To the average American, Rand Paul’s sudden emergence into the national spotlight has been quite dramatic. The news that a little-known Republican senatorial candidate from Kentucky seemed to disapprove of the 1964 Civil Rights Act caused quite a fervor, unnerving the Republican establishment and causing a stir among liberal talking heads, who gleefully saw this as a huge gaffe.
The truth of the matter is, Rand Paul is fairly well known among Tea Partiers and has taken up the mantle as their next shining knight. He is the son of Congressman Ron Paul, the former doctor from Texas who cultivated a cult following during the 2008 presidential primary season. He’s also an outspoken libertarian and a man who is as forthright as he is bold.
He amassed a huge following of libertarians and Tea Party activists for precisely these reasons. It also helped that during the primary, he was running against Trey Grayson, a candidate cherry-picked by the Republican establishment. Tea Partiers consider the Republican establishment in Washington as largely ineffective, especially when combating the perceived liberal agenda of Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats.
It’s no surprise, then, that while the political establishment goes haywire about Paul’s statement on the Civil Rights Act, Tea Partiers grow more enamored with him. Paul has been steadfast and consistent in his answer, not being swayed or deterred by the pressure to be political correct. He has always stated his support in limited government intervention, especially when it comes to private business, even if the private business chooses to despicably discriminate based on race, sex, religion, etc.
To understand Paul and his political power is to understand the finer edges of the Tea Party movement. While the rougher edges of Tea Partiers still exist, with constant high-pitched screams comparing Obama to Hitler, Paul represents how the Tea Party ideology can coalesce to something professional and smart. If more of the Tea Party movement goes in the way of Rand Paul, it could become a more sustainable political movement, regardless of the unpopular positions he chooses to express during interviews with Rachel Maddow.
Jon Wong is a UCI alumnus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.