winner could be the one who most impresses and inspires, and becomes the best choice rather than the survivor.
Recent buzz surrounds Rand Paul, the doctor-turned senator from Kentucky, who electrified the nation and caught the administration flat-footed with his largely impromptu 13-hour lesson on why the President deciding whether he can kill Americans in America is a bad idea. Paul easily and lucidly shared the constitutional principles that define a different America. Paul combines his father’s libertarian outlook without some of crazy-uncle persona Ron Paul couldn’t quite shake.
Expectations are high also for Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, who fluently explains we don’t need different ideas; the idea is America, and it still works. Rubio electrified the GOP convention last summer with a mix of idealism and practical policy rooted in Constitutional philosophy. He ascended to the speakership of Florida, a major, competitive state and GOP must-win at the tender age of 35. It appears Rubio’s gifts are polished by the skills and tact to lead older, ambitious politicians without putting them off.