3 Problems Rand Paul Faces with His Post-Filibuster Fame

Republicans, Democrats, and the rest of the world

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) catapulted out of his 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination for CIA chief as a world-changing politician, the new conscience of his party, and a Republican that nonpartisan progressives should love for his defense of our Fifth Amendment rights. (For those who don’t remember their civics classes, the Fifth Amendment includes the right to not be murdered at the executive branch’s sole discretion, which was the major topic of Paul’s marathon presentation last week.)

Paul is center stage now. If he wants to extend his time in the limelight and increase his star power, he needs to play act two and beyond with the same unpredictable political intelligence he showed in his filibuster. The freshman senator has (at least) three problem areas to navigate to extend his new status as a leading national politician and leading 2016 presidential candidate.

1. Democrats and Independents.

As I wrote about Paul last month for the New York Times:

“There’s a whole swath of people not getting adequate attention from Republicans or Democrats,” Senator Paul told me….These are independent voters who want to seriously cut government spending the way the Tea Party faction does but who also want a “foreign policy more of defense and less offense,” as Senator Paul put it, and a “more socially tolerant attitude.”…. “If we are ever going to win in California again, or Washington, we need someone who is a libertarian Republican,” Senator Paul told me.

Paul has lately written op-eds back in Kentucky recalling the Republican Party’s legacy as the party of civil rights for minorities. He told me in February that he intends to do serious outreach to black and Hispanic voters (the Romney campaign claimed only 27 percent of the Hispanic and 7 percent of the black vote). He used his Tea Party-sponsored response to Obama’s State of the Union talk to talk sense on immigration. “We must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future," he said. "We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, 'If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.'” He told Politico, “We need to figure out how to appeal to the blue-collar voters that voted — that were Democrats that voted for Reagan and I think are drifting back [to the Democrats] because they see us as the party of the wealthy." Paul is very conscious that he needs to widen his appeal beyond an already-existing red-state base.

Paul may have the ACLU’s love now, but how many voters does the ACLU really command? Americans don’t vote in substantial numbers to support strict constitutionalism. Presidential drone assassinations were no burning concern of the American people before Paul’s filibuster. That’s why it was so inspiring: It arose from a curious and unique passion, one that was clearly not politics as usual. The kind of politicians Democrats tend to vote for wanted nothing to do with what they saw as Paul’s annoying stunt.

Superficial respect for the concerns of the ACLU is part of an elite Democratic zeitgeist. But when most Democrats and progressives think of Rand Paul, it won't involve the Fifth Amendment or endless wars at home and abroad. They will think about abortion, a refusal to raise taxes on the rich, and neglecting what they see as government's duty to take care of people. Opposing crony capitalism is nice enough, but disaffected Democrats see the GOP as the “party of the wealthy” because of its refusal to raise taxes on rich people. The libertarian educational project needs to make more progress before many independent-leaning voters will stop believing that that the government must penalize the rich to help the less-well-off. If and when Paul switches from a refreshing outlier or libertarian maverick to becoming the GOP standard-bearer, any progressive support will likely disappear.

Paul is doing the best he can to appeal beyond a core libertarian or Republican base. Yet it seems unlikely that any amount of civil liberties, peace, or opposition to crony capitalism will satisfy most independents or Democrats over the longer haul. Their visions of government’s purpose are just too antithetical to Paul’s.

2. Republicans.

Paul's libertarianism doesn't just create a gap between him and Democrats and independents. It causes problems within his own party. To be sure, Paul got a surprising amount of support from his Republican colleagues during the filibuster. But the big surge came only after hour three, and only after the filibuster's popularity was obvious. The support may have been opportunistic, aimed at slapping down Obama, and limited to the narrowest part of Paul’s concerns. But it does matter that other senators saw standing with Rand as a political plus.

Paul went beyond civil liberties as the day went on, and started ranging into the principled libertarian "extremism" that had gotten him into trouble back in 2010, when he criticized civil rights legislation for redefining private and public spaces. As the filibuster wore on, Paul pushed into territory where most of his Republican colleagues would be loath to follow. He conjured up some serious libertarian juju—like that we are not a democracy and that that’s a good thing; that the Lochner decision was good because it restricted majority power in the name of 14th Amendment rights; he namedropped specifically libertarian heroes such as Hayek (for the rule of law) and Lysander Spooner (for his abolitionism, though not his belief that the Constitution doesn’t mean we have any contractual obligation to obey the state).

