Yes, Rand Paul is the future of the GOP

Over at the American Spectator, Reid Smith and Jamie Weinstein (so much for that “I before E” rule, right?), debate whether Rand Paul is the future of the Republican Party.

Smith takes the pro-Paul position in his part, “A New Age of Liberty,” in which he touts the libertarian scion’s innovative tactics and positions and success in just three years in the Senate. Weinstein takes the anti-Paul side, under the head “GOP Less Libertarian Thank You Think,” using more concrete examples, but making less sense doing it.

Weinstein’s main point against Rand Paul is ideological, and no surprise, focuses on the area where he differs most sharply with  party leadership: foreign policy. He argues that while Paul turned heads with his drone filibuster and then helped defeat the authorization of force in Syria resolution, the Syria result was an exception, and the continued support for military action against Iranian nuclear capability is the rule. Paul didn’t tilt the party more isolationist, Weinstein claims, people just didn’t like the options in Syria. While a convincing argument, we have another data point now with which we can test this theory: Ukraine.

Followingly less than a year after the Syria debate, 56% of Americans say we should “not get too involved” in Russia’s annexation of Ukraine either. And while 67% of Republicans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the situation so far, 50% say it’s important we don’t get involved.

Only 16% of Republicans think we should even consider military options to keep a former Soviet dictator from invading a neighboring country in his second step toward re-forming the Evil Empire. If that’s not a sign of Republican retreat from their usual entrenchment on the front lines of global interventionism, then nothing is.

Weinstein’s conclusion is that Rand Paul will not be the GOP nominee in 2016. While that may be true, why does it prevent him from still being the future of the party? 2016 is not the end of “the future,” and the presidential nominee isn’t always indicative of the direction of the party anyway.

John McCain and Mitt Romney were the last two Republican presidential nominees, but no one would argue that they were the future of anything, even at the time. In the late 1980s, Newt Gingrich was clearly the future of the party, fully materializing that future in 1994 with the Republican Revolution in the House of Representatives.

Since 2006, the party has been largely devoid of such clear direction. Rand Paul represents that direction, whether he wins the next presidential nomination, or even runs at all. He has lead the party on issues of privacy, anti-militarism, decriminalization, foreign aid, prison reform, and due process.

Whether he gets the nomination or not is mostly irrelevant (and some would argue, counterproductive); he is influencing the conversation more than anyone else on the right. Rand Paul is the ideological bow of the Republican ship, slicing through uncharted waters and dragging the rest of the party along with him.

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