How Rand Paul Bent the GOP in a More Libertarian Direction

Cover line & inside hed WAY more negative than the article, FWIW. |||The New Republic has a good new cover profile out of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), by Julia Ioffe, treating him as a serious and interesting 2016 GOP White House contender, albeit with an ideology "more radical than that of any modern presidential candidate." While you may disagree with the scare-headlines and some of Ioffe's framing, she contributes plenty of new material to the subject, particularly in depicting the way Paul has forced himself on the same GOP establishment that initially tried to thwart his political ambitions. For instance, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky):

After [Paul] beat [Democratic Senate candidate Jack] Conway by eleven points, McConnell kept Paul close. He got him an office near his own and placed him on the Foreign Relations Committee. "The perception is McConnell fears him," says a Republican Senate staffer. [...]

"McConnell has moved toward Rand Paul more than Rand Paul has moved toward McConnell," says John David Dyche, McConnell's biographer. McConnell has thrown his support behind Paul's efforts to legalize hemp production, both in Kentucky and nationally. He joined Paul's drone filibuster and threatened to vote against the nomination of John Brennan for CIA chief. And he has changed how he manages the factions within the Republican caucus. "He used to do a good job bridging the divide ... but he can't do that anymore, so there’' basically no leader over there because there needs to be no daylight between him and Rand Paul, whatsoever, for the next two years," says the Senate staffer. "You can make a case," says the Democratic leadership staffer, "that he's the most powerful Senator in the Republican caucus."

Neoconservatives and the Obama administration are also issuing praise for Paul through gritted teeth:

Two days after the occasionally awkward Howard University speech, Paul went to Simmons college to listen more than talk. |||Many in the traditional conservative establishment—particularly the foreign policy hawks—have been wary of Paul, but they have come to recognize, and fear, his growing power. "I have to give him credit for political entrepreneurship," says Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, describing Paul's tactics as "demagogic." "I think [the Republican establishment is] nervous about him; that's the one thing about him I kind of like," Kristol adds. "They think he's got some real clout out there with the grassroots, which is why I'd say they've bent over backwards to be nice to him." [...]

His drone filibuster forced the Department of Justice to issue a formal response, earned him the White House's grudging respect—"at least the guy actually did it," one official told me—and significantly moved public opinion on the issue. Meanwhile, his hard-line fiscal and anti-government views have gained growing traction within the GOP. "The party is more libertarian than it used to be," says [Paul's GOP primary oppnent Trey] Grayson, now the director of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School. "Clearly there's more talk of reducing the deficit, and Rand is one of the leaders of this movement. It's fair to give him a share of that credit." During the immigration debate, Paul has for the first time talked openly about his newfound clout, referring to himself as "a bridge between the House and the Senate." "If they don't listen to me, they make a mistake," he has said of his Senate colleagues.

Whole thing here. Read archival Reason profiles of Rand Paul from May 2010 and June 2011; check out our Twitter Q&A with the senator from two weeks ago, and/or watch our March 2011 interview for Reason.tv:

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  • John||

    "at least the guy actually did it," one official told me—and significantly moved public opinion on the issue.

    Which is something Obama has never done once during his entire Presidency.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Obama has been the most polarizing President we've had in the modern era. Not even Bush was close. I think in the long run liberals will be very sorry they pushed him to POTUS.

  • sarcasmic||

    Racist!

  • John||

    What is interesting about Obama is that he has never, despite constantly giving speeches and using the bully pulpit, managed to change public opinion on an issue. He has either done things which are popular to begin with or shoved through unpopular things by brute force. But he has never been able to make a policy more popular than it was before or move public opinion on anything. He is the only President in my lifetime who has been unable to do that on at least something, especially early in his terms.

  • Spoonman.||

    That's not true. He changed public opinion on gay marriage.

  • John||

    LOL. Please tell me you are kidding. Or did you not know he was against gay marriage for nearly all of his first term?

  • Hyperion||

    Yeah, but he 'evolved'. How could you forget about that?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I think he likely changed quite a few black persons minds on the issue.

    But he's polarized many more issues, some purposely so (see: immigration reform, where he could have stayed out of it and increased its chances of passing but of course jumped right in and grandstanded).

  • Spoonman.||

    I'm not saying he's not a dick, just that he did it.

  • ||

    What you're saying is that his "evolution" had an impact on public opinion on the topic. I would dispute that. You'd need to show that the trend line of the opinion change somehow accelerated after this "evolution". Even just relying on anecdotes I would suspect that's nearly impossible.

  • Redmanfms||

    What you're saying is that his "evolution" had an impact on public opinion on the topic. I would dispute that. You'd need to show that the trend line of the opinion change somehow accelerated after this "evolution". Even just relying on anecdotes I would suspect that's nearly impossible.

