“However, Rand clearly illustrated that as long as you stay true to your beliefs, it’s possible to play the game despite the gridlock, and win big.”
Senator Rand Paul has been in the news a lot lately, and unlike many in Washington and Hollywood, it’s been for good reason. As a man with libertarian beliefs, Rand Paul is a rather easy target for both the establishment right and left in America to attack, and unfortunately for him, due to his father’s prominence in the liberty movement, he also receives plenty of hate from people that you’d think would be supporting him. Rand is often dismissed as a dissident, much in the vein of Senator Ted Cruz, for his attempts to stand his ground on important issues in Congress (shocker that spineless politicians hate him for this,) but is seen as too moderate by the more liberty minded for even playing the game in the first place, and not taking a hammer to everything in sight. To be fair, I’ve even been critical of him in the past, but after these past few months, it’s fair to concede that Rand might be the one playing this game right after all. To understand this though, it’s important to take a look back at this absolutely bonkers year in politics.
Two Sides of the Same Rusted Coin
I was struck today by a Twitter thread by Mike Cernovich, which was rather indicative of how quickly our political discourse has really evaporated these past few years. In his thread, Cernovich notes how he went from being a benign legal blogger to a journalist/documentarian/online troll who played a part in the right wing alternative media zeitgeist that led us from Obama to Trump. Cernovich also notes how part of what made him so ever present in the media was that he was a right winger that wasn’t scared to call out the left on all they do wrong and importantly, drill and troll and crucify them on their hypocrisy. Despite his (worth-reading) thread, Cernovich obviously didn’t actually pioneer this, but what’s interesting is that he thinks that he did.
In the great Netflix documentary, Get Me Roger Stone, Roger and the documentarians claim that Stone is responsible for this era of political nastiness, with right wingers fighting back and mudslinging as hard as the Left has been for decades. Others have blamed figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D’Souza, Ann Coulter, Alex Jones, and even Trump himself, but all of these claims miss what’s actually happening. Political discourse has been at a gridlock since our nation’s inception, and that’s intentional.
Anyone horrified by our government and who thinks the right wing only recently grew teeth is intentionally acting ignorant to the fact that Newt Gingrich and the Republicans were vicious in the 90’s, to the point that former president Bill Clinton’s horrid private affairs became public and televised knowledge that led to his reputational destruction. Acts like this go far back as well. In the beginning of our nation’s history, in the 18th century, then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and his party attacked then-Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, forcing Hamilton to be fully audited, and exposing Hamilton’s marital affair publicly, ruining his reputation. Take your pick of a historical date, and you’ll find a similar scandal in American history. Parties have always been rather nasty to one another, but more importantly, this controversy is mostly a facade that hides the fact that while parties may disagree on issues like gay marriage or drug legalization, they almost always manage to find bipartisan support in war, taxation, and the expansion of the federal government.
When this is taken into account, the only thing that’s different then really is that we as a public are much more immersed in all of this controversy, and we have an even more active role in participating in it. Due to politicians and society choosing to align themselves with corporate technology oligarchies like Facebook and Twitter, there are very clear digital forums where our collective speech takes place and ideas are exchanged, and it’s on these digital platforms that we’ve seen some amazing things this past year alone.
Former rock stars on the left have essentially all melted down publicly in 2018, which is rather incredible. Remember Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA fiasco, where her 1/1024 Native American heritage showed she was an absolute liar for decades? How about the rise and fall of Michael Avenatti, who got thousands of hours of open air time for exploiting Stormy Daniels, only to get absolutely ruined by IRS scandals and domestic abuse? Even better, how about Dianne Feinstein’s Chinese spy fiasco, or her absolute defeat in regards to the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh? Choose a famous political figure on the left, and they’ve been all but destroyed by even their own media outlets, to the point that we’re going into 2019 and there’s no obvious choice at all for who will be the Democrat running against Trump in 2020.
Something that people haven’t noticed though, is that the Right took a huge beating this year as well. People have pretended as if the American Right can continue to exist as both the old-guard corporate neocon Bushies of the past, and the new-wave populist alt-right-friendly party of Trump at the same time, but this is being proven ever more untrue. The beliefs of the Bushes and Buckley and the neocons have been dying rather rapidly (and rather literally), and it isn’t because there’s a lack of elites passing the torch. Hilariously, if you read the op-eds in National Review, neocons like Jonah Goldberg are obviously suffering an identity crisis, pedantically trying to distance themselves from the negative connotations of the word “neocon”, only to then reveal that they are indeed, neocons. Many of the so-called right-wing intellectuals that make the rounds on Fox News and National Review are exactly what we’ve thought they were, war-hungry globalists, with slightly right-of-center social values.
In just a matter of months, we saw the death of the Weekly Standard, criminal justice reform, the resignation of several war-hungry Trump cabinet members, a removal of troops in Syria, and a commitment to ease relations in the Middle East, all of which are polar opposites of both Obama and W. Bush’s policies as president. As Tucker Carlson has been expertly pointing out with the release of his new book, Ship of Fools, the American people have woken up to the fact that there really isn’t a party representing the bulk of Americans today, and this has opened up a golden opportunity for Trump, and figures like him to make waves. Just look at the latest columns in any right or left wing paper, and you’ll note that the headlines in response to the accomplishments I listed above are met with absolute disgust, with many claiming that Trump is harming the country by listening to his base.
With both sides essentially being found guilty by public opinion at all times, things are actually going to have to change, or else revolution will unironically happen. We see this intense pressure in brawls at universities like Berkeley and NYU, and in the similar scenario that France faces with the Yellow-Vest riots. In all of this, media pundits have needed somebody other than Trump to explain why the American people could possibly have these desires, and how the political establishment has lost so much control seemingly overnight. It’s rather interesting then, that all of these pundits are speaking to Senator Rand Paul.
Rand’s Time to Shine
Multiple articles have been written in the past two years that have quietly highlighted how much influence Rand Paul was having with President Trump, and with members of the Democratic party in Congress. While RINO’s like McConnell and Graham only recently started listening to their base with the recent SCOTUS appointments, Rand’s been standing up for issues like criminal justice reform and being anti-war since the beginning. Almost everybody in Washington has been forced to show their true colors with this scandal heavy culture, and it’s in all of this that we realize who hasn’t had to flop in order to stay safe and/or relevant. Being consistent has obviously won Rand points in this regard, and it’s clear that he’s been cashing them in. All of these rather libertarian victories at the end of the year are a direct result of this influence, with more conservative objectives like immigration reform and the border wall have been met with failure.
What makes this so important is that the liberty movement is rather adverse to believing that there’s any value in playing the political game. To many, this wacky system needs to be destroyed in every aspect possible, and the only value to somebody like Trump is to create so much gridlock that eventually no bill is able to pass, and more and more government shutdowns-like the one we’re currently in-continue to happen. However, Rand clearly illustrated that as long as you stay true to your beliefs, it’s possible to play the game despite the gridlock, and win big.
In playing the game like this, it’s easy to see how Rand’s strategy could be effective should a Democrat win in 2020 or beyond. A Democratic president is bound to be isolated by their party due to the staunch moderate Senate but dangerously left-leaning House, meaning that we’re bound to see further gridlock with future issues like healthcare, infrastructure, immigration, and more. While the elites debate these issues, the president will be desperate for counsel and bipartisan support, and that’s where the libertarian policies come in. Knowing this, wouldn’t it be grand if it wasn’t just Rand Paul at the president’s ear, but deficit hawks, anti-war activists, and scholars with economic sense?
Don’t mistake this for blind optimism, it needs to be understood that this gridlock we’re facing isn’t unique to