Politics

Rand Paul's Success So Far: Living Example of the Dying GOP Establishment?

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Salon has a long, interesting, non-hostile profile of Rand Paul and his GOP primary run for a Kentucky Senate race against party establishment favorite Trey Grayson, with interesting observations on Rand's father Ron's influence on the style and success of the Tea Party movement, and what Rand's apparent success has to say about power shifts in the GOP. Some excerpts:

In the GOP's soul-searching after its 2008 losses, [Sen. Jim] DeMint [(S.C.)] has been a conservative hard-liner. The rise of the Tea Party has dovetailed with DeMint's ambitions to trim the moderate fat, push the party to the right, and ultimately lead it. To that end, DeMint has grown his leadership PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, into a powerful alternative to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is the fundraising arm of the Senate Republican caucus that McConnell leads. Over $340,000 worth of support from DeMint's PAC fueled one of the Tea Party's biggest electoral victories to date, when the right-wing Marco Rubio pulled so far ahead in the Florida polls that the incumbent Republican governor, Charlie Crist, left the party to run as an independent rather than lose in the primary.

DeMint's endorsement of Paul came only recently, on May 5, the same day [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell [(Ken.)]gave his official backing to Grayson….

With his own fundraising machine, [Rand Paul] hasn't needed McConnell's support. And if Tea Party candidates are widely successful, then DeMint could become the GOP's new kingmaker. Rand Paul would certainly be a favorite son.

On the political influence of Rand's father Ron on the Tea Party movement (which Rand points out earlier in the article is a much, much bigger draw of human bodies to events than the Republican Party per se these days).

Rand Paul's success can be understood in the genealogy of the Tea Party movement. Its viral and decentralized traits, the intellectual foundations of its libertarianism, and its fundraising tactics all come from Ron Paul's presidential campaign.

The first Tea Party event of the Obama era was arguably a Ron Paul "money bomb" fundraiser; and the story of that event is the primal example of how the medium of the Internet and the power of American mythology have combined to unify a movement of militant individualists.

While the argument about what was really the most vital or important event or influence or "true beginning" of the Tea Party movement isn't over yet, and may never be, the full Salon story provides a plausible creation myth involving a Ron Paul Meetup group event at Boston's Faneuil Hall on Dec 16, 2007, at which Rand Paul spoke.

By appealing to a national audience of the dissaffected, Rand Paul has access to that most vital currency of the would-be politician: currency itself.

Paul had the war chest to fight back….. His online fundraising has brought in nearly $3 million — $500,000 of it from a diffuse assortment of libertarians and Glenn Beck fans outside Kentucky. (By contrast, Grayson's quarter-million-dollar out-of-state haul comes largely from the mainstream fundraising centers of New York and D.C.)

And the piece ends with a pretty apt summation of what Rand Paul has achieved so far:

The political genius of Paul is his ability to cultivate a narrative that speaks to all strains of the Tea Party movement at once. After all, the libertarian purists who loved Ron Paul's dissident truth-telling are not natural allies of the Limbaugh Dittoheads who dismissed him as an eccentric. He sings his libertarianism in the key of Glenn Beck – and he is writing a Republican playbook for the tea party era, turning grassroots energy into electoral power. Now, less than a week before the primary, polls show Paul's lead over Grayson approaching 20 points. He also leads both of his potential Democratic challengers in the general election polling.

Those interested in Rand Paul must also read Reason magazine's May feature on his rise and appeal, by W. James Antle III.