    This.

    Public opinion had been shifting for years. Obama's "evolution" on the subject came conveniently during a Presidential election.

    And I haven't seen any evidence this his change of heart had any impact on the prevailing view of gay marriage among blacks (to be fair, I haven't been looking). If somebody has the data, I'd like to see it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    He jumped on a bandwagon, doing an 180 turn from his stated position for years before. That's not leading. That's following.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, he was for it before he was against it before he was for it again. What a shitweasel.

  • JW||

    As I pointed out to liberal friends, evolving to a position that Dick Cheney held years before, isn't all that daring.

  • Jon Lester||

    Sure, by pretending to "evolve" on the issue.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    I think public opinion changed Obama's position on gay marriage.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    He has either done things which are popular to begin with or shoved through unpopular things by brute force. But he has never been able to make a policy more popular than it was before or move public opinion on anything.

    That's a good thing, even from an approved politician.

    I'm more interested in seeing politicians make a policy LESS popular.

  • CE||

    Obama's succeeded in making the IRS, the DOJ and the NSA less popular, so there's that.

  • sarcasmic||

    If only...

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    "treating him as a serious and interesting 2016 GOP White House contender, albeit with an ideology "more radical than that of any modern presidential candidate."

    Since this nation is in a terrible state and has been for a while that's actually a compliment IMHO.

    Rand has been great for the country, period, but his father really paved the way.

  • John||

    Here is the question, will Ron Wyden have the same effect on the Dems? My guess is maybe, if the Dems suffer a few soul destroying defeats the way the Republicans have. If not, then Wyden will continue to be in the wilderness.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'm sure Wyden sucks on economic issues, but it would still be good to see him gain stature, as he obviously has some convictions regarding privacy issues.

    It takes some stones for a Senator to stand up against the President, especially when he's in the same party.

  • John||

    Wyden is a disaster on economic issues. But Democrats are almost uniformly totally ignorant about economics. The Ds will never be any good on economics. But they should at least be good on civil liberties.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Actually, Wyden has supported Free Trade (including lifting the Cuba Embargo), worked with Paul Ryan to semi-privatize Medicare, and voted against the Bush bailout and the estate tax.

  • Matt Welch||

    Is he making any effort to get in the national politics game?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    It would be nice if Wyden could be sort of what Feingold was.

  • carol||

    I'm not so sure what is so radical about Paul. It seems to me that he has a lot of commonsense. Then again, commonsense is pretty radical in DC.

  • John||

    There is nothing radical about Paul. He only seems radical because the rest of Washington DC is that nuts.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

    -George Orwell

    That's why the chattering classes were so aghast at Rand Paul daring to demand the truth via filibuster and are calling for Edward Snowden's head now. They are deceivers and think that Americans should accept their deceit in place of the truth.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Finally, the left will have their bogeyman. The Kochs and Boehner just weren't getting it done.

  • John||

    It is going to be problematic for them though. Paul's consistent opposition to the surveillance state is going to force them to embrace the surveillance state to demonize him. That sounds easy enough until you realize that believing that they are the good guys in fighting against government power is a huge part of liberals' smugness and personal identity.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They've shown over the past few years that that identity is fluid, without a hint of introspection. Most interesting, however, will be the left's reaction to the Administration going after Snowden now that Dick Cheney is on board.

  • John||

    The public hacks don't have a problem. They have to hack. Their livelihood depends on it. But the rank and file liberals are different. This NSA thing is killing them. I don't know a single liberal who even wants to talk about politics right now. I have never seen them this demoralized. It is not like they are going to run out and vote for Paul or anything. But they seem a lot less likely to vote for anything right now. Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I really think this is going to hurt the Dems.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Most liberals are quite upset about it, even a lot of the pundits.

    The problem is, will it go anywhere. Remember when the left was mad at Bill Clinton over welfare reform? Well all he had to do was wave Gingrich in their face and they were like "oh, we have to help Bill stop that Gingrich!" Likewise Obama will just find some boogeyman to try to make it all better.

  • John||

    But welfare reform worked. And everyone knew it. This is not welfare reform. And remember, welfare was not the issue in the 90s it was in the 70s. By the 1990s, even a lot of liberals were starting to figure out that welfare didn't work as advertised.

    Most people, liberal or conservative or whatever, don't pay that much attention to politics. And they have political views often for fairly shallow or poorly thought out reasons. Not everyone is a crazy hack the way most public journalists are. And for the people who are not, the NSA thing is very demoralizing.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    It is actually quite amazing how well it worked. I actually came across these numbers recently, the drop in the % getting welfare after the reform went through was really dramatic.

