Count me as one who was not suprised at the size of Rand Paul’s victory in the CPAC straw poll. I’m only surprised it wasn’t bigger — even though he nearly tripled the votes of his nearest rival Ted Cruz.
You could almost say that Paul is the ONLY interesting candidate on the immediate horizon — Republican or Democrat. I’m not going to badmouth the Republicans (I may have to vote for them), but Hillary is as dull, predictable and reactionary as Obama, if that’s possible. Neither of them has evidenced an ounce of creativity, or even an original thought, while in office.
It is this creativity that distinguishes Paul. He seems future oriented, unlike the rest of the potential candidates who mouth platitudes, liberal and conservative, bashing each other in the most tedious manner imaginable. Yes, the liberal side is by far more repellent, and old fashioned in ideology to the point of ridiculousness, but this does not absolve the right of the need to come up with forward-thinking solutions to the obvious American decline.
That is why Paul appeals to the young who are oriented, as they should be, toward the future. The whole Democratic Party is oriented toward the past and so are, alas, too many of the Republicans. The young see this. They’re smarter than we are. (They still have some brain cells.)
Paul is doing the right thing in seeking to expand the Republican base — appealing directly to minorities and students to explain how conservative/libertarian policies are better for them, instead of running and hiding from these liberal constituencies as Republicans normally do. That Paul is going into the very bowels of the beast in the next few days, UC Berkeley, to give a speech is commendable and dramatic. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had some interesting results. The time is certainly ripe. And beyond that, I think we all know that if we show people some respect they often — though certainly not always — return the favor.
The other potential Republican candidates would be wise to pay attention to Paul, to “learn from Chairman Rand,” as it were. In this digital age, history races along. We all know Obamacare is terrible and the deficit is bad, but if that’s all you have to run on, I don’t think you’re to get where you want. Ideas, please. Big ideas. Fortune favors the daring. (Incidentally, one big idea I might favor is to virtually abolish almost all of the federal government with the exception of defense, and let the states do almost everything. It is here we could “learn from Chairman Rick Perry.” More of this later.)
Speaking of which, as I wrote last week, defense is Paul’s potential Achilles’ heel. He has to figure out how to negotiate his libertarian principles in an obstreperous world that, most of the time anyway, couldn’t care less about them. On a planet occupied by the likes of Vladimir Putin and Ayatollah Khamenei, he needs a foreign policy that doesn’t sound like naive wish fulfillment. Barack Obama already checked that box.
Unfortunately for Paul, in this area in particular he is in a position where the most minor of his tea leaves will be read. I was concerned, for example, that he referenced lyrics by Pink Floyd, and therefore Roger Waters, in his CPAC speech, when Waters has been closely associated with the anti-Semitic BDS movement in the last few years. I sincerely hope this was a mistake or an oversight.
Still, if someone like me — once a neocon of a sort, I suppose — can be interested in Paul, something important must be going on. There’s no doubt that Barack Obama — we can assume inadvertently — has done his best to turn America libertarian. It would be deliciously ironic if that devotee of Saul Alinsky and Frank Marshall Davis would be responsible for electing our country’s first libertarian president (well, at least since the days of the Founders).