Rand Paul

Is Rand Paul Through? Or Only For Disaffected Outsiders? He Hasn't Given Up on Being the Reasonable About Criminal Justice Republican

There's lots to say about Rand Paul's campaign. Someone's going to say all of it.


You may have read recently in The Atlantic  or (piggybacking on that piece) the Washington Post that Rand Paul's presidential campaign is yesterday's news, man. According to Molly Ball at Atlantic:

Inside and around the campaign, there is a sense that things are not going as well as hoped for Paul, multiple sources told me. "They are in a challenging spot right now," said one Republican operative with knowledge of the campaign. "They are having a hard time reaching out to new constituencies while keeping the base happy." The problem, the operative said, is that Paul's flip-flopping and triangulation have damaged his reputation for ideological purity. "Senator Paul appears, in the minds of Republicans, to have gone from a guy who was standing on principle, who wanted to do things, to a politician who wants to be something," the operative said.

A different GOP strategist put it more succinctly to National Journal's Josh Kraushaar, calling the Paul campaign "a disaster."

I'm not sure what Ball or her sources expected–for Paul to be leading by multiple points in every poll? To be raising more money than all his competitors? To have forced all his competitors to drop out already? 

Considered soberly, especially for a campaign that is very aware it's trying to be oppositional and transitional for its own Party, I'm not sure the "it's all gone wrong" narrative holds up.

Is Rand Paul still a newsmaking figure of national significance with an actual distinct style and set of policy proposals, still the most clearly, as everyone says, "interesting" Republican? Yes, he is. Is he still polling nearly as well as almost all his opponents in most separate polls, and with more independent appeal and a strong ability to beat Hillary Clinton? Yes, he is. Does he still have a unique, among his peers, ability to launch substantive political theater that resonates with a big part of the electorate? Yes he does. Is he raising money? Yes, he is (though not so far finding any single-pocket money bags to fund unaffiliated SuperPACS).

Concluding the Paul campaign is failing, a disaster, a disappointment, is not fully supported by a fair consideration of the evidence and, I hope I don't have to shout this, in JUNE 2015, it is at best hugely premature if it's supposed to be meaningful about what we can expect to happen in 2016 when votes are cast, and at worst a sign of column inches to fill and nothing much to say at its finest/worst. There is just no way to know whether the fears Ball writes about "a campaign that believed it could build a coalition of different kinds of voters based on the candidate's various facets is finding it may instead be a zero-sum game" are really going to turn out to be meaningfully true in the actual election.

Over at Bloomberg, David Weigel has a piece that, while making a very specific point, illuminates both why Rand Paul is apt to outlast many competitors with less distinction or reason to be running besides name recognition, and some of his virtues that unfortunately feed into why many people just can't imagine him going all the way.

It's about how Weigel found folk on the campaign trail in New Hampshire who are fond of both Rand Paul and democratic-socialist Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

As I argued in a November 2012 Reason feature, to a certain degree nonpartisan intellectually honest progs should have found a lot to love about Ron Paul and his campaign, and should have preferred him even to Obama.

Why? For Ron Paul's aggressively expressed stances on overseas war, privacy, the drug war, bailouts and crony capitalism, and civil liberties. This is only relevant to progressives for whom income redistribution and abortion don't trump all, which might mean very few, and indeed very few arose from that side of the American scene. But as my feature demonstrated, few did not mean none. The likes of Robert Scheer, Ralph Nader, Glenn Greenwald, Dennis Kucinich, Matt Taibbi, Alexander Cockburn, and others from the left recognized what was good in Paul even if they not outright endorse him. 

While Rand Paul is less precise and aggressive a peacenik than his dad, he's still better than all the other Republicans as a anti-interventionist, better than likely Dem nominee Hillary Clinton, and even arguably better than Bernie Sanders. And he's in there swinging with his dad in his specific pronouncements and policy actions on those other issues as well.

I have no doubt that the people Weigel interviewed are not entirely consistent and rational in how they apply political philosophy to electoral choice. Many, probably most, voters are not, preferring partisan and cultural identity over rigorous political thinking. Undoubtedly many of those folk follow the line I discussed in my article "Ron Paul: Man of the Left" that "Radical outsiders are often attracted to radical outsiders, united in opposition beyond the specifics of proposed solutions." As Weigel wrote, " Paul and Sanders are both courting the voters who want to rebel."

Some of those Sanders/Paul types might indeed highly rate the areas where Paul and Sanders overlap more than they worry about overarching visions of government size and power writ large, or taxes, regulation, and income redistribution. And it's overwhelmingly likely that, though they made for a colorful and counterintuitive bit of on-the-road campaign reporting, that the people Weigel spoke to are a mere notable artifact of fringes of American political culture that are electorally meaningless though culturally fascinating.