    But many liberals were really furious about Clinton supporting the reform.

  • robc||

    I was living in Wisconsin when it was first being discussed. I saw an interview with a woman (in Milwaukee, I think) who said, with disgust, "If this passes, I guess I will have to get a job or something."

    Um, yeah, exactly.

  • robc||

    Cheney was always on board. Its probably his baby (the NSA program, not going after Snowden).

  • Fluffy||

    Yup.

    After Snowden, they pivoted to "but but but government is essentially good" in seconds flat, with no shame, and no introspection at all.

  • John||

    Some did. But a lot haven't. Don't judge every liberal by the idiots in the media. Remember, the media is essentially on Obama's payroll.

  • Fluffy||

    Yeah, I guess I can see the distinction.

  • John||

    Here is the thing, the country is closely divided. A little change on the margins makes a huge difference in election. Even at his best, Obama couldn't crack 55%. If say 20% of rank and file liberals are really upset by this and don't go and vote in 2014, that would devastating to the Dem cause.

    Most conservatives didn't care about the things Bush did. But decent percentage of them did and stayed home in 2008. And look what happened, not just in the Presidential race but in the Congressional races. Dems won in places they had no business winning.

  • CE||

    Don't worry. Rand Paul/Marco Rubio/Chris Christie will scare them into voting for the Democrat.

  • Hyperion||

    They're coming out of the closet.

    The state is good, and they are good. They just need to purge the world of those evil baggers and anarchists, and the world will be perfect, same as always before.

  • Hyperion||

    Since they are not liberals, but statists, it's perfectly natural for them to embrace the surveillance state. It's part of what they are, the total state. Their days of hiding behind the liberal façade are coming to a quick close. They are now free to be themselves, the new statists, same as the old statists.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    It is going to be problematic for them though. Paul's consistent opposition to the surveillance state is going to force them to embrace the surveillance state to demonize him.

    I think we've been watching some other, different left than I have seen over the last 4.5 years. They are perfectly comfortable with supporting the surveillance state.

  • robc||

    Statists gonna State.

  • Hyperion||

    "more radical than that of any modern presidential candidate

    Good grief. Yes, freedom is a radical concept for the statists.

    The New Republic needs to change their name. How about 'The Same Old Statism'. Or maybe something simple yet elegant, like 'Comrades Weekly'.

  • Killazontherun||

    The most radical action I have seen in my life time, in terms of usurping the law, brazenly ignoring precedent, and having devastating repercussions for decades to come, was the bank bailout. Yet, it was an action demanded by the radically insane mainstream living in Georgetown and Park Avenue, not by Maoist camped out in the jungle.

  • Jon Lester||

    I'm lucky enough to live in an open primary state, where we don't ask anyone to register one affiliation or another. My one inclination to choose a Republican ballot for the 2016 primary is to vote against all the GOP establishment types who'll be competing with Paul.

  • robc||

    I registered GOP for the first time in my life in 2007, so I could vote for Ron Paul in the 2008 primary.

    Ive gotten for vote for Pauls 4 times because of that (Ron in 2008 and 2012 primary, Rand in 2010 primary and general). I guess the registration only helped with 3 of the 4.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I guess the registration only helped with 3 of the 4.

    Or it didn't help at all, and you just happened to vote for the same guy who won.

    For the record, I've only casted a Team RED vote once in my life: Rand Paul in 2010. I simply couldn't be bothered in to changing my affiliation in order to vote for daddy Paul in the primary, and Rand was so far ahead of his primary opponent that I wasn't worried at all.

  • robc||

    Or it didn't help at all

    My 2008 and 2012 votes for Ron helped. Not in any kind of electoral way, but I felt I owed him my vote due to not voting for him in 1988. Its my only presidential vote I regret.

    Although 2008 for Barr is borderline. But, really, what option did I have? Okay, not voting.

  • Hyperion||

    Well, obviously you are just voting for the whitest white guy because you support the evil patriarchy that is stopping us from moving forward.

    /proglodyte

  • robc||

    Im pretty sure the McConnell acolyte was whiter.

  • CE||

    I've voted for Ron Paul 4 times too (LP prez 1988, 2008 Repub primary for prez, 2008 write in for prz, 2012 primary for prez).

    Looking forward to vote for Rand Paul in the 2016 prez primary.

  • Fluffy||

    It is really galling that Kristol - KRISTOL - says that Paul is "demagogic".

    A demagogue is someone who nakedly appeals to the prejudices or interests of the lowest common denominator voter.

    Paul's highest profile actions so far have been damning the President for drone-killing the teenage son of an Al-Qaeda preacher, calling for sentencing reform for minority felons convicted of drug crimes, and calling for immigration reform for illegals.

