Is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) the future of the Republican Party? That’s a question that observers on both and Right and the Left have diving into over the last couple of weeks.
Paul, who is considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, has found a niche in the conservative movement as a figure who embodies the traditional views of free market advocacy with a libertarian flair on civil liberties and foreign policy. His views on these issues have worried the Republican establishment — including his colleagues, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) — because they see his influence and popularity growing while the clout that they once enjoyed is diminished.
Similarly, the many on the Left are worried that Paul will be able to undercut them on these issues; especially civil liberties, in light of the NSA spying scandal. Paul has already pointed to polling that shows young voters noticeably souring on President Barack Obama in the wake of the government’s broad surveillance program.
In an editoral last week at the National Review, Rich Lowry discussed how the string of scandals coming out of the Obama Administration have helped Paul seize the spotlight.
“Whatever its merits, the National Security Agency metadata program couldn’t be better fashioned to play into fears of the government. Is it vast? Yes. Secret? Check. Raise profound questions about privacy? Uh-huh,” wrote Lowry. “This is the kind of issue Rand Paul was born and (literally) raised to raise holy hell over. The NSA leak came on the heels of revelations that the Internal Revenue Service was singling out tea-party groups for extra scrutiny, and on the heels of the Associated Press and James Rosen investigations.”
“Add in the gun-control fight earlier this year, and Paul is nearly four-for-four in fights sticking up, in his view, for the first four amendments of the Bill of Rights,” he continued. “The only thing missing is the third, because no one has proposed quartering of troops in our homes — yet.”
Lowry also took a look at Paul’s political prowess, which was lacking in his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), personal qualities that make could help make him a serious contender in 2016.
“It is a Rand Paul moment in the GOP not just because the headlines reinforce his core critique of leviathan as too big, too unaccountable, and too threatening, but because he is smart and imaginative enough to capitalize on those headlines,” noted Lowry. “Paul has that quality that can’t be learned or bought: He’s interesting. How many potential Republican presidential candidates have helped shepherd a new verb into the English language? The hoopla around Paul’s filibuster gave us ‘to drone,’ in the sense of “don’t drone me, bro.”
The New Republic, a Leftist magazine, also noted this side of Paul in its recent profile of him. The picture presented is one that of a man who is very down to Earth and very different from the stereotypical Washington politician, noting that he gets his own coffee and lunch, behavior that is “not very senatorial” in the eyes of staffers.
Lowry does note that he isn’t a “Rand Paul-ite,” but he explained that libertarianism is gaining in influence inside the Republican Party, largely thanks to the actions of the Kentucky Senator. It’s true, however, that not all conservatives aren’t taking an optimistic view of Paul. That was on display recently when Ramesh Ponnuru, writing at Bloomberg, dismissed both Paul and his potential appeal in Democratic-leaning states.
The 2016 presidential primary is a long way off and a lot could change in Americans politics between now and then. But for now, at least, Rand Paul, a Tea Party Senator, is a serious player in the policy debates that are raging in the country and his sway over public opinion is something unseen since Obama came on the political scene.