Like father, kind of like son
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Rand Paul is kind of like his father, Ron. He has the same last name as Ron. He believes in civil liberties like Ron. He is libertarianish, kind of like Ron. But he is not Ron.
In the last Republican debate, he kind of looked like Ron. He confronted drug warriors like Gov. Chris Christie. He confronted neocons like Carly Fiorina, who looked absolutely startled when he criticized her over-the-top refusal to even talk to Russian president Vladimir Putin. He began to stir our hearts again, like Ron.
But then he had to lamely explain why he voted against the Iran deal. Something wonky about “leverage.” Ron supported the deal. Rand did not.
A libertarian Super PAC announced it will not spend money for Rand until he becomes more kind of like his dad. Rumors have spread that his campaign is on the ropes, but he insists he has an army of college students on the ground in Iowa.
The emotional support so far this primary season is not there for a classical liberal/libertarian kind of like Ron. After the slowest economic recovery in history, economic anxiety is drawing huge crowds for the populist capitalist Donald Trump and the populist socialist Bernie Sanders. Both are understandable phenomena, no matter how irrational. When times are hard you want to blame both the outsiders, like immigrants and outsourcing corporations, and the insiders, the do nothing politicians and the media.
People are lashing out, but not at underlying causes. The Fed, the national debt, the military industrial complex, the desire to paper over our own problems while we vainly try to force others to be like us is not generating the huge crowds, like it did for Ron.
We kind of like Rand, because he is intelligent and is fighting the good fight in the Senate most of the time. We just so far don’t love him like his dad. He can’t be the grandfatherly wise man, of course. He is younger and just a bit too prickly. Bernie Sanders has that grandfather role now.
If Rand does falter in Iowa, will Nevada be his firewall? Nevada is the most libertarian state west of New Hampshire. Rand is supported in Nevada. But the Clark County Republican Party chair, the first openly gay GOP chair in history, defeated the Rand Paul candidate. Will his supporters go to the caucuses and the conventions like they did for his dad?
When his dad ran, there were billboards along the highways, there were planes flying with banners, there was the Ron Paul Revolution, Ron Paul girls and sexy calendars, V for Vendetta masks, songs being written, YouTubes produced, T-shirts galore. Now we have “Make America Great Again” baseball caps and little else. The girls at the Bunny Ranch support Hillary. So far, the election is a big yawn for freedom lovers.
Sadly, Rand is reduced to soliciting YouTube campaign ads, but only about certain campaign themes, and to be vetted by his staff. Ron never had to solicit a single supporter’s YouTube, or tell people what they had to produce to be appreciated. People made them out of love and about anything Ron inspired them to say. Rand is looking even less kind of like his dad.
Fortunately, the libertarian moment does not depend on Rand. Young people are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Technology is creating more and more space for personal expression and choice. Social media is making it harder for establishment politicians to lie and obfuscate. It may not be Rand, but someday there will be a Libertarian president. She might even be loved like Ron was.