    None of those people are voters. Muslim teenagers hiding in Yemen, drug war felons, and illegal immigrants don't vote.

    This means that by definition anyone who has been watching Rand Paul and liking what he's doing is doing so for some reason other than their own prejudices and interests. By definition, they are worrying about the lives and freedoms of persons other than themselves.

    And fucking Bill Kristol - Mr. "We must kill all foreigners to keep you safe! Be scared, and vote for my guy to save you!" - has the audacity to call that demagoguery?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I can't remember the last thing I heard Bill Kristol say that wasn't galling.

    His dad was actually on the take with the CIA IIRC.

  • John||

    Fuck Kristol. A demagogue? Really? If Paul is a demagogue, then anyone who disagrees with Kristol about anything is one too, because I can't see a single thing Paul has ever done that would qualify as demagogueing the issue.

  • KPres||

    Kristol is one of those people who I can't even entertain their thoughts because I can't take the rage that it builds up. Feinstein and Bloomberg are in that club.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Also bugs me about Kristol. He's one of the few R's that I've ever seen on the Daily Show where John is all buddy-buddy with him, putting out a serious "we just happen to disagree on a few things, but we can still hash this out"-vibe. With 95% of all other republicans, he is legitimately trying to not be a dick, but it still feels like he is interviewing some strange non-understandable alien life form.

  • Spoonman.||

    I like that they highlight this quote: "I'm not a big believer in democracy" out of "I'm not a big believer in democracy - it gave us Jim Crow."

  • Brandybuck||

    There is no sentence of so few syllables that the press can't manage to twist it to mean its opposite.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    But TEAHTHUGLIKKKAN OBSTRUXSHUNISTZ!!!!

  • SugarFree||

    They managed to take a man that can easily be thought of as "boyish" and made him look like an albino space mummy for the cover.

    Objective journalism.

  • John||

    God that is an awful picture. He looks like the living dead.

  • robc||

    I wouldnt have guessed it was him -- ever.

    Without his name on the cover, I would have had no clue.

  • Hyperion||

    I wonder if it is common practice at the New Republic to chop off the top of the head of people on their cover?

  • SugarFree||

    Palin was just one big eye.

    Obama is an angel that we base fools tore from the heavens.

  • John||

    http://vickmark.com/tnr-obama/

    Here is one of Obama. A bit different don't you think?

  • SugarFree||

    Rick Perry as Randall Flagg.

    Romney is carved out of white plastic. (Subtle.)

  • John||

    The Perry one kind of makes him look like a bad ass. I am not sure that one worked out quite the way they wanted it too.

  • Spoonman.||

    The Perry one makes him look like he's taking a dump in front of a grassfire.

  • SugarFree||

    For Kate Middleton they plagiarized Spy.

    And they were willing to tear down St. Hilary for The Archangel Barry.

  • ||

    I don't see how the Middleton cover is plagiarism. Aside from the relative position of the heads and headlines, they're not much alike.

  • SugarFree||

    They both give princesses with nice teeth stereotypical British teeth in order to make a point about decay/dissolution in Britain.

    It's Billy and The Cloneasaurus all over again.

  • ||

    Ok, now it makes more sense.

  • SugarFree||

  • John||

    My God, that one of Romney is horrifying. And Romney is one of the most clean cut goody goody looking politicians there is. They make him look like leather face.

  • SugarFree||

    That's 8 good links in a row, bitches.

  • robc||

    Most people dont have to brag about it.

  • SugarFree||

    Some days it's all I have, man.

  • Killazontherun||

    Most people don't get dud links named after them. He has a right to brag.

  • grrizzly||

    I believe the media routinely does it to its political opponents. I recall there was a mini scandal in 2008 when the NYT used a particular unflattering picture of McCain.

  • CE||

    Maybe it will help in the Republican primaries though -- zombie Reagan is the most popular Republican after all.

  • Brandybuck||

    But Rand Paul is not a 100% pure libertarian. No matter how much he pushes the GOP in a more libertarian direction, he will STILL be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. Apostates are always hated more than the heretics.

  • Killazontherun||

    My dear, dear fellow. You can't measure libertarians by the humdrum temperament of democrats and republicans. If there ever be a libertarian revolution, of course heads will roll, all our heads will be on the line as possible candidates for decapitation. It's those possibilities that make it so exciting.

  • Brandybuck||

    I find it disturbing that there are so many Robespierre's in the libertarian movement.

  • CE||

    ...with an ideology "more radical than that of any modern presidential candidate."

    So I guess Ron Paul wasn't an actual candidate? Even though he received more votes and more delegates than some guys who were?

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