Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Rand Paul Wants to Revamp GOP

Jonathan wrote last week about Rand Paul’s 2016 ambitions, and what this means for the pro-Israel GOP. Now get ready for what Politico dubs the “Rand Paul evolution,” the younger Paul’s effort to steer the GOP in the direction championed by his father:

In an interview with POLITICO, Paul said he’ll return to Congress this week pushing measures long avoided by his party. He wants to work with liberal Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Republicans to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for pot possession. He wants to carve a compromise immigration plan with an “eventual path” to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a proposal he believes could be palatable to conservatives. And he believes his ideas — along with pushing for less U.S. military intervention in conflicts overseas — could help the GOP broaden its tent and appeal to crucial voting blocs that handed Democrats big wins in the West Coast, the Northeast and along the Great Lakes.

“We have three big regions where we’re not competitive,” Paul said. “And we have to be competitive in those regions.” ….

 Now, Paul appears to want a more influential role in his party than simply the bomb-throwing back-bencher with a penchant for grabbing headlines. Unlike his father, retiring Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who toiled on the GOP fringes for years and battled with the party establishment, the younger Paul seems to have developed political savvy in dealing with GOP leaders.

As Politico notes, Paul hasn’t had much legislative luck with the “tea party agenda” he campaigned on in 2010. But Paul is trying to take a leading role Congress’s illegal immigration debate. His proposal calls for coupling a long-term “path to citizenship” with a concurrent total lockdown on legal immigration. In other words, a plan that rewards illegal immigrants while punishing foreigners who want to come to the U.S. legally.

Politico also reports that Paul has forged a close relationship with GOP Senate leadership:

The establishment has also brought Paul into the fold. Jesse Benton, a former political aide to both Pauls, is running Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign in 2014. McConnell and Rand Paul have become increasingly close political allies after the minority leader strongly backed Paul’s primary challenger in 2010. McConnell needs the energy of the younger, conservative Libertarian-minded voters in his state, while Paul could use the blessing from the GOP leader as he lays the groundwork for a possible run for national office in 2016. 

Paul seems to be trying to rebrand himself as a conduit between the grassroots and GOP establishment. The story doesn’t mention anything new or specific he’s proposing that relates directly to foreign policy, and I actually wonder if he’ll downplay his non-interventionist positions for the next few years as he prepares for a presidential run. The Senate GOP establishment may be willing to overlook his fringe foreign policy views as long as he doesn’t spotlight them, but they’re still going to exist in 2016.