Tonight's Fox News Republican debate featured excellent questions on a wide variety of topics, from the moderators and YouTube users. For probably the first time in this election cycle a debate (Republican or Democrat) included a question about Ferguson, Missouri, the town whose protests against police abuse in 2014 propelled the issue of police violence onto the national stage, where its remained ever since.
That question went to Rand Paul, whose answer included more of the policy agenda of Black Lives Matter than probably any other debate answer has before.
He noted his support for body cameras, one of ten policy planks championed by Campaign Zero, an effort organized by Black Lives Matter activists.
He also pointed out that a third of Ferugson's budget came from civil fines. "Now you and I and many of the people in this audience, if we get a $100 fine, we can survive it," Paul told moderator Bret Baier. "If you're living on the edge of poverty and you get a $100 fine or your car towed, a lot of times you lose your job."
Ending for-profit policing such as that is another of the policy planks championed by Campaign Zero.
Finally, Paul also managed to fit in the influence of the war on drugs on policing and its disproportionate impact on African-Americans, bringing up the problem of the "missing black men," a topic more often brought up by Democrats, even if they refuse to acknowledge their major role in creating that problem, specifically, but not only, through the Democrat- and Clinton-backed 1994 crime bill.
"In Ferguson, for every 100 African-American women, there are only 60 African-American men," Paul noted. "Drug use is about equal between white and black, but our prisons—three out of four people in prison are black or brown. I think something has to change. I think it's a big thing that our party needs to be part of, and I've been a leader in Congress on trying to bring about criminal justice reform."
As Elizabeth Nolan Brown observed earlier tonight, the libertarian Rand Paul appears to be back. Without Trump at tonight's debate, the chances of each of the remaining candidates to improve their standing in the polls appeared to go up at least while they were on stage.
Paul could still win the nomination. But even if he doesn't, his answer illustrates why, Rand Paul and libertarian Republicans like him will be critical in expanding the GOP base beyond the kind of element that Trump's taken advantage of so adeptly to become a juggernaut.