Rand Paul's Rise Highlights The Huge and Deadly Gap Between Popular Opinion and Political Action in This Here Greatest of All Democratic Republics

Washington Monthly has a huge feature on Rand Paul's rise in its July/August issue; it's not on the whole enormously illuminating for those who have even half-paid attention to Reason's copious coverage of the man in the past couple of years, focusing largely on his delicate attempt to not completely repel the foreign policy powers that be in the GOP while still mostly opposing their beliefs (with some sideswipes at his dad, Ron Paul).

But the piece by Stuart A. Reid, himself a senior editor at Foreign Affairs, toward its end hits on something true and important and sad about foreign policy and democracy, that is, that in this democracy it mostly doesn't matter what We The People think about foreign policy:

[Paul] is popular not only because he is young, savvy, and articulate but also because he has exploited a long-standing gap between American citizens and their political leaders on foreign policy. When pollsters from Rasmussen asked likely voters this January, “Should the United States be the world’s policeman?” only 11 percent answered yes. No wonder Paul’s message of restraint has found such a warm reception.

The brashest of Paul’s positions—the immediate cutting off of aid, the major downsizing of military bases, the imposition of significant congressional authority—will likely never become U.S. foreign policy. But his effect on the rhetorical landscape could prove more lasting. Paul, George Will said, has “expanded the range of what is discussable.” The challenge he poses to advocates of military intervention is particularly potent, and particularly useful at a time when Washington is debating our intervention in Syria.

On the day Paul and I spoke, Rasmussen polled likely voters about the conflict in Syria. Seventy-three percent thought the United States should stay out. The Senate, meanwhile, was coming to its own consensus on Syria. The chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, had just introduced legislation that would provide arms and training to the opposition, and McCain and Democratic Senator Carl Levin would soon take to the Senate floor and demand missile strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s forces.  

I have written about citizen impotence against state foreign policy hyperpower a decade ago. May Rand Paul help break that spell.

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  • Irish||

    When pollsters from Rasmussen asked likely voters this January, “Should the United States be the world’s policeman?” only 11 percent answered yes.

    I wish 11 percent of Americans actually felt this way, but this is a textbook example of a poorly phrased poll question. 'World policeman' has a very negative connotation, so even people in favor of a heavily interventionist foreign policy would say no to this question.

    There are hardcore neocons who don't see what they're doing as 'world policing.' A differently worded question would have found far higher percentages of people who are warmongers.

  • cavalier973||

    USA: "Could you roll your window down all the way?"

    New Zealand: "It's down far enough."

    USA: ??? "YOU WILL RESPECT MY AUTHORITAI!!!!"

  • Anonymous Coward||

    "Do the United States have a responsibility to spread democracy around the world?"

  • feudalserf||

    my god, thank you for referring to the U.S. using "do" instead of "does". if only more people understood the importance of this.

  • cavalier973||

    The brashest of Paul’s positions—the immediate cutting off of aid, the major downsizing of military bases, the imposition of significant congressional authority—will likely never become U.S. foreign policy.

    Until, of course, the FedGov collapses under its own weight, at which point the Paul Foreign Policy becomes the de facto national policy.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    WRONG. That's nothing that a little revenue enhancement can't shore up.

  • Ted S.||

    They could always just print more money to make up the deficit.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Until, of course, the FedGov collapses under its own weight

    ...which is not going to happen anytime in the near future.

    Besides, who's to say that the constituent states of the union, now independent, won't find reasons to kill and be killed by their neighboring states?

  • John||

    Popular opinion is great right up until it is not. Popular opinion has been against open borders and amnesty for decades. But I doubt Reason would have much objection to the top men doing that over the objection of the public.

    I agree that we have a real problem in this country with our elites telling the public to fuck off and doing what adheres to elite opinion rather than what the public actually wants. A government totally disconnected from its citizens and popular will is just as dangerous as one slavishly devoted to the mob.

    Since Reason has no problem with elites ignoring popular will when it comes to their pony, they don't have a lot of credibility whining about the government ignoring popular will to give other people their ponies.

  • ||

    Please elaborate on when Reason has said they have no problem with elites ignoring popular will.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "The chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez"

    What happened with that prostitution scandal? Was he cleared or something?

  • Irish||

    He was never charged because the Daily Caller's sources were unbelievably sketchy.

    Menendez is a piece of garbage, but there's not nearly enough evidence that he was actually involved in that prostitution scandal. Of course, the FBI is still investigating allegations of corruption, so they might get him yet.

  • John||

    Gee, underage hookers turned out to be easily bought off and not very keen on working with the cops. What a surprise.

    Here is the thing, those sorts of rumors don't generally come out of nowhere. He is a sexual deviant scumbag.

  • Irish||

    There were allegations that the DC gave money to them to make the allegations in the first place.

    I don't think that's true, but I don't think you can just say 'clearly he did it!' when there is this much reasonable doubt.

  • John||

    Sure you can. I am not saying he should go to jail, just be publicly branded a deviant pervert. The law owes you beyond reasonable doubt. The rest of us can be a little more hard nosed about it.

  • Irish||

    People were alleging the DC gave money to the hookers and their lawyer. Their lawyer is a skeevy character who seems like the kind of guy who would gladly take a bribe.

    There is minimal evidence that he did this beyond a few allegations. This entire argument of yours is the equivalent of feminists claiming that any time a man is accused of rape he must be guilty. It's absurd when they say it, and it's absurd now.

  • John||

    This is not "anytime". This is a guy who made all kinds of trips down there with people a donor who was known to partake in such stuff. And they went to resorts that were known for their underage hookers. And sure the lawyer accusing him was sleazy. How could he not be.

