Republican presidential hopeful and fanatical libertarian Rand Paul has been accused of isolationism and worse in the past. But his policies resonate, and Sam Betley argues that he has a huge opportunity, if he would only reach out and grab it.
As the GOP nomination race hots up, the spotlight is focusing on the controversial populists – Donald Trump and Ben Carson – and the bookmakers’ favourite, Marco Rubio. But radicalism doesn’t always have to equate to racism; Tea Party sympathiser Rand Paul has struggled to win support among the US electorate, but an overview of his credentials suggest there is more to his cause than people currently think.
Perhaps the most potent criticism of Dr Paul is the accusation that he holds isolationist views. Many British voters can sympathise with this attitude, especially towards the Middle East, but to the average American, it is a matter of great pride that their country regularly takes a leading role in tackling evil worldwide. As such, Paul’s reluctance to enthusiastically commit to such endeavours immediately sets red lights flashing across the pond.
But the reality is that Rand Paul can support putting US troops on the ground in foreign conflicts; he just has a strict and broadly moral set of criteria for doing so. He has said in the past that the first question he asks himself on foreign policy is whether or not he would send himself or his children to fight in any given conflict. He is also critical of the regular absence of any formal declaration of war; such statements are seen to be political suicide in the current political climate, thanks mostly to the actions of George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
Let us forget Rand Paul for a moment, and briefly consider the credentials of his rivals. Who wants to live in a world where either of the Republican frontrunners – Donald Trump and Ben Carson – can claim the title of “leader of the free world” Trump’s laughable policies are well-documented, including the building of a wall on the Mexican border funded by tariffs on Mexican goods and a database of every Muslim in the United States. Undoubtedly, Trump is deluded and a great threat to the office of POTUS, but Carson is arguably more so due to the public being much less aware of his beliefs. He has claimed that “the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed” and described ObamaCare as “the worst thing that has happened in this country since slavery”.
Despite this, these two men combined are backed by 46.3 per cent of those polled over the last few months. Compare their views to Dr Paul, currently averaging a measly 1.7 per cent, who is arguably the most committed to equal rights of any GOP candidate. One quotation is enough to demonstrate this:
Of strong importance to me is the defence of minority rights, not just racial minorities, but ideological and religious minorities”.
The USA, led by Rand Paul, could reject the climate of xenophobia fuelling Donald Trump’s campaign, and re-establish the Republican Party as the defenders of all American citizens; black, white or otherwise.
Finally, it makes sense to venture briefly into the core of Paul’s libertarianism – the belief that the state should be so small as to be unnoticeable. He is particularly sceptical of the Department of Education, claiming that no one would notice if it disappeared. Unsurprisingly, he advocates the lowering of taxes in order to give people more freedom over their expenditure, paid for by a significant reduction in spending. Dr Paul is a vocal critic of overbearing federal government, asserting that the Obama and Bush administrations “blatantly ignored” the constitution by extending the scope of federal authority further than ever before.
Of course, support for the constitution is an easy vote winner throughout the 50 US states. Rand Paul’s support for the constitution is absolute, which has clear drawbacks, especially from a British perspective, when considering the Second Amendment. He refuses to compromise on the entire Bill of Rights and while this does show an admirable commitment to his principles, it is also immensely frustrating that he shares the Republican attitude of blaming the regular mass shootings in the USA on everything apart from easy access to guns. However, I don’t think British people can ever truly understand the nature of the American attitude to gun control; I completely disagree with Dr Paul on this issue, but it should not overshadow the appeal of his broader political ideology.
I am under no illusions. It is extremely unlikely that Rand Paul will even come close to securing the Republican presidential nomination. But the voice of libertarianism should not be ignored. As Dr Paul himself pointed out:
Freedom is popular. Bring it on.”