But Paul undoubtedly remembers how tough it is to be in the national spotlight and to constantly be called on to defend the least popular liberatarian positions and to play the role of the great non-compromiser. It's wearying to insist on absolute fidelity to principles and to never back down. This likely explains the disappointing denouement to the filibuster, which was Paul's quickly taking “no” for an answer from Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder sent a letter after the filibuster dutifully claiming that the president lacks “the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil." Yet given the looseness of what it means to be engaged in combat, Holder's response hasn’t satisfied many libertarians.

Paul acknowledged in a Washington Post op-ed that Holder’s answer was flawed (“the administration took too long, and parsed too many words and phrases, to instill confidence in its willingness or ability to protect our liberty”). Still, he avoided turning from brave iconoclast to impossibly paranoid kook. At a certain point, he seemed aware his GOP brethren were not going to follow him to what could too easily be called black helicopter land after Holder’s letter. Paul decided to just say “hooray” and that he was “quite happy” and let Brennan go forward to his new CIA job—without Paul’s vote.

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  • Hyperion||

    Rand is becoming, like, the Obama of the liberal press around here. I think there is some serious Rand-man crushes going on here.

    Has anyone got a tingle up their leg yet?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Rand Muthafuckin' Paul!

  • ||

    If i was gay or a woman i would do him.

  • ||

    What if you were a gay woman trapped in a man's body?

  • susan256||

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  • Paul.||

    I've been considering the same thing, however, I sleep well at night knowing that libertarians eat their own.

    And libertarians eat their own because it's the only political movement which holds its adherents to the core beliefs.

    All other movements are about power. Once power is achieved, what or how they prosecute those beliefs is literally unimportant.

    If Rand strays, he will be purged.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I think you have to differentiate between when someone is picking one's battles carefully and when they're just going native.

  • Paul.||

    Don't get me wrong, I love The Paul. What I mean by saying I sleep well at night, is that I have confidence that Libertarians won't be the same jackholes that Democrats proved themselves in spades to be with Obama.

    I believe (hope, really) that libertarians would hold Paul's feet to the fire if he were ever elected POTUS. (crosses fingers).

  • GroundTruth||

    And what you say reflects that sad truth about libertarianism: any true libertarian detests power and is more interested in simply getting on with life. Thus, we will always fail in the end when the statist buttinskies regroup.

    But, it's a nice dream, and one that I will not give up.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Democrat and many "indedpendent" voters get their marching orders from the press, whether they realize it or not, and while political reporters briefly seemed thankful to have something shiny and new to talk about in the form of an actual filibuster, Rand Paul will get no love from the talking hairdos.

  • ||

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) catapulted out of his 13-hour filibuster ... as a world-changing politician, the new conscience of his party, and a Republican ... progressives should love

    You forgot to add "target of absurd hyperbole from all sides, and recipient of vastly overinflated importance and expectations."

  • Outlaw||

    Rand Paul is the opium of the Reason Commentariat.

    I would love to see him succeed but I remain pessimistic and I think self-delusion isn't helpful. This country is fucked and he doesn't stand a chance of being President.

    False hope, IMO.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I don't think anybody here has any illusions about Rand Paul being the Great Libertarian Hope.

    If anything he is a step in the right direction, and a potential wedge into one of the major parties.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Not to mention the fact that he's a daily reminder of how out of touch the GOP leadership is with the rest of the country.

  • Hyperion||

    I don't think that a majority here believes that he will ever be POTUS.

    Neither will anyone else, imo, without promising free stuff to everyone.

    Still, he can be a very effective senator for the liberty cause.

  • spyle||

    if you two stepped out of your comfort zone for a few and actually spend hours listening to neo-cons and liberals who are taking rand very* seriously and as a result are undergoing an identity crisis, you would know these people will have to find a new place to go to if that newly awakened self identity is real, because that will no longer be welcomed in the establishment.

    is that new self identity soul search a genuine venture? that is the only question which remains. and of course, to answer that you need a bit of people-read ability. when hasn't the world in the end come down to individual abilities? if you have some of those as i believe i do, engage liberals like the young turks and many of the neo-cons, you will find many of them going through an identity crisis and it is very much real.

    which leads to the conclusion perhaps your pessimism stems from laziness and unwillingness to reach outside of your comfort zone. naturally the next statement: keep them to yourselves.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    But will they resolve their identity crisis by supporting Hilary, or Biden?