I do remember back in my college days in the late 1980s that the 15 or so campus libertarians were able to have more fruitful and interesting conversations with the 25 commies than we were with the vast apathetic and uninterested middle who didn't see American politics from an oppositional angle at all. (I am also reminded of a song written by my former bandmate Ivan Osorio, the lyrics of which in their entirety are: "I'm voting for George Wallace. He's the one who represents me and the silent majority. Gus Hall's my second choice.")

In other Paul news, he used a speech in Baltimore to return to talking about criminal justice and race issues in a way that guarantees that if any Republican can win the independent-leaners aggravated with the GOP brand (without whom it will be very hard for a Republican to win a national election), it's him–exactly as he intends. He used the suicide death in prison of Kalief Browder, rotting in jail unconvicted for years, as a hook to say:

"I can tell you I didn't grow up poor, I grew up middle class or upper middle class and this is me learning about how other people have to deal with life," Paul said. "This young man, 16 years old — imagine how his classmates feel about American justice. Imagine how his parents feel. So the thing is until you walk in someone else's shoes, I think we shouldn't say that we can't understand the anger of people."

NEXT: Bill Clinton Probably Won't Give Paid Speeches if Hillary is President, Foundation Will Presumably Churn On

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  1. Hello, there, Reason…so did you do the right thing with your commenters, or did you


      1. I watch the entire series of Young Ones pretty much every week. It’s a hobby. Thanks!

        1. np. It’s 1986 every Wednesday over here 😉

    1. Fuck off, slaver nanny. Have you walked even an inch in their legal shoes?

      1. You mean, other than direct threats, assaults, physical attacks, etc., in retaliation not only for my exercise of free speech, all without any opportunity to call upon the assistance of wealthy donors?

        I presume that you’ve experienced similar problems, in order to have standing to attack me, otherwise…


        1. I would presume, though, that you would rather grovel in the dirt like a slave than stand up like a man.

          1. As someone once said, “Accountability is the magic elixir that collectivists dread.”


            1. You seem.. angry..

              1. True…let me put on some Bob Marley…ah, that’s better…


              2. Great name

    2. Good song, Eddie.

  2. Did you know that it’s highly likely Rand Paul has been on a boat?

    1. [Citation needed]
      Your assertion is just foolish on its face..

      1. He’s also ridden on carbon-spewing planes!

    2. Also heard he was wearing some of that expensive 1%er deodorant while performing free eye surgeries for hungry indigent children overseas.

      Probably just wanted to remind them how bad they all smell to his privileged white nose. The ass.

      1. Was it Secret Society, White Mennin, Don’t Axe Me For Help, Hard Right Guard, Ban the Poor, Brut-al Capitalist, or some other brand?

        1. The choice of the .1% is Old White Man Spice. Or at least for the .1% too poor to extract the essence of infant orphans.

        2. Speed Stick it to the Little Guy.

  3. Is NH an open primary presidential preference ballot?

    1. Sorta, I believe it allows registered party members and undeclared voters but not opposing parties. Not to worry I’m sure the Clinton campaign is hard at work recruiting massholes to vote for Jeb.

  4. The flip flopping exists only in the minds of people who put their own spin on things the candidate said. It’s like when many here & elsewhere assumed he was referring to I-forgot-what mental condition attributed spuriously to Hg in vaccines, when it was far more likely he was referring to encephalopathy from pertussis vaccine.

    1. The GOP Hawks have spent so much time caricaturing his foreign policy that they can’t remember what is valid and what is distortion. See: Lindsey Graham unable to differentiate between a drone attack on an imminent threat and an attack on somebody who at the very least should be afforded a trial.

      1. Whatever takes the focus off of Grahams sexuality.

        His campaign is to be laughed at

  5. I envisage nadir of Rand Paul campaign somewhere around first debate; where all the other candidates (and by proxy the party establishment) will agree on one thing: Rand Paul is Antichrist.

  6. Oh FFS the guy is polling even with Hillary. That’s the most likely motive for these articles.

    1. Agreed, a lot of people are fed up with bidness as usual no matter which team spews it.

      Yeah the Lindsey Grahams of the world will pile on but he is so pathetic he won’t last long. Like most of the old guard of the GOP.

      1. Graham probably has a literal hard on for Paul. It’s a 180? turn from his normal obsessions, usually he’s chasing down military contractors to make love to

    2. I think even team blue is starting to question the state, other than the free shit brigades .

      When young people like my nieces (unabashed libs) around 30 years old realize they are being robbed it will change. If RP can articulate this it will help.

