A year ago, it looked like libertarianish Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul just might be the Republican nominee for president, creating a Grand Old Party that would finally "look like America" and loosen up enough to include weirdos and squares alike: "We need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to be with tattoos, without tattoos, with pony tails, without pony tails, with beards, without."
Now back in the Senate, Paul is steaming ahead with the sorts of proposals and positions that made Time declare him "The Most Interesting Man in Politics" (yeah, yeah, ….:. Among his current initiatives:
- Pushing "economic freedom zones" in places such as Detroit. As Rare's Kevin Boyd reports, "The legislation creates areas where personal and corporate income taxes would be lowered to 5 percent, payroll taxes would be cut by 2 percent, and numerous federal regulations would be waived. The bill would also create a school choice program and ease restrictions on highly skilled immigrants who want to move to these zones. Paul was able to attach his legislation to H.R. 2028, which deals with the budgets for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Energy Department, and other related agencies. The legislation is set to receive a vote in the Senate this week."
- Calling attention to the lack of rules at the Republican National Convention. Recall that his delegates pledged to his father, Ron Paul, got screwed in 2012. On CNN's The Lead, Sen. Paul noted, "It kinda reminds me of when I play golf. I usually like to say we'll decide what the bet is after we decide what the scores are. When you say we're going to adhere to the rules, you realize the rules haven't been written yet. So what is extraordinary, and it is extraordinary, that people by the millions will have voted in a primary and then 110 people will decide how we're going to make the rules. You can't say we're going to obey the rules. The rules have yet to be written. The convention will abide by rules that are written in the first day or two by 110 people. So you could write that a plurality wins or you could write that a majority wins."
Calling bullshit on business-as-usual with Saudi Arabia. Paul has co-sponsored (with Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut) legislation that would force our friends the Saud to, you know, act in some sort of humane fashion in Yemen, where its forces are simultaneously funding radicals and killing civilians with U.S. assistance in the "global war on terror." "For too long," says Paul, "the Obama administration has not been holding countries receiving U.S. military munitions accountable in the Middle East. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia's record on strictly targeting combatants and legitimate military targets in Yemen has been questionable."
Then there's his plan to allow all airline pilots to pack heat and provide due process for folks who fail gun background checks, investigations into waste, fraud, and abuse at FEMA and the Veterans Administration, and more. You don't have to fully agree with everything he's doing—I'd like all of the country to be an "economic freedom zone"—to recognize that he's picking up where he left off, which was bringing new ideas and fresh(er) thinking to a party he once rightly characterized as "stale and moss-covered."
Along with characters such as Mike Lee and Jeff Flake in the Senate and Justin Amash and Thomas Massie in the House, Paul is in fact presenting a different sense of what it might mean to be a Republican. Even for non-partisans, that's all to the good, especially since the odds are high that the GOP is going to have to radically alter its message and its constituency in the very near future. America is a system where two parties will always dominate and both the Reps and the Dems are flushing themselves down the toilet in different ways. It will be up to figures such as Paul, who blend unconventional yet consistent libertarian views on foreign policy, civil liberties, economic freedom, and government spending to reboot Washington, D.C. and develop a politics for the 21st century rather than us simply huffing along on the last vapors of 20th policies that are more played out and even less interesting than Kelly and Michael Live.
In 2014, Paul told Reason that Republicans "can only win if they become more live and let live." How's that working out for a party now whose two frontrunners are pledged to deport 12 million mostly Mexican illegal immigrants and their kids? Yeah, the GOP really dodged a bullet by picking Trump and Cruz over this guy.
Watch that interview now and read a transcript here.