  • ||

    no libertarian leaning congressional leader < libertarian leaning congressional leader making hay.

    Who the fuck said anything about opium induced bliss of great libertarian hope?

    I love me some good cynicism but Jesus when it effects your simple arithmetic skills you have gone too far.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Yeah, the bitching narrative is all fucked up.

    Wasn't it just last week that Reason was bunch cocktail party attending, girly-drink drunk cosmotarians?

    I guess they're all southern republicans now.

    Whatever, DRINK!.

  • Not a Libertarian||

    Yet it seems unlikely that any amount of civil liberties, peace, or opposition to crony capitalism will satisfy most independents or Democrats over the longer haul. Their visions of government’s purpose are just too antithetical to Paul’s.

    But I thought someone had written a book about how of a libertarian mind "independent" voters are?

  • Irish||

    That Friedersdorf article linked is pretty interesting, but this part made no sense. He's talking about the unfair treatment Rand Paul got after his arguments about the Civil Rights Act and how every media appearance he gave someone ended up basically asking 'Are you okay with discrimination then?' Fridersdorf rightfully points out that this is ridiculous and that you could do the same thing with any position. This is the example he gives:

    [Would you ask] a liberal who describes herself as a First Amendment absolutist "Do you really think it should be legal for an old white man to call a little black girl 'nigger' on the street?"

    Two problems:

    1. There are no liberals left who could be described as First Amendment absolutists.

    2. Yes, that should absolutely be legal. It's terrible, but it should be legal. In fact, it is legal. That's an absurd example because anyone who is legitimately in favor of free speech should admit that an old man could theoretically call a black girl the 'n' word, and I'd nonetheless believe he shouldn't be jailed for it.

  • AlmightyJB||

    If I saw someone call a little black girl that, I'd stomp their f'ckin head in.

  • ||

    I would too, but I would not want him arrested for it.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    He shouldn't have used the word legal. A question comparable to what Rand got would be "So you're okay with an old white man calling a little black girl 'nigger' on the street?"

  • Irish||

    Exactly. It's obviously horrible and no one is in favor of it. But saying 'Are you in favor of something being legal,' when that thing is already legal, is fucking stupid.

  • wargames83||

    Who is a First Amendment absolutist? Wouldn't a first amendment absolutist have to be against copyright laws, slander and libel laws, laws against fraud, laws against divulging state secrets, laws against making black mail, laws against making threats ect?

  • Sarah Conner||

    Those are good problems to have.

  • silent v||

    IOW, with Democracy you get the government you deserve, and the American People do not deserve President Paul.

  • np||

    EXCLUSIVE - U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances

    (Reuters) - The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.
  • Knoss||

    Paul should go after the minimum wage. This is a law with clearly racist origins and which although supported out of compassion, not only hurts the poor, but violates their rights. That fact that the minimum wage prevents the poor from offering services for less than a legal mandated amount is a moral argument that could sell to minorities including immigrants and blacks.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Tea Party extremist Rand Paul not only wants you to be refused service because of your race, he wants you to be exploited and underpaid!"

  • Knoss||

    Show some compassion, Damn it. http://lfb.org/today/the-basem.....age-floor/

  • AlmightyJB||

    I don't think that should be his top priority. Why pick a fight over something with such small rewards. Especially when most people are never going to get the economics of it and you'll just end up reinforcing the stereotypes. Most people make more than minimum wage anyways. I think he's right to go after things like the drone program, abuse of executive power, and never ending wars. At the end of the day those will be more bang your buck and already have widespread support anyways. Then you put the media in the situation of having to rationalize the unjustifiable which exposes them for what they are. I'm not saying it shouldn't be addressed. I just wouldn't put it at the top of the agenda.

  • Knoss||

    I agree the drone program would be a bigger priority, but this is something that would be a bigger issue for low income families, it could be more relevant when put in context as a problem facing teens and families. He could also promote cutting subsidies to universities that benefit the rich, and encourage young people to enter the skilled trades.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    I think going after "Big Sugar" would be more of a winner. Rip on team red resistance with a "I thought you were for a free market" attack. Rip on team blue resistance with a "KORPARASHUNS" attack.

    There is plenty of low hanging fruit out there where all you have to do is call both parties on their own bullshit.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Big sugar, why do you cost so much?

  • Finrod||

    He might make just as much headway pointing out that raising the minimum wage is a payoff to union supporters whose members have contracts that are tied to multiples of the minimum wage.

