Posted by Brad @ 12:03 pm on November 23rd 2010

Who Speaks For the Tea Party? How About Rand Paul?

It’s a debatable question for sure, but Rand Paul is auditioning for the role. He’s just signed a book deal for a personal manifesto called “The Tea Party Goes to Washington“.

For his part, Brian Doherty straddles the line on whether Rand Paul is a Tea Party avatar, a libertarian avatar, or what, but does say

Thus, any dumb thing Paul says or does, any deviation from small-government principle, will become a public brick against libertarianism. And in an MSNBC world, sticking to his principles will be a weapon used against libertarianism as well. Rand Paul, even given his almost certain inefficacy as senator qua senator, represents a simultaneous opportunity and danger for the small-government cause. With him in the Senate and his father in the House, libertarianism will face unprecedented amounts of harsh attention, including the sort that doesn’t give libertarians the sideways complement of being curious cases of real principle in an ugly GOP swamp. These libertarians, outgunned as they are, could start being dangerous.

After 23 years defending libertarian ideas in public and private, this strikes me as both great and fearful news

His answer, on what good Rand Paul can do, is essentially my answer in 2007 on what good Ron Paul can do, which I might add turns out to be one of the most prescient things I’ve written, considering it is both actually what Ron Paul decided to do (in the Campaign for Liberty), and it has appeared to have panned out, slowly but surely (and Rand Paul is, himself, Exhibit A). That answer is: inspire more to follow you into office. Doherety:

Iíd love to see some Rand Paul-inspired candidates with a more robustly expressed love of non-interventionist foreign policy and of ending the drug war with extreme prejudice. But even a few Rand Paul clones would be good. “I have great confidence in the American system,” Paul said in his acceptance speech. “We must believe in ourselves and not believe that somehow, some benevolent leader in a distant capital will take care of us, will save us from ourselves. We must once again believe in ourselves.” Thatís not the sound of a modern American politician. Paulís greatest chance to change his country is managing his difficult public position with enough sense and panache to ensure that two, four, six years from now, more American politicians sound like that.

There is going to be a very tentative congeniality between Sarah Palin and Rand Paul, and those that identify with one but not the other. But the fact that Rand is starting to exist as a central figurehead stand-in for “the Tea Party” is, for this Paulian, nothing but upside. You can’t score any points without skin in the game, Brian, and for the first time in maybe ever, small l libertarians and Ron Paul Republicans have skin in the game.


  1. Actually, I hadn’t read that LewRockwell article I did since the week I wrote it. I really did call the Campaign for Liberty and to at least some extent the entire Tea Party movement. Me = awesome.

    Comment by Brad — 11/23/2010 @ 12:39 pm

  2. Great call.

    I concur with your thesis that the Ron Paul campaign lay the foundation for the Tea Party “movement” which in turn gave Rand Paul the boost he needed to win a Senate primary and election. I have my doubts about whether the “movement” as a recognizable “movement” survives the next two years leading up to the 2012 election (scarequotes becuase I cannot figure out what to call this thing). As near as I can tell, the only consistent policy agreed by all who claim to reside under the Tea Party umbrella is a demand for restraint on runaway federal spending. Is that enough for a “movement”?

    That said, I am delighted that the Tea Party helped give us our first libertarianish voice in the Senate in the modern era. I put Senator-elect Rand Paul in the same category as Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders is a self described socialist, representing a small minority of the electorate, but the people of Vermont choose to give this ideology a voice in the Senate. The people of Kentucky have now given the libertarian-leaning a voice in the Senate, and for that I am deeply grateful. So much so that I am considering switching from single malt scotch to single barrel Kentucky bourbon in his honor.

    The left appears to be particularly unhappy about Paul, but they should not be. Rand Paul will be as much a thorn in the side of Republicans as Democrats. When it comes time to spending cuts Ė Rand Paul will not hesitate to put Defense spending and our overextended and wildly expensive global military footprint on the table.

    I am so giddy about this I may even convert to Aqua Buddhism.

    Comment by mw — 11/23/2010 @ 6:10 pm

  3. Yeah, I did not, at all, understand the left’s agitprop against Rand Paul. He seems to genuinely get under their skin in a way that a run-of-the-mill straight-across-the-board conservative like Pat Toomey did not. What’s more, since losing Russ Feingold, he is arguably the only guy likely to take to the floor to speak out at perhaps the most critical moments – when there is absolute consensus (the most dangerous of times). Think a War with Iran, some new massive Patriot Act after the next terrorist attack, whatever. I think it bothered liberals in large part precisely BECAUSE Paul is, in Doherty’s words, dangerous – specifically dangerous to the partisan argument against Republicans.

    His great strength will not be his legislative acumen or even his ability to enact change, per se. It’s just bringing issues to the table that, in polite Beltway Washington, are deemed too outside the bounds of our normal discourse to allow into the room. And yeah, that can cut against liberals (in that he’ll be in practice what many conservatives are in words only – an ardent opponent of The State). But as you say, it goes both ways. And I can’t imagine anybody, with a straight face – liberal or conservative – arguing that the problem with Washington is that there are too many viewpoints. Anybody that winds up arguing the position that having a different perspective at the table is inherently bad ought to really re-check their assumptions.

    As far as the Tea Party movement, I agree with you there. I think it’s better understood as a certain zeitgeist. And I also think that zeitgeist is not caused by Obama alone – where critics of the Tea Party see a hypocrisy because they weren’t there during Bush, I see them as a REACTION to the viewpoints they espouse being swept under the rug during Bush. Which is why I think it’s important to note that Ron Paul IS a significant godfather of the Tea Party movement, on par with Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin (who I also admit are godfathers, for different reasons – Palin for the straight up partisanship and resentment, Beck for the populist anxiety and victimization card), and really the Tea Party movement was not born with Obama angst, it was born with an angst that first expressed itself in a Republican primary and was directed inward within the GOP. And that angst was that there finally be somebody, somewhere in power who ought to at least be at the table when all these big decisions get made to say “Hey…what if we just DON’T have the government do this?”

    OF COURSE that’s wrapped up in a helluva lot of bullshit, but at the very least, for the first time in 10 years, it’s there at all.

    Comment by Brad — 11/23/2010 @ 7:18 pm

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