Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

July 11, 2013

The Rand Paul moment

(Continued)

His cultural affect is different too, a little more Utne Reader than National Review. At a packed event at the Reagan Library, he explained: “I’m a libertarian conservative who spends most of my free time outdoors. I bike and hike and kayak, and I compost.” It might be the first positive reference to composting in the history of that fine institution.

Not too long ago, Paul’s foreign policy views would have been an insuperable obstacle to a serious presidential run. No more. The evolution in the party’s foreign policy is captured in the story of the Pauls. In 2008, Ron Paul’s noninterventionism made him a punching bag in the Republican primary debates. In 2012, it got a respectful hearing. In 2016, his son’s (less toxic) version of the same policy will be much closer to the party’s mainstream.

At least for some stretch of 2015, Rand Paul could well be the Republican front-runner, tapping into grass-roots enthusiasm on the model of Howard Dean in 2003. And it’s not inconceivable that he could go further than that famous representative of “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

Paul has a built-in online and grass-roots network of the sort it takes years to build. In fact, it did. His father built it, and now he’s working to expand it in his extensive travels. During those years, his father welcomed into his fold cranks and haters, and one of Rand Paul’s quiet messages is that he has his father’s core convictions, without the loathsome baggage.

I’m far from a Rand Paul-ite. I don’t think there was ever any threat of Americans being droned sitting at cafes, nor do I think drones are the scariest invention in the history of flight. I’m not where Paul is on foreign or national security policy, and I doubt his libertarianism has as much crossover appeal in blue states as he hopes.

But libertarianism is a significant strand on the right. It should be represented, and represented well. By and large, Rand Paul does that. Underestimate him at your peril.

(c) 2013 by King Features Syndicate

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