Why This True Progressive Admires A True Conservative Like Rand Paul
As I write this, polls have closen in Kentucky and it looks as if Rand Paul, the son of maverick congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) will be the winner. Paul’s is widely being touted as a “referendum on the tea party movement” as an article from the Washington Post states. Indeed, Paul has done everything he can to court the tea parties, hedging his bets on using the conservative movement’s anger against the Washington establishment to his favor in a tough primary campaign.
Yet to portray Paul as simply a puppet of the tea party movement is wildly off the mark. In my view, he’s something much more — he’s a true grassroots conservative, and certainly not held hostage to an astroturf movement spawned by conservative megamedia at Fox News and corporate front groups like Freedom Works.
I come to this conclusion by flashing back to the winter of 2008. The primaries in full swing, and the Democrats and Republicans are slugging it out. I remember being in college, and amid all the fanfare about Hillary versus Obama and McCain versus Romney, there was one candidate whose supporters I found to be the most engaging and innovative: Ron Paul’s. They organized gigantic money bombs for Rand’s father, spammed internet polls, and worked to get their candidate, who had next to no respect or positive mention from mainstream media or his party’s leadership, up to the point where he outperformed his foe Rudy Giuliani (who the media can’t get enough of, for some reason).
It’s that same passion that’s driving Rand’s supporters. If you converse with them, the main thing you’ll notice that’s totally different about him than any other Senate race is that most of his most passionate volunteers seem to be a generation younger than his competition. They’re mostly young, idealistic Libertarians who are militant in their opposition to social democratic government, violations of civil liberties, and a radical, imperial foreign policy.
Now, I obviously disagree with the first of those three positions that Paul and his supporters have, and during my interactions with Paul supporters it isn’t long before I get the communist/socialist/statist label thrown at me. Yet at the end of the day, I can’t help admiring these people.
Paul, who has never held office before and was mocked, derided, and considered an extreme long shot by the Republican leadership and conservative press, has managed to break through the tight cabal that is American politics simply by offering a message people agree with, and mobilizing the grassroots to take on entrenched power. Whether I agree with him or not, I have to say, I rarely see such pure and meaningful democracy at work.
And no, it doesn’t hurt that I share some of his views. Paul is on the record opposing the Iraq war, worrying about the erosion of civil liberties in the “War on Terror,” wanting to stop federal overreach in policing medical marijuana, and cutting corporate welfare. He’s a true conservative, not one who only attacks the government when it isn’t working against his corporate contributors. Democrats have been waiting for the Republican who will consistently cross over to vote with them on issues they agree, and it looks like a Paul victory may get them one.
So, even as a proud progressive and card carrying member of the vast left wing conspiracy, I say bravo, Rand Paul. His candidacy is an example of democracy working like it should, and may just give progressives reason to cheer when he joins up with them in fighting on a lot of their common issues.