  • entropy||

    Old memes die hard. Believe it or not, Romney actually did win independents. Damnedest thing.

    http://www.businessinsider.com.....on-2012-11

    As to why he did not win the election, that article brings up a good point about how 'winning independents' might actually mean having a turnout problem - you win that demo by stuffing it with a greater lack of commitment amongst your leaners.

    Enthusiasm and turnout are definitely huge factors. Especially if you can get all your supporters to not only vote for you, but do it 2 or 3 or 6 times.

    http://www.examiner.com/articl.....iple-votes

  • wargames83||

    "Old memes die hard. Believe it or not, Romney actually did win independents. Damnedest thing."

    Not that surprising really. Its the retarded Christian Right win zealots like Santorum that independents don't go for.

  • Tonio||

    "[H]ow many voters does the ACLU really command?"

    Bad question. It's more like "how many committed supporters does the ACLU have?" Because support for the ACLU, as opposed to support for more generic, traditionally-liberal organizations (such as DLC) indicates a specific interest in constitutional rights as opposed to an interest in the generic Team Donkey agenda.

    I acknowledge that the ACLU is not perfect, particularly in their ommission of 2A rights. But the ACLU is generally a fellow-traveller, sometimes neutral and rarely antagonistic to the libertarian POV.

  • Marla Singer||

    I gave up on the ACLU a long time ago. I don't see it as particularly libertarian to make it your life mission to scrub every passing reference to Christianity out of American society. I think they are just busybodies, not much different from any other busybody who wants to mess with you. And I say this as a lifelong person of no faith.

  • Muzzle of Bees||

    As a lifelong Christian, I can tell you that pretty much the only opinion of the ACLU from the Christian Right is that they want to make judges take down posters of the Ten Commandments and stop teachers from praying with their students (I'm personally totally ambivalent about that kind of thing). Oh, and the abortion thing. It was only recently, after awakening to the libertarian perspective, that I realized they might have utility as a means to offer legal support to individuals getting stomped on by the state. I'd be interested to hear more opinions of the ACLU from libertarians, religious and non-religious alike.

  • XM||

    If Rand Paul wins the GOP nomination, he'll get 90% of the Republican vote, if not more. At that point, the game becomes less about "picking the most conservative or libertarian candidate" to "beat Hillary Clinton".

    Rand, unlike his misbegotten dad, knows how to strike the right balance to attract non libertarian voters of the right. Notice that while he opposes reckless nation building, he won't describe as our soldiers as killers or occupiers. He leaves Israel alone for the most part, and more importantly, will not rationalize terrorist activity as a result of our foreign policy. That might very well be true, but you ain't gonna win votes by saying that.

    Rand and Ron responded to the death of Chris Kyle very differently. One of them was unelectable to the max.

    Rand Paul's 4th problem is his dad. The son will pay the price for his father's sins. What a shame.

  • ant1sthenes||

    "Republican that nonpartisan progressives should love for his defense of our Fifth Amendment rights."

    Progressives don't like anything that impedes a state, especially a progressive-controlled state. You must be thinking of liberals.

  • ||

    Huh. For some reason I can't reply to any comments on this page. No reply box shows up.

  • Hyperion||

    WTF is this? Attack of the monster squirrels?

  • Hyperion||

    Huh. For some reason I can't reply to any comments on this page. No reply box shows up.

    Congratulations, you've been squirreled.

  • Hyperion||

    if you two stepped out of your comfort zone for a few and actually spend hours listening to neo-cons and liberals who are taking rand very* seriously and as a result are undergoing an identity crisis, you would know these people will have to find a new place to go to if that newly awakened self identity is real, because that will no longer be welcomed in the establishment.

    Well, since the squirrels have eaten the reply button and fucking preview.

    This has nothing to do with comfort zones. It doesn't matter how many libs or neocons are taking Rand seriously. They are a very SMALL minority who actually pay attention. The folks who now decide POTUS elections are the ones WHO WANT FREE SHIT.

    So, nice if that is happening, and I go back to my original point that Rand can be a very effective Senator, he'll never be POTUS.

  • sydneyrechard||

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  • ||

    Congratulations, you've been squirreled.

    No, this page's comments section has just been changed to Reason Classic Neo™ is all. All the beloved threadlessness of the old pages, but without any of that annoying reply function!

