Rand Paul is rising. The Atlantic magazine has posted nine pieces with Sen. Paul’s name in the headline since March 1, 2013. Politico has posted at least six since yesterday. Paul’s 13-hour filibuster on the employment of drones and our civil liberties has focused the media’s attention upon him. Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has not given the media much to talk about. But Rand Paul has consistently addressed the War on Terror, the War on Drugs and immigration reform, among other issues, forcing the media to acknowledge his rising stardom and potential candidacy. More importantly for Paul, the Republican Party is lapping him up, as evidenced by his celebrity at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. He is a member of the Tea Party, but, according to a survey by the Huffington Post and YouGov, 44 percent of Independents polled agreed that the filibuster was a good way to make a point about the drone program. Libertarians, too, are impressed. These are the reasons why Rand Paul is likely to fall.
The national media is, overwhelmingly, an “Establishment” body. In other words, it covers traditional, mainstream political debates. That “Establishment” and its swath of American viewers do not understand who or what Rand Paul is. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC employed what would have normally been brilliant rhetoric in her question, “What does Rand Paul stand for?” If asked the same question about any other top-tier politico, viewers would (hopefully) be able to identify each one’s overarching ideologies and agenda almost immediately. But it is difficult to envision a general understanding of Paul’s positions on today’s burning issues. What does Paul stand for? In his positions on the wars on drugs and terror, not to mention civil liberties, he stands for an ideology far removed from any potential status quo. The “Establishment” will not stand for Paul’s idealism, but rather for the pragmatism in finding a compromise between a few, mainstream contentions. His contentions will not fall among these. So, Americans will see Paul as the “madman,” the spectacle.
Rand Paul is much like his father, Ron Paul, and statesman Jon Huntsman. Not in terms of their skill, diplomacy or ideology, but in terms of their integrity. Following his unsuccessful run for the 2012 Republican nomination, Jon Huntsman widely criticized the Republican primary process, particularly the moment when Herman Cain briefly led the polls. “It wasn’t a period where rational thinking or any kind of commitment to reality or truth or optimism necessarily prevailed,” said Huntsman. “It was how can you eviscerate the opposition” The Pauls and Huntsman may or may not have been on the side of reality or truth, but they were firmly on the side of their own overarching, personal principles. They prefer to play their own politics without pandering either to the Democratic or Republican leadership—they do not care about politics in the sense of the word, they care (ostensibly) about this country. The Republican Party may be warming up to Paul now, but he holds the ability to push their limits to the point of breaking.
Paul counts many of this country’s Independents and Libertarians among his followers. And so, he will fall. When do people begin to think like an Independent? People begin to think like Independents in a middling political atmosphere like the one we have now. People, old and young, are as disillusioned with American politics as the largely college-aged voters who make up a chunk of this nation’s Independents and Libertarians. Soon, however, either the Senate or the president will pull something together that will restore faith in our (however flawed) bipartisan system, just like President Obama restored faith with the assassination of Osama bin Laden. We will then continue upon our way without needing all that Paul proposes. There are those who pin upon Paul their hopes for the Independent vote. But by 2016, the young, radical Independent vote may cost Paul the general “American” vote.
Today, we celebrate Paul’s novelty without understanding it. We cast Paul into the lot of our politicians without understanding that he is not one of them. There will come a day when we will understand. On that day, we will box ourselves back up in the comfort of America’s polarity.
I think Rand Paul will fall. But he may be crazy enough to prevail, to push our nation over the edge back into the idealism that it was founded upon.
Pi Praveen is a Trinity freshman. Her column runs every other Friday.