Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Predicting Character: The Fuzzy Vision of Rand Paul

It's a pun, maybe analogy, don't think it's metaphor for Rand Paul's background as an ophthalmologist. 


The GOP primaries pick up another upper class twit for the campaign clown car as Rand Paul is apparently announcing his attempt at garnering more media exposure today.  With him jumping in, we should see a massive onrush of additional petitioners for the 2016 primaries.

So... what does Rand Paul bring to the debate floor that's different from the rest of the GOP field?  What is his Presidential Character going to be if he - Gods, the old and the new, help us - makes it all the way to November 2016 with a win?

Reviewing character means reviewing Paul's background, his childhood and education.  It also means bringing up his father, politician Ron Paul.  Ron's own convoluted attempts at Presidential campaigns have a direct influence on anything Rand tries (from that New Yorker article):

It would be impossible, however, to describe Rand Paul’s politics without indicating his father’s influence. Paul is sometimes portrayed as a political neophyte, a small-town doctor who won his Senate seat in 2010 when the Tea Party erupted in opposition to Obama’s Presidency. But he grew up steeped in the libertarian political philosophy beloved by his father, and he worked as a strategist on Ron Paul’s many political campaigns, watching as his father’s ideas helped to shape the Republican Party and give rise to the Tea Party. Rand, though, also learned from his father’s political rigidity. Ron Paul never was able to graduate from the lower chamber or to expand his appeal beyond hard-core supporters; Rand won a statewide election on his first try. As a member of the House, Ron voted as an ideological purist, opposing most spending bills and nearly any foreign intervention; Rand has shown a willingness to compromise. “Ron was always content to tell the truth as best he understood it, and he saw that as the point of his politics,” Jesse Benton, a close friend and political adviser to both men, said. “Rand is the guy who is committed to winning...”
Rand grew up the middle child out of five, with an affluent family - Ron Paul had a career as a doctor before politics - that mostly avoided politics although Ron avidly followed the libertarian/objectivist teachings of the likes of Ayn Rand.  Back to that article:

It was Richard Nixon who unknowingly persuaded Ron Paul to enter politics. In 1971, the President fully uncoupled the dollar from the gold standard and attacked inflation with wage and price controls. Paul was aghast, and, in 1974, he ran for Congress. Rand, who was then eleven, became more involved in his dad’s political career than any of his four siblings. “Everyone was interested, but Rand would take it a step forward,” his mother said. Paul agreed: “I was probably more interested in going to the rallies, listening to speeches and the politics and the philosophy."

It's telling to note how Ron Paul's monetary policy obsessions with the gold standard is the basis of most of his political philosophy.  It should be noted how the gold standard is dangerous in its own way, and that a lot of Ron's fears about paper currency haven't really come about.  But it has a serious influence on the Paul family philosophy, both pare and fils, so it can't be discounted or ignored.

Rand's political activism doesn't seem to have kicked into interest in holding office itself until his father's revived efforts in 2008, after which the rise in anti-government values in the Republican Party (the Tea Party movement)  made it feasible for Rand Paul to run as a challenger for a Senate seat in Kentucky.  He beat the preferred Establishment candidate easily in the primaries, which meant a relatively easy general election win in a reliably conservative Red state.  And from there, the immediate talk was of Rand inheriting the libertarian banner from his father - as Rand's more compromising belief structure makes him more marketable - as that faction's best chances of reaching the Oval Office.

In short: Rand Paul and his father Ron essentially make up a mirror opposite of another political clan, the Bushes.  Where the Bushes are old-school conservative, pro-business, pay-your-dues Establishment types, the Pauls are more doctrinaire, still pro-business but more proactive.  Does that translate into Rand Paul being a true alternative to this year's Bush candidate Jeb?

To be honest, no.  Outside of foreign policy, where Rand's isolationist streak makes him different from the neocon "Let's Bomb 'Em" platform the Bushes have been stuck with since 2001, there's very little difference between Rand or Jeb in one serious regard.  Both Rand and Jeb will doom the federal budget and the overall economy: Rand through massive spending cuts, and Jeb through massive tax cuts.  And both will deregulate everything to the level of a Gilded-Age "Anything Goes" corporate corruption that we've seen leads to things like the Great Depression and the Great Recession.

So, to give Rand the final assessment:

Rand Paul - Senator, Kentucky
Positives: Brings with him a libertarian fanbase that will guarantee interest and turnout.  Does have enough differences in ideology from the other announced and potential candidates to stand out in a crowded field.  May be a genuine reformer on such issues as criminal justice and civil liberties.
Negatives:  Has little in the way of legislative success to hang a hat on. Having run as - and coming from a fervent anti-Establishment political family - Rand will have few intra-party backers for party support.  Comes at the American electorate with budget plans that cut far harsher than the standard Republican platform, which can destroy the very people Paul supposedly defends and won't appeal outside of the "drown that small government" crowd.  Is a standard bearer for an ideology - libertarianism - which isn't as popular as its followers believe it to be.  And for all his civil liberties creds he sucks up to a pro-religious movement that wants to take civil liberties away over issues of sex, health care, and minority rights.
Chances: Suspect.  Being an obvious anti-Establishment candidate doesn't automatically make him the Not-Jeb candidate the voting base would eagerly embrace.  In terms of dictating the debates or moving the goalposts, he's already weakened his positions to appeal more to the Far Right (religious) than to any libertarian (secular) voters, meaning he's already losing ground.  There's the possibility Rand could bolt if the GOP primaries don't pan out, and take a nomination with the Libertarian Party anyway.
Character Chart: His biography and political history point to someone ambitious for the White House but not as intelligent or politically savvy as other candidates.  He does show the ability to think "outside the box" compared to other right-leaning Republicans, but he's never followed through or shown any consistency (anything that threatened his potential candidacy was swiftly taken out of view and ignored).  He doesn't seem to have done much in building up a power base or set of allies within his own ranks, even though his personal Congeniality by most accounts is genuine.  In terms of viewing political power as an effective tool, Paul's world-view of "smaller federal government" fits well into the Negative's world-view against public office, and for personal self-gratification.  Thing is, I can't tell if his running for the Presidency is more out of a sense of Duty to his father's legacy - which would make him a Passive-Negative - or a more ambitious sense of Compulsive self-reward that would make him Active-Negative.  Since this IS the modern Republican Party - where only Active-Negatives survive and thrive - I'm leaning for the A-N trait.

P.S. It's telling that an anti-education candidate like Rand Paul has a problem hiring people who can even spell "education".

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

I would rather have Rand Paul than Ted Cruz kind of like I'd rather have hemorrhoids than polio.
And what's with the political dynasties? Are the children and relatives of politicians the only people crazy enough to run? Or is it more about money, and the knowledge of how to obtain it?
Rand kind of creeps me out, to tell you the truth.

-Doug in Oakland