Thursday’s Debate… Some Initial Thoughts On Rand Vs. The Donald

DebateDonald Trump and Rand Paul.

Honestly, could any two candidates be any more different? In fact, they seem to epitomize the extremities of current political ideology, representing the polar opposites of current party policies and initiatives. A casual outside observer might think it strange that the very first question from Thursday’s debate immediately set these two men at odds. But on closer inspection it makes perfect sense. Hot and cold… Day and night… North and South… Their differences are just about as equally divergent. So, after a few days of thoughtful evaluation, I decided to share some of my thoughts from the first debate of the 2016 presidential cycle.

First… The Donald.

Yes, Trump does indeed “tell it like it is.” Yes, Trump’s words and rhetoric do indeed appeal to a deep-rooted anger within many Americans. Yes, Trump is indeed quite entertaining. But let’s not be mistaken. He might not be a career politician but he is a seasoned and successful businessman, one who is just as skilled in the fine art of “political maneuvering” as any senator, governor, or representative. He is a man who is used to getting his way no matter the cost or collateral damage. He speaks his mind not because he is convinced or committed (just look at his track record of flip-flopping on almost every issue). He speaks his mind because he understands that in today’s culture we have become fascinated with sound bites and bombastic, abrasive celebrities. To be entirely honest, I kept waiting for Maximus the gladiator to walk to center stage on Thursday night and scream at us, “Are you not entertained?”

For decades we have bemoaned a lack of leadership and character in public offices. But now, at the very moment when we have been empowered to make a change through the election process, we seem content to cast aside those demands simply because one candidate appeals to our frustrations? Yes, Trump seized the “spotlight.” Yes, Trump “sparkled” in a debate that seemed strangely crafted to play to his presence. But we should never forget that “all that glitters is not gold.” My hope is that his candidacy will be nothing more than a “trending” news item and that the American populace will look beyond the “blinding lights” of a TV persona and recognize a lack of substance, character, and commitment to public service. Trump may well voice our frustrations but I feel that he only serves his own interests. And in the end, how is that any different from our current national dilemma?

Now… Rand.

In Rand Paul I also see someone who is willing to “tell it like it is.” The main difference for Senator Paul though is one of honesty. While Trump has consistently changed his ideology, Rand Paul has maintained his views during his tenure in office. When I listen to Dr. Paul speak I do not find myself wrestling with issues of doubt and authenticity. True, I might not agree with everything he says, but I never have to question his sincerity. I know what Rand Paul believes. I also know that he actually believes what he says. His record in public office demonstrates his sense of conviction and his willingness to stand behind those ideals even when placed in an uncomfortable position. Rand Paul shows me courage and conviction as opposed to a willingness to compromise for personal gain.

Rand Paul used very few words in Thursday’s debate, the least of any of the top ten candidates. But he proved that in a debate, quality is more important than quantity. Paul said “more with less” than any of the others standing on that stage. Just consider the following: (1) he did not flinch in the face of Trump’s self-serving agenda, (2) he did not hesitate to remind us that the Constitutional fact, not fear, should drive our policy making, and (3) he stood firm in his call for less government, not more. And he did it all with barely 5 minutes of time. I respect a man who can make the most of every opportunity. Trump spoke a lot but really said very little. Rand did the exact opposite, demonstrating once again that conviction carries the greater weight and power. Imagine what he could do in the highest office in the land? If he could accomplish so much with 4 minutes, just imagine what he could do with 4 years?