Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has strenuously insisted that he is not the ideological twin of his father. But recent events – his paranoia about drones; his praise of Edward Snowden; his defense of his aide, the “Southern Avenger” Jack Hunter; and his lashing out at “neocons” — suggest he’s not far enough from his father to achieve respectability with a substantial segment of the GOP.
Jonah Goldberg has an exceptionally insightful piece explaining just how intertwined Rand’s vision is with his father’s:
Most famously, Rand’s father, former Representative Ron Paul, the three-time presidential candidate (for whom Hunter worked in 2012), published newsletters bearing his name that brimmed with bigoted bile. When his writing became controversial, the elder Paul insisted he hadn’t known what was in his own newsletters (though in 1996 he took responsibility for them).
Both controversies stem from the same sinful strategy adopted by so-called paleolibertarians in the 1980s. The idea was that libertarians needed to attract followers from outside the ranks of both the mainstream GOP and the libertarian movement — by trying to fuse the struggle for individual liberty with nostalgia for white supremacy. Thinkers such as Murray Rothbard hated the cultural liberalism of libertarians like the Koch brothers (yes, you read that right) and sought to build a movement fueled by white resentment. This sect of libertarianism played into the left-wing view of conservatism as racist. The newsletters, probably ghostwritten by Rothbard and former Ron Paul chief of staff Lew Rockwell, were the main organ for this effort.
In other words the secessionist lunacy is central, not tangential, to the ideological goo from which Paul the Younger emerged. No wonder he found nothing particularly objectionable in the Southern Avenger’s rants. No wonder he selected Hunter to co-write his book. The only wonder is that there is no one in the Rand Paul camp with the nerve to explain to him that this worldview is abhorrent to most Americans and, as Jonah points out, explosive in the hands of press and opponents.
This philosophical bent goes a long way toward explaining Rand Paul’s aversion to the Civil Rights Act, although he now denies he ever questioned the government’s role in preventing private facilities in discriminating. It leads him to antipathy toward our national security (whether it is his “anti-military” attempt to undermine the chain of command or in disowning surveillance programs that combat terrorism).
In the short run, this poses a problem for his colleagues. Does, for example, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) embrace Rand Paul’s ebullient support and campaign with him? Does Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) wander down the garden path with him on opposing the military on sexual assault investigations? Do tech companies embrace him (even after he found an excuse to vote against immigration reform)?
In short, the question is not whether he will get to be president. Only those in denial about Americans’ insistence on tolerance and support for the military believe that. Rather, the issue is whether he becomes a fringe character in the Senate from whom his colleagues would be wise to keep their distance.