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May. 18 2010 - 7:34 pm | 1,806 views | 1 recommendation | 11 comments

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.

UPDATE: Bloggasm notes that Rand still has achieved nowhere near the notoriety of his father just yet. I could see that changing.


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  1. collapse expand

    Cashing in your father’s brand name is an example of “democracy working like it should?” Er, I’ll pass.

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    Yes, Mr. Jilani, there are plenty of issues we can agree and work together on.
    Being a Ron Paul supporter for the last three years and life long supporter of what I call traditional conservative ideas I can say with ease we have plenty of issues to work together on. And unlike party hacks and those who seek preferential treatment the liberty minded is opened minded and secure enough to work with any and all.

    Freedom unites – Thanks for the honesty from the left, we will one day work together and make the world more peaceful and just.
    As I am sure we did on the audit the fed legislation.

    FYI – People are not devoted to Paul or his son, they are devoted to his ideas…..that is the real story.

    In Liberty

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    The Paul family is the absolute opposite of the Bush family, as far as “Republicans” go. So as a liberal I’m very excited to see this trend. I don’t agree with the militant libertarian views on everything, but as far as ending the wars, and restoring a stable financial system, and keeping religion out of politics and other social issues, the Libertarian wing of the Tea Party could actually be a huge blessing to Liberals. I’m all for it. Now if only we could get some more Dems like Kucinich in Congress we’d be much better off.

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    Thanks Zaid, you’ve written a wonderful piece here. I stand on the flanks politically, preferably on the right, but the left will do in a pinch. I campaigned for Ron Paul in 07/08. I caught Rand stumping for his father in New Hampshire and was happily blown away. Dr.Paul didn’t win the Republican nomination so I voted for Ralph Nader [again]. :D I’ve always been the hopeful Republican, well, at least for the last century anyway – Paul, Goldwater, Robert Taft, Howard Buffet [Warren's father], Charles Lindberg Sr., etc. Before that I suppose I’d be considered a Bourbon Democrat. I’d have considered voting for Kucinich or Gravel if either had won the Democrat nomination in 2008. Both were worthy patriots, much like Nader and Paul. Heck, I’d even vote for Patrick Buchanan in a heartbeat. Am I crazy? I’m Jeffersonian! Pull back the empire and domestically decentralize. I’m an adamant libertarian regarding national politics, but I’m a bit softer at the local level. I like my socialism close to home. I really don’t mind all that much paying taxes and such, but in my ideal world the IRS would get the check with the three digit number and my check with the four digit number would go to my State Dept of Revenue. I’d love to expand the single-payer health care plan provided by my state. I have some philosophical differences with Nader and moreso Kucinich, but for the most part they are decentralist, anti-fascist and certainly anti-militaristic. I was riding high in the summer of 2008 when two of my political heroes [and friends to one another] got together for a short interview tour…


    In the spirit of a lovely coalition I’d enjoy futher discourse regarding more detailed issues and philosophies here with you, but for now I’ll leave it simple. Perhaps we can meet for tea. :D

    • collapse expand

      I’m definately there with you on the need for a decentralization of power. The Constitution was written from the prospective that federal power should be limited because concentrating power in one location, taking it away from the local and state level, would lead to abuse of that power.

      As Thomas Jefferson said, “a single, consolidated government would
      become the most corrupt government on the earth” and that if all power was to ever be concentrated in Washington it “will become as venal and oppressive as the
      government from which we separated.”

      In principle, there is nothing wrong with social programs like Social Security but implementing them at the federal level was a mistake. Since the Vietnam War, Social Security money has been used to fund the deficit until we’ve finally reached the point where the only surplus left in the program are I.O.U.s

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    I bow to you sir! You see the light. We will fight you incessantly about government welfare and power, but we can work together on the imperialistic wars, fight the oligarchical elite and their corporations, and we can fight side by side to defend civil liberties.

    We WILL win in the end though. Our message of liberty is more pure.

    Watch and understand further the core of our belief system and why we will gain the edge:


    You may think you can defeat this, but in your heart…can you…do you really think that you can defeat this pure message? Do you have 100’s of thousands of life dedicated supporters who will push to their end days for this message? I guarantee that you do not.

    “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”

    Samuel Adams

    We will win sir, but we will work with you on liberty for our neighbors and fellow Americans when it suits us.

  6. collapse expand

    As a Christian-libertarian-conservative, I think that the only way that the left and right can unite is under the principles espoused by such leaders as Ron and Rand Paul. If we continue to allow the establishment to divide us then the establishment will remain in power and nothing will change for the better. There is much to unite us; personal liberty, international peace, sound fiscal policy, ending corrupted power organizations like the fed, etc. Both sides need to cut through the crap and champion uniters like Ron Paul and others who espouse the cause of liberty, justice, responsibility, and peace.

    Indeed, wouldn’t it be something to behold if most Americans, divided as we seem to be, came together to overcome what confronts us? Let’s put aside the petty arguing, and do what we all know needs to be done.

  7. collapse expand

    Thanks for the kind words! I’ve been a Paul supporter since the 2008 primaries. I really appreciate progressives who want to work together to make this country a better place.

    Remember the Paul/Nader/McKinney press conference in 2008? I really hope that in 2012, there is a unity 3rd party ticket endorsed by -all- 3rd parties. Perhaps Paul/Nader (although they are both old) or perhaps Paul/Alan Greyson. It would take some compromise on both sides to make this work, but if they stick to points of agreement, it could make an incredibly powerful force.

    I really believe that if principled people of the left and the right join forces, that there is nothing we can’t do. Imagine the political power we would have, if we could combine Paul supporters with the Nader fans of 2000 (or do they still hate him for “letting Bush win” sigh).

    I welcome cooperation with the left (and I apoligize if you were called a communist). In fact, I think it is our patriotic duty to compromise and form a unity ticket if that would save the country from corporatism.

  8. collapse expand

    What a great article. Thanks for giving an honest opinion. On the social side, I don’t believe that one size fits all. Although I also don’t believe we can just abandon people who need help. So maybe we should give that power back to the states that have more local control of their own situations. If we did, we should also cut the Federal Government and give the states their portion of the tax dollars we save or collect. Do you think the solution is big government? What is your opinion on the third issue?

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    About Me

    I'm a recent graduate of the University of Georgia who has found himself smack dab in the middle of Washington, D.C. working as a reporter-blogger for ThinkProgress. I'm here to do what so many young people set off to their nations' capitals to do: change the place for the better.

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