Rand Paul's Lonely Crusade May Pay Off In The Long Run
Sen. Rand Paul was an army of one when crusading against the debt increase earlier this week. In the age of Trump, Republicans no longer even feign concern for fiscal responsibility. The Tea Party era is a fading memory as the GOP faithful have their pompoms out like they did during the Bush era, when Vice President Dick Cheney decried that "deficits don't matter."
Republican cheerleaders have chided Paul as a thorn in the side of the Party who is holding back Trump's agenda with his pointless grandstanding. Unfortunately, they do have somewhat of a point. Rand's stands as of right now are not accomplishing a whole lot. There are only a handful of members of the legislature who care about reining in the debt, and that is unlikely to change regardless of fiery speeches and theatrics.
However, Sen. Paul is playing the long game very keenly and following in the footsteps of his father in that regard. When Rep. Ron Paul made long speeches to empty Congressional chambers about issues that few people even understood, it wasn't done to impress his colleagues. It was because he was a forward-thinking reformer. Because the good doctor put his neck out there and drew attention to issues decades before they became pressing, it garnered him a great deal of credibility that shocked opponents as he rose to become a beloved national figure before retiring in 2012.
Sen. Paul is building up a similar record of credibility in the beltway. He is putting his neck out there when others in his party will not do so. Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are supposedly tea party champions, but they are tight-lipped when it comes to opposing the irresponsible federal spending increase. They were incredibly outspoken when Obama was in office and it was easy to make this stand, but now they sit on their hands when the going gets tough. To contrast, Paul has stayed strong and consistent while pointing out the immense hypocrisy of his colleagues.
"When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party. But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party," Paul said on the Senate floor Feb. 8.
When Sen. Paul ran for President in 2016, he was amongst the first to get Trumped. Even if Trump was not around, it would have been difficult for him to win considering his strategic calculations during the campaign. He sounded like a moderate on immigration while focusing excessively on racial and criminal justice issues, moves that sent prospective supporters into the arms of other contenders while drawing in roughly zero new supporters. Paul's collapse in the 2016 presidential primary should have been eye-opening for the liberty movement. Trump's victory, as well, should have taught many lessons.
Paul's dogged consistency will help him sell a future presidential candidacy to his base down the line. The relationship he is cultivating with Trump is helping his future prospects as well. It shows that he can move with the punches and adapt to a calamitous political climate better than most. Paul has taken his lumps, but really is no worse for wear. He could be rise to be the leader that the Republican Party (as well as the liberty movement) desperately needs to sustain success after Trump inevitably leaves political office in 2020 or 2024.
Paul was unable to build upon his father's support, but he can certainly make hay in a wide-open GOP. There is no clear successor to Trump that has emerged. Paul along with Sen. Tom Cotton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Rep. Steve King are just a handful of possibilities of many who will carry the mantle following DJT. Paul can still fulfill the promise of the Ron Paul revolution, but he must be able to adopt the populist style along with his consistency. Broadening the Republican Party will only be possible after seizing a base of support. Paul failed to do that in 2016, but in the future, his continued progress should give his supporters a lot of hope the next time around.