By Paul Dame
It’s no secret that the Republican Party is in need of revitalization. For too long there are too many voters that have been overlooked by many Republican candidates as “unwinnable.” This is an attitude that will lead to our demise if left uncorrected. And while a number of candidates talk a good game about building a “big tent” party, it has been largely empty rhetoric. Everyone agrees that we need to do more, but I only see one candidate for president who is actually doing it. And that is Rand Paul, who spoke at a party fundraiser in Essex last week.
In the two years since Gov. Chris Christie talked about Republicans going to places that make us uncomfortable, Rand Paul has been the only Republican who has already gone there. He is the only Republican candidate to meet with community leaders in places like Detroit, Chicago and Ferguson. And he is winning support in these places that have been devastated by crime and poverty after years of single-party Democrat control. Many people that have never voted for a Republican before are realizing that Democrats are taking them for granted, and are now seriously listening to what Paul has to say. His positions on criminal justice reform especially are winning support from minorities.
If you were at last week’s event in Essex you saw why Rand Paul is good for our party, and our state. One of the most remarkable things was how many young people were there. Usually, at the age of 33, I’m considered a young Republican. But I sat at a table with six intelligent, articulate high school students who were all big Rand Paul fans. I was the “old guy” at the table. I also spoke to two Castleton University students who were supporting Rand, and they brought along a friend who told me: “I came here tonight expecting to not agree with anything he had to say. But you know, this guy makes a lot of sense. I’ve never identified as Republican before, but I could definitely vote for this guy.” Rand’s positions on civil liberties, digital privacy and the 4th Amendment especially are winning the support of young people.
Event organizers indicated that there were nearly 100 people who attended their first-ever Republican fundraiser here in Vermont that night. Dozens of people who have had no prior connection to the Republican Party in Vermont became donors to our party that night, thanks to Rand Paul. Rand made it clear in his remarks that we do not have to give up one inch of ground when it comes to fiscally conservative principles. When we appeal to independents and even moderate Democrats, it’s usually our fiscally conservative principles that attract them, and we need to embrace that. While Bernie Sanders stokes the fires of class envy, Rand Paul has put together a tax plan that dramatically cuts taxes for middle class workers while eliminating lobbyist-secured corporate loopholes.
I appreciate the boldness it takes for a candidate like Rand to visit Vermont and other blue states when trying to win a Republican primary. Sen. Paul was willing to be the first candidate to visit the state, and he did it in a way where he paid his own travel, did not ask for a speaking fee, and even let our state party collect 100 percent of the ticket proceeds. How many other candidates are doing that? Rand Paul is proving that he is the one man who fundamentally wants to build a better, stronger party by bringing in more people and dollars to local Republican organizations and build our party from the ground up. And he is doing it successfully across the country, and now he is the first candidate to prove how we can build a bigger, better, and bolder party right here in Vermont.
Republican Paul Dame represents Essex Junction in the Vermont House of Representatives.