      If team Red wants to die on the Kulturkamph they are dead meat and they should be.

      Can Rand do it , we shall see..I hope so.

  7. Postrel speaks!

    Reason Magazine Subpoena Stomps on Free Speech

    “This [i.e., government harassment of a respected journalism site that dissents from its policies] is happening in America — weirdly, to a site I founded, and one whose commenters often earned my public contempt.”


    1. I’ll submit

  8. Looks like Judge Forrest was the subject of internet threats back in the fall of last year.


    Dissatisfied with the judge’s rejection of the arguments put forward by Ulbricht’s defense, who argued that the FBI unlawfully penetrated into Silk Road servers, Darknet users have taken the initiative to create an underground web page in the form of a Wiki, dedicated to the New York judge. The Wiki’s visitors are openly encouraged by its anonymous creator to contribute by editing it with details related to the judge and her relatives, a process also known as “doxing:”

    This collection of information was quickly followed by calls for elevated harrassment, like the swatting technique that involves a hoax phone-in tip to send SWAT police forces to one’s home under false pretenses.

  9. I don’t think he has much of a chance in the primary. Republicans have some obvious material.

    Firstly, his photo ops/hanging out with Al Sharpton. While Paul is right about the justice system unfairly targeting blacks, sucking up to a race huxter like Sharpton isn’t going to impress anyone, especially Republicans.

    Secondly, that remarks about us creating ISIS. Most Republicans consider that a looney tunes statement, like something his father would say

    Thirdly, his father.

    Scott Walker is probably the best choice. He’s taken the worst they could come up with it and survived.

  10. The establishment types – both left and right – really hate Rand. The current push to marginalize him is their way of getting rid of him. He still polls at the top of the pack, in there with Walker, Rubio and Bush. In this situation I have some respect for Republican primary voters, many of whom hate the establishment types. They’re going to give him a chance.

  11. Uh oh: Clinton could lose Ohio big to Paul, Kasich

    The poll showed that Clinton would lose 47 percent to 40 percent to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to enter the race. But that’s not all. She would also lose to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 44 percent to 41 percent, and tie Sen. Marco Rubio at 44 percent.

    UH OH

    1. Fred Barnes, call your office

  12. Politicians need to pick a constituency, and then bend over backwards to make that group happy. Rand Paul, however, has given EVERYONE a bunch of reasons to dislike him.

    That’s why he probably will do worse than his dad in the primaries next year.

  13. Over at Bloomberg, David Weigel has a piece that

    Who gives a fucking crap?

  14. There was never a chance that Paul would win the nomination. His views on foreign policy are the direct opposite of the Republican Party establishment. The blowups in Ukraine and Iraq have only weakened his hand. But the Molly Ball piece was unimpressive. It is a blow to Paul that none of the supposedly libertarian billionaires out there seem to be willing to give him some serious cash. Perhaps they simply don’t care about foreign policy that much–they aren’t “driven” the way the Sheldon Adelsons of the world are–or else, as businessmen, they simply want to go with a winner, which will probably be Walker, Bush, or Rubio.

  15. Amazing how you all would like the left to be monolithic. Sure, Paul’s lack of desire for intervention is attractive, maybe even better than Clinton. Throw in drug laws. And what else do we get with him? Repeal of the ACA, further proliferation of guns, scuttling of social security, denial of women’s rights, denial of the science on climate change, and more.

    Not even close to an attractive candidate. And further, it’s clear he will allow his anti-interventionist stance to take a back seat once in power, in favor of all those other things.

    And what will prove to be the ultimate undoing of his campaign? Money. After all, money is speech today, and he won’t come close to Bush, Walker, and others.

    1. I would love to respond to this but you are so wrong you will never be right

    2. Sure, Paul’s lack of desire for intervention is attractive, maybe even better than Clinton.


      1. Well,think about it. Clinton’s track record is bad. But behind her is a base that is against intervention. The problem with Paul is that his party and base is for it. Do you think he will stand up to them? I don’t. He already has walked back some of his foreign policies…he gets a slight nod over Clinton and no nod if the GOP sweeps into power. He isn’t his Dad, is he?

  16. A lot of things to like about Rand Paul but he is still a pure blood politican in sheeps clothing. He will never be President because he wasn’t born into right click or he just isn’t pro military enough. If he were a Democrat he would stand a very good chance. His father could have been elected Prez gor life if he had been a Democrat. Rand can carry Independants, social conservative and not so socialist democrats but he can never and I repeat NEVER be the Republican candidate because the powers that be just will not allow it

    1. You are right. He should have been a Democrat trying to angle them tears greater fiscal responsibility, rather than a Republican trying to angle them toward reduction of all things military.

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