  • SimpleMan||

    F the GOP and the libs I wish for a third party.

  • ||

    Suthenboy| 3.13.13 @ 7:41PM |#

    What if you were a gay woman trapped in a man's body?

    What do you mean, "what if"? Just give us a straight answer yourself.

  • Hyperion||

    F the GOP and the libs I wish for a third party.

    Wow, even Libertarians don't recognize us as a legitimate party yet, sigh...

  • mrvco||

    Someone has to say it, even if only a few hear it and get off the us versus them road to everlasting douchebaggery.

    I spent a regretfully long time on that pick-a-side Republican/Democrat crap not really understanding that there was a better path that didn't require picking a side and feeling dirty.

  • dinkster||

    Rand fails the purity test on almost all fronts. Liberals despise him, conservatives mock him, and libertarians are across the spectrum. No hope no hope...

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Liberals despise him, conservatives mock him"

    Here's to the the enemy of my enemies.

  • Gunblitz66||

    Serious question here: It seems to me that some neocon Team red guys are starting to come around slowly to the main libertarian points and are at least starting to listen to and start pulling for it. Is that just wishful thinking or is their a shift taking place?

  • Finrod||

    More of Team Red than you might think are tired of social conservatives that not only insist on leading, but leading with their own chin (Akin, Mourdock).

  • wargames83||

    My rather cynical take is all that will go out the window once a Republican President is in office again.

  • Gunblitz66||

    Maybe I should clarify that last one. I about had a heart attack when a friend showed me a clip of Glen beck cheer leading the libertarian party etc. And I had to admit it would be handy to have that annoying man and everyone who listens to his every word at least chanting something libertarian. Am I being too optimistic?

  • grey||

    The most important blue team related line in the article, "...They will think about abortion, a refusal to raise taxes on the rich, and neglecting what they see as government's duty to take care of people."

    Those three issues are OBAMA DNA and that is the modern aDemocratic party. To think otherwise, is the same mistake made by all the Red Team strategist going into the last election, they misread the tea leaves about what makes Democrats tick. (1) Abortion on demand at any point in the pregnancy. (2) Tax the filthy, stealing, racist, mean, greedy, rich people. (3) Government is only the smooth hand that gives, the rough hand does not matter (because it's bitch slapping those dirty racist rich).

    Do not over estimate the Blue Team principles. If we had brothers in liberty on blue team, they have been beaten in line.

    Red Team is almost as simple, two names: McCain - Romney. Two words: Establishment candidate. I was red team too long and have always had my hopes of small government, civil liberty minded candidates dashed. Except for Ron Paul, I never actually saw one on a red team stage. The party will try and crush Rand, whatever small love they are giving him now, they will try to crush him to get their establishment candidate.

  • SiliconDoc||

    " If I saw someone call a little black girl that, I'd stomp their f'ckin head in. "
    " I would too, but I would not want him arrested for it. "

    I could not hope to see a bigger pair of idiots purportedly supporters of libertarianism.

    One of the first precepts one hears is no violence upon others, and the related or prominent, no government violence upon individuals, since that is what government amounts too.

    Yet with your dually insane scenario, the little girl might just laugh, or say something like " you should talk idiot cracker !", but for you two, the nanny street strangers, much like the ever present nanny government, you get your busy body angel wings pretending defense of the "children" or rather child in this case, totally supporting the reported worst attack one can possibly be assaulted with, "racism" as the be all and end all used to justify any breach of the peace one so desires, and that breach of course is to be viewed as a virtue that both of you bragged about being certain to implement...

    Frankly you're both a disgrace, exactly like the overbearing government that pretends to be a fair nanny to all, creating a giant mountain of a problem to be solved with their inherent violence of law where no need actually exists, what so ever.

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    Chill out, Silicon Doc. They were just saying what liberty-minded people always say: something completely offensive, even if directed toward a child, is not automatically within the purview of law enforcement, even if it is so egregious you want to punch the fucker in the nose.

    Saying this makes them "like the ever present nanny government" is just silly.

    Just so we're clear. If you ever call a black child a nigger in my presence, I'll kick you in the balls. And you can yell "nanny state" all you want, after you're finished puking.

  • Marla Singer||

    Well, there goes that non-aggression principle.

  • wargames83||

    Non-aggression principle? You obviously haven't been reading your Heinlein:. "Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor"
    or your Murray Rothbard:Cops "must be unleashed, and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error."

  • ||

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