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Rand Paul: A Jeffersonian in a Jacksonian Moment

Senator Rand Paul, who was once considered a top-tier GOP candidate—the slicker, more mainstream version of his father, who might be able to appeal to a wider GOP constituency—has dropped out of the race after failing to get even a quarter of his father’s support in the Iowa caucuses. Paul’s poor performance is partly due to his own doing and his own political challenges: As many commentators have pointed out, his uneasy efforts to broaden his base beyond hardcore Ron Paul fans lost him some support among that group, even as his continued association with his father’s brand made more traditional Republicans wary. And despite a strong performance in the last debate, Paul often came across as joyless and didactic throughout the campaign.

Ultimately, however, Paul’s collapse is more about the mood of the party and the country than it is about any strategic missteps by him. 2016 is looking more like the year of the angry, middle- or working-class nationalist—in other words, of Andrew Jackson—than the year of the principled Jeffersonian libertarian. Sen. Paul was Edward Snowden’s most high-profile booster in a year when anxieties about terrorism are pushing leading candidates to denounce the NSA leaks in harsher and harsher terms. He was a strong advocate for criminal justice reform in a year when the GOP race seems increasingly defined by Nixon-style law-and-order toughness. And, of course, Rand Paul was a champion of a less active foreign policy and a smaller military at a time when support for a more hawkish foreign policy is surging among Republicans.

In other words, it was probably impossible for a candidate like Paul to take the helm of the GOP in a year like this one. Jeffersonianism has a long history in America, but it has historically run into trouble in the face of global chaos and internal discontent. For now, and for the foreseeable future, Jeffersonians will need to be content with influencing the party from the sidelines.

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  • jeburke

    Egad, mentioning Paul and Jefferson in the same sentence gives me the wilies. It may well be true that Paul’s positions made it impossible gor him to WIN this cycle, but that hardly accounts for his sinking to the 5% or less cellar. His underlying problem is that he’s an unbearable lightweight. Even the most committed Paulbots of the past decade decided they couldn’t stand him.

  • Jim__L

    So where’s the smart money for “next to drop out”? Paul was at 4.5, with Carson, Rubio, Trump, and Cruz beating him out, though Carson was only 9.3 or so. Bush had 2.8, Fiorina and Kasich 1.9, Huckabee and Christie 1.8, Santorum 1.0.

    I’m actually surprised Paul was the first to drop — I think that Carson, Santorum, and Huckabee had to win Iowa for their candidacies to be relevant, and between them they couldn’t even scrape together enough to place in the top three. I’d say there’s a good argument for any or all of them to drop at any time. It’s hard to see Christie, Fiorina, or Kasich being viable either. Cutting any deal with any of the frontrunners for a Cabinet post in exchange for dropping out would be their best bet for employment in 2017, though Kasich might hold out for the Veep slot to solidify Ohio.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I would wager that after NH, the pressure on Christie, Fiorina, and Kaisch to drop out (or ‘suspend’ their campaigns….what a delightful euphemism) will significantly increase. If he doesn’t finish 2nd (at least), Bush may start hearing similar calls. Carson will hang in until Super Tuesday, most likely (though a bad finish in SC could potentially drive him out).
      If I had to bet, I would assume that by Super Tuesday, we are down to a three man race.

    • Tom

      Huckabee’s out, and I hear Santorum is too.

      • Jim__L

        Well, if you won here before and lightning didn’t strike again, that’s a pretty clear sign.

        Fascinating how in “lily-white” Iowa, three out of four of the top contenders in the GOP primary were minorities. It’s almost like racism isn’t really anything that matters anymore, isn’t it?

        Naaaah, couldn’t be.

  • Pait

    The issue with libertarians in general is not only that on security they are Jeffersonian to a Jacksonian public, on economics they are Hamiltonian. The combination sounds pure to the rational ideologue but hypocritical to the voter. I’m no claiming that Libertarians are hypocrites, but for many supporters Libertarianism is merely the law of the jungle, and voters see through that.

    • FriendlyGoat

      I think you’re onto something with respect to Libertarianism. No one from the left can ever distinguish them from conservatives on anything that matters—–other than maybe a few of them having no concerns about legalizing marijuana (ala Gary Johnson.) The whole movement seems to be built around the belief that liberty means freedom to not give a hoot about much but low taxes. That’s what conservatives do too—-with a sprinkling of anti-abortion and pro-2A for recruiting purposes.

      • Pait

        That’s more or less how it appears for most people, yes. I suspect that while some libertarians are sincere, many just find the ideology a convenient vehicle for the desire to pay less taxes.

        • FriendlyGoat

          The longer you hang around TAI here and its comments in the comment section (as I have), the more apparent it all becomes too.

  • FriendlyGoat

    If Dr. Rand Paul was running as a strong Democrat with similarly-appropriate policy positions in both fiscal and social matters, he would probably be leading both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and be on his way to succeeding Obama. His problem, personally, is having embraced all the wrong junk in politics. As a “candidate presentation” including part (but not all) of the legacy of his father, he was more than fine. Too bad for everyone including him.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    After nearly 8 years of a Jeffersonian Obama mucking about with America’s foreign policy, destroying alliances it took decades to build and giving enemies everything they could ask for without opposition, most American’s are ready to throw the Jeffersonians under the bus. As a Jacksonian I’m in favor of reducing America’s foreign entanglements, but not at the expense of raising the risk of foreign attacks on Americans at home or abroad. Nor do I think giving up alliances and our logistical bases in any way makes us safer or more capable of protecting our American Global Trading System. Obama’s incompetence and extreme leftist positions, has made the results his implementation of a Jeffersonian foreign policy, as disastrous as it could possibly be, and has blackened the reputation of the Jeffersonian School of thought for decades into the future.

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