    There are Senators banging whores and interns all of the time. Yet, none of them except for Menendez gets accused of doing underage ones. I think it is more likely than not this is true.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    This is even a bigger scandal if you ask me:

    On December 12, 2012 it was reported that the Senator's office had an unpaid intern volunteering who had let his visitor visa expire and who was a registered sex offender. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been aware of the man as early as October 2012 but according to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instructed federal agents not to arrest the man until after Election Day.
  • John||

    That is a big one. Would have ended the career of a Republican. The scandal of course brings up the question, how exactly did he know a child molester so well that he both let him work as an unpaid intern and got the immigration people to leave him alone? Almost like he runs in such circles or something. Funny coincidence that the same guy was accused of both banging underage girls and harboring a child molester.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    This article says the intern was convicted of a sex offense as a juvenile, but the specific charge (because he's a juvenile) was not made public. No clarification whether it was forcible rape or the statutory kind (both are bad things, of course).

    Delaying the arrest until after the election is bogus (unless they actually didn't have the evidence in hand until the election).

    But I couldn't find specifically what got this guy convicted as a minor. Giving him a second chance isn't inherently a scandal unless they tried to postpone the arrest for political reasons.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    OK, before believing that sort of thing about Menendez in these circumstances, I'd need corroborative evidence. It's just to easy to suborn underage sex workers - one way or the other.

    Nobody thought to set up a sting with video evidence, even though cameras are omnipresent in today's world - I'm giving Sen. M the benefit of the doubt.

  • Drake||

    We decided to fuck 'em all.

  • ||

    I'll be optimistic and say that Paul's positions will find more resonance when the media is forced to start paying attention when he actually runs for president.

    Luckily the shit storm in Egypt and Syria is making non-intervention more popular among conservatives.

  • Irish||

    Nothing turns a Socon into a non-interventionist like the realization that we're giving weapons to Muslim terrorists.

  • cavalier973||

    I'd say learning to equate today's foreign policy with that of the blue-bellied bastards who killed great-great granddaddy and raped great-great grandma is also an effectively persuasive argument for non-interventionism.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Well, the Reagan administration donating arms to the mujahadeen was okay with them, but then, people have short memories.

  • SIV||

    Those Muslims were killing commies.

  • cavalier973||

    Commies Muslims Progressives Liberals Libertarians RINOs?

  • cavalier973||

    There's supposed to be a "" between each of those labels. Where's my edit button? WHERE'S MY EDIT BUTTON YOU SOCON GOV'T-WORSHIPPING STATISTS???

  • cavalier973||

    Greater than sign. How come I can do this: ☺ ☻ ♥ ♦ ♣ ♠ ♂ ♀

    But not put a "greater than sign?

  • Brett L||

    greater than is HTML to the squirrels. If it doesn't render as a valid tag, it gets used to line their nests.

  • ||

    Because this forum accepts HTML and HTML tags are written with greater and less than signs.

  • Not Sure||

    Testing a theory... ≥

  • Not Sure||

    So we can do greater than or equal to. How can we use this without confusion?

  • TANSTaaFL||

    "Muslims. Commies. Same thing!"

  • cavalier973||

    But I doubt Reason would have much objection to the top men doing that over the objection of the public.

    I don't know about Reason, but I'm an open borders guy and I wouldn't want the policy to be implented in this manner.

  • John||

    I am not saying all open borders people are like that, just at least some of the Reason staff. I have no doubt Dalmia would be happy to see it implemented like that.

  • cavalier973||

    Then Dalmia can go jump in a lake.

  • John||

    The is the funny thing about Reason. The comentators are far smarter, more interesting, and reasonable than the staff.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I resent that!

  • John||

    It is true. Other than the sock puppets none of the regular comentators are nearly as annoying as most of the writers. Even when I disagree with the comentators, they make smart interesting points.

    Rarely do the comentators serve up conventional wisdom and journalist group think. The staff, however, seems to have such stuff stored on a clipboard somewhere.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Well, that and Reason's goal is to make libertarianism more acceptable to the public and to provide a choir sheet for movement types to sing from. This inevitably requires massaging of the message, whereas us lovely folks in the choir, freed from such obligations, can ramble on about ancient Egypt or deep dish pizza.

    That said some of the things Nick has written lately are almost at Marcotte-Yglesias levels of stupid groupthink.

  • John||

    The abortion article was particularly bad. If Nick wants to be pro choice, then be pro choice. But he can't seem to just take a fucking side. That would prevent him from being cool and pox on both houses.

    Abortion, whatever side you are on, is anything but a stupid debate. It is pretty damned important from any perspective. Either children are being killed or women are having their bodies controlled by the state. Those sound like pretty damned important issues to me.

  • cavalier973||

    Deep dish "pizza"? Oh, you mean Italian casserole.

  • Ted S.||

    Some commenters like to style themselves as smarter than they actually are. :-)

  • Irish||

    You shouldn't talk about yourself like that, Ted.

  • cavalier973||

    Oh, I do this all the time.

  • Brett L||

    I mean, 200 or 165, you idiots couldn't tell the difference in my IQ anyhow.

  • cavalier973||

    I bet I could if I squint and turn my head sideways.

  • Irish||

    I have no doubt Dalmia would be happy to see it implemented like that.

    That's because Dalmia has a one track mind and her only real goal is open borders. An expansion of government into every other facet of our lives would be okay so long as Dalmia got her pet issue fixed.

    In the last month and a half, what percentage of posts by her are about immigration? It seems like she has a new one every day.

  • Lord at War||

    Irish-

    In the last month year and a half, what percentage of posts by her are about immigration? It seems like she has a new one every day.

  • Ted S.||

    There's a gap between the H&R commentariat and the writers on alt-text policy, too.

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