Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) outreach efforts to minorities and young people with a heavy focus on criminal justice reform, police militarization, and civil liberties has perplexed the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.
Over at Washington Post’s The Fix, Blake declared that the “Tea Party” label — which, as he notes, has been overused since the peak of the movement in 2010 — is “far too simple” for Paul. He points to the Kentucky Republican’s piece in Time on the startling scenes from Ferguson, Missouri and police militarization:
Given Paul’s political rise — he defeated an establishment-aligned Republican in a 2010 primary — it was natural to label him a tea partier. We have done it too — repeatedly. It’s the easiest short-hand for a GOP outsider. But more and more, it’s looking like that label doesn’t really fit. While Paul is certainly aligned with the tea party on a lot of stuff, the label doesn’t describe him as well as it does someone like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). An op-ed Paul wrote Thursday in Time magazine was just the latest example of that. The things Paul said in it are not the kind of things you would expect from a tea partier.
The trouble with Paul is that no well-known labels seem to fit him well. While his dad, Ron Paul, is a pretty straight-line libertarian, that’s not really who the younger Paul is. He’s not an establishment Republican, a neo-conservative, an arch-conservative or a moderate Republican.
We still don’t know what label would be better than “tea party,” but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that this label doesn’t really fit. Maybe he’s just a Rand Paul Republican.
Blake also points out that, according to a recent NBC News/ Marist poll, Paul has seen his support fall among self-identified Tea Party voters who were asked about 2016 Republican presidential candidates. This is supposedly symbolic of the Kentucky Republican losing his credibility with the movement. It’s one poll, of course, and doesn’t necessarily mean anything right now.
In reality, Paul, who, quite literally, wrote the book on the Tea Party in nation’s capital, best represents the movement’s principles. He’s an unapologetic fiscal conservative, he opposes cronyism, and his views on issues like civil liberties and criminal justice reform are fundamentally consistent with limited government.
Without question, Paul still embodies the Tea Party spirit, but he takes a different path to achieve certain goals, including working across the aisle on certain issues. That may not sit well with some in the movement, but it’s a pragmatic approach that’s needed.
This isn’t to say that Blake and other journalists want to put Paul in a box so they can easily disregard him. Maybe it’s another sign that the political dynamics are changing in the United States. But there aren’t many lawmakers in Washington like Rand Paul, politicians who aren’t just working towards rolling back government, but shattering overly simplistic media narratives at the same time.