On one hand, you have to admire the Paul family, Ron and Rand. They’re smart, principled and courageous, willing to take unpopular stands on politically dangerous positions like legalizing marijuana or
repealing opposing portions of the Civil Rights Act or getting rid of Homeland Security. It’s foul to suggest repealing gutting the Civil Rights Act, in whole or in part, but it is courageous. And they have ideas on a limited role for government that deserve a hearing.
If only they weren’t batshit crazy and dangerous as a wolverine in a sleeping bag.
They’re crazy in big ways, espousing overly simplistic and foolishly naïve solutions unworkable in a modern economy. And they’re crazy in little ways, as when Ron appeared on a radio show with a neo-Nazi pop group (although that sure turned out weird; check this out). Or when Rand became the first American politician in history to stiff Meet the Press.
Now Rand has done something even odder. While Mario Rubio delivered the mainstream GOP response to President Obama’s SOTU, Rand delivered the Tea Party rebuttal, following in the footsteps of such famous rebuttalists as Sarah Palin and Herman Cain.
This whole idea of a separate rebuttal is the stuff poli-sci dissertations are made of. First of all, the idea that there’s a GOP response and a separate Tea Party response underlines that there has always been and will always be a schism in the Republican Party. Second, it’s interesting that now even Mario Rubio is not pure enough for the Tea Party. Even Mario, who was originally elected as a Tea Party candidate and has one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate, has lost his luster now that he’s been embraced by the upper crust of the Republican Party.
The only reasonable conclusion is that the GOP not only needs to give up trying to bring the Tea Party into the mainstream, because they don’t want to be brought, they also need to give up on moving the mainstream to the Tea Party, because for every step the GOP takes toward them, they take a step backwards. Either the Tea Party is cleverly luring the GOP farther and farther to the right and won’t be satisfied until everyone in the party wears brown shirts and talks with a Sergeant Schultz accent, or they simply don’t want to be assimilated.
Perhaps they like being aggrieved outsiders. That’s their identity. That’s who they are. Then again, perhaps they’re smarter than we think they are not to trust the trust-fund billionaires who have purchased GOP franchise rights. This would not be the first time the well-born made concessions to the common man, only to rescind them at the first opportunity. In 1381, young King Richard promised change to the rebels led by Wat Tyler. As soon as the siege mob dispersed, he reneged and led an army in savage reprisal, saying:
You wretches, detestable on land and sea; you who seek equality with lords are unworthy to live. Give this message to your colleagues. Rustics you were and rustics you are still: you will remain in bondage not as before but incomparably harsher. For as long as we live we will strive to suppress you, and your misery will be an example in the eyes of posterity. However, we will spare your lives if you remain faithful. Choose now which course you want to follow.[i]
It’s certainly not hard to imagine Karl Rove or any of the moneyed set that now owns the Republican Party giving this speech. So maybe the Tea Party is right to keep their distance.
Still, it’s hard to fathom why as a politician, Rand Paul would agree to give the response. Yes, Rand, you’re a true Tea Partier, in on it from the very beginning. We get that. But doesn’t the fact that you’re following in the footsteps of Sarah Palin and Herman Cain tell you anything? You really think following their lead will get you anywhere? You’d be safer walking blindfolded down the middle of the fast lane on I-5 at midnight wearing black clothes.
And don’t you get the math of trying to position yourself to the right of Mario Rubio? Look at it this way. If American politics was the Rose Bowl field, and the fifty yard line was where the American people are, then the Republican Party would be positioned at the ten yard line. And the conservative wing of the Republican Party would be positioned at the goal line, and Mario would be positioned on the inside edge of the end line. In other words, there is no way to be to the outside Mario Rubio and still be inbounds. If you want to position yourself to the right of Mario Rubio, you have to move your campaign to Paraguay. Or Texas. Or somewhere like that.
But then again, you’re Rand Paul. You guys don’t march to a different drummer, you’ve got your own orchestra playing in your head.
[i] Schama, Simon, A History of Great Britain 1, BBC, 2000. P. 218.