Rand Paul Taking the Mantle From His Dad
by Tom Donelson on May 29, 2012 at 6:04 PM
Rand Paul is the future of the libertarian Republican movement as he starts to take the baton of their liberty agenda from his father. As the Ron Paul campaign eventually winds itself down, Rand Paul begins the process of building his own brand as he campaigns for other congressional candidates. Paul is now pushing to elect his small government candidates to the House and Senate with the idea of changing the Republican Party and the conservative movement. In an interview Paul stated, “There’s so much inertia up here, we’d like to see people come up who’d actually try to change the system… I think if we don’t shake off that inertia — you know, everything is mandatory spending, everything has a permanence up here. It takes someone who is somewhat fearless and aggressive to try and change the system.”
Paul has been willing to endorse establishment Republicans just like Connie Mack IV as well as conservative Ted Cruz in Texas and long shot New Mexico Senate candidate Greg Sowards against Moderate Heather Wilson. Paul's backing for candidates is based on whether those candidates support smaller government and take the Constitution seriously. In a recent Kentucky Congressional Primary, he recruited Tom Massie, a Tea Party candidate for the Kentucky fourth district, who prevailed against two of the local GOP establishment. Paul commented on this race and others, “I think people associate me with the Tea Party; they associate me with having great concern with the debt. Having tried to be a leader in the balanced budget movement here. I think that is helpful… We try to choose races where we think there’s a clear distinction between establishment moderate and what we consider to be a more constitutional conservative.”
Paul came in the public focus with his Senate win in 2010 when he won the primary against establishment backed candidate before rolling in the general election. Rand Paul in one way is different from his father, who seemed satisfied to be a loner whereas Paul works to build coalition to promote his agenda. Rand Paul has showed a more careful path in his Senate career that while he has disagreed with many of his Senator colleagues either on stances or the pace of reform, he has managed to garner respect from his Republican Senators.
One long term Republican lobbyist views Paul as similar to Phil Gramm who was a leading conservative activist within the Senate but played well with others behind the scene. Paul's easy nature and patience is allowing him to advance his cause just as Gramm did when Gramm advanced his own cause. As one Republican Senator noted, “He has very good personal relations with the Members of the caucus, and I think he’s learning faster than most new Senators how to maintain his principles, but work within an organization that operates by unanimous consent. Some Senators never learn that …Rand has views that sometime are very different than how the rest of us in the Republican caucus thinks. But he’s learned not to lecture everybody. He listens well but maintains his own principles and attitude.”
Paul has established a good working relationship with Mitch McConnell, who is not only the minority leader but a member of the Republican establishment. McConnell supported Trey Grayson in the 2010 Kentucky Republican primary but has been willing to allow Rand Paul to promote libertarian amendments as part of parliamentary maneuvers over the past two years.
The biggest difference between Rand Paul and his father is that Rand Paul won a Senate Seat which means he had to sell his libertarian position to a broader audience than his father who won election after election in a safer Texas district. This could aid him if he runs in 2016 as he will inherit a base established by his father, and he might be able to take has father's ideas to a larger audience. Ron Paul's refusal to run as a third Party ticket is due to advance his son’s future political ambition. Gary Johnson left the Republican this year to run as Libertarian but Johnson never developed the same loyalty among libertarians and some independents, as well as Tea Party members, like Ron Paul who was engaged in his second Presidential run as a Republican. (Paul ran for President as a Libertarian in 1988.)
Paul's biggest disagreement with the GOP is with social issues like gay marriage (even though both father and son are pro-life) and supports what he would describe as a non-interventionist policy. Most recently at an Iowa Faith and Freedom coalition, Paul stated, “We’ve introduced the Life at Conception Act, the Pro-Life Act, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, I’m also co-sponsor of the Human Life Amendment..I’ve also been trying to defund Planned Parenthood. Anybody here for that?”
On Foreign affairs, Rand Paul opposes Marco Rubio and other rising conservatives, but he does not oppose the United States' involvement in the world situation. In Iowa, he noted, “I’m not naïve enough to think we can never have war, but I am conscious of the fact of the horrors of war …I’m conscious of the fact that I think our country needs leaders that understand that and not leaders who think that war is a sports game, that you know, you’re for the New Orleans Saints, and that’s an all-out war on the field, so war is no big deal. War is a big deal. It should be the most important thing we ever vote on when we are in Congress. It should be done very deliberately, and very rarely, when everything else fails.” If there is a different between father and son, it is style. Libertarian Brian Doherty noted, “Ron Paul never seems to care what people think, whereas Rand frames his politics to appeal to talk-radio conservatives, and you see the difference when they do dual campaign events. Rand has his own political style.”
Rand Paul's goal could be to tie the Libertarian movement to the conservative movement, and in the process, expand the movement into mainstream. The late Richard Nadler once told me that if you get a million listeners, you have a hit radio show; but if you get million votes nationwide, you have the Libertarian Party. There are far more libertarians than Libertarian Party voters. Paul's goal is to expand his ideas beyond the small percentage that vote Libertarian to become a dominant force within the conservative movement.