The day after Rand Paul’s landslide Republican primary victory for US Senate in Kentucky the mainstream Left tried to paint him as a segregationist and the mainstream Right either ignored or attacked him, and for good reason. Like his father Ron, Rand Paul represents revolution—and the establishment is petrified.
Let’s begin with the Left. Afraid that they can’t beat a conservative Republican of Paul’s pedigree in this Tea Party-influenced, anti-Obama political climate of 2010, liberals are trying to run against him in 1964. Cherry picking irrelevant references Paul has made about private property rights and how they could possibly relate to the Civil Rights Act or even the Americans with Disabilities Act, Democrats are trying to portray Rand the libertarian as a closeted Klansmen who secretly hates “coloreds” and “cripples.”
It’s no surprise that in any discussion about government intrusiveness and private business, race-obsessed liberals immediately equate free will and free markets with Jim Crow. When MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow hysterically brought up the specter of segregated lunch counters during an interview with Paul, author Thomas Woods noted the absurdity of even having such a conversation today, writing for The American Conservative: “any non-hysteric knows a segregated restaurant would be boycotted and picketed out of existence within ten seconds, but we’re supposed to fret about fictional outcomes from the repeal of a law that will never be repealed.” Fictional indeed, and portraying Paul as somehow anti-black is no different than conservatives who portray antiwar protesters as anti-American—where legitimate concerns by citizens about the actions of their government are misconstrued to imply horrible and untrue things about the concerned. Liberals howl when rightwing talk hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck call President Obama “racist,” and now the Left shamelessly borrows from their playbook.
But it’s not just the Left who are upset over the rapid ascent of America’s next top conservative idol. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum finds Paul to be as “extreme” as liberals do, writing on the day after the election, “Rand Paul’s victory in the Kentucky Republican primary is obviously a depressing event for those who support strong national defense and rational conservative politics.” Frum’s preferred candidate in the Kentucky primary, Trey Grayson, was not only a former Bill Clinton Democrat but a George W. Bush Republican, deviating little from the party establishment and heartily receiving their endorsement—as former Vice President Dick Cheney and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lined up behind Grayson in a desperate attempt to prevent Paul from winning. With Paul trouncing Grayson 59% to 34%, the old Republican guard lost in a Randslide.
Fashioning himself and his Bush league friends as supporters of “strong national defense” and “rational conservative politics,” it doesn’t take much investigation to see that what Frum thinks is rationally conservative: A return to the Republican brand today’s grassroots conservatives reject most—big spending, debt-doubling neoconservatism. Disaffected Republicans turned Tea Partiers are not as enamored with America’s ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan as they once were, and aren’t so in love with war that they will ignore big government, a narrative Bush and the neocons successfully used for eight years to keep rank-and-file Republicans in line. TheHill.com’s John Feehery knows what’s got Frum’s goat, “Rand Paul’s election may very well mean the beginning of the end of the neo-conservative movement in the Republican Party.” Writes conservative columnist George Will, “It may seem strange for a Republican to have opposed, as Paul did, the invasion of Iraq. But in the eighth year of that war, many Kentuckians may think he was strangely prescient.” Frum’s fear is that Kentuckians, and Americans-at-large, might be encouraged to actually think about the wisdom of American foreign policy.
And this fear extends to conservative talk radio, where on the day after Paul’s victory, hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity said little to nothing about it. Compare their silence to the election of Scott Brown, the Massachusetts senator who received wall-to-wall coverage in the conservative media. Why was there so much excitement for this moderate to liberal Republican from Massachusetts? That’s easy. Brown was a conventional Republican who in going after Ted Kennedy’s old seat, excited the conservative base without upsetting the GOP establishment. Paul is the opposite and Freehery notes the difference: “Rand Paul will be more than the skunk at the garden party in the United States Senate. He will be subversive when it comes to critical Republican orthodoxies.” Like his father, Rand is the Republican establishment’s worst nightmare, hence the downplaying of his newfound celebrity by the GOP brass and their talk radio spokesman.
It’s somewhat appropriate that liberals would go all the way back to 1964 in attacking Rand, because his rise truly is the resurgence of Barry Goldwater-style, limited government philosophy. Goldwater’s politics were once considered the bedrock of American conservatism and yet today create so much controversy, not only for the Left and its race obsession, but for the mainstream Right which finds Rand’s greatest vice to be his “extremist” brand of liberty, of which they can find no virtue. This ridiculous, two-party status quo restricts substantive debate, impedes real reform and begs for revolution. And whether the establishment likes it or not—Rand Paul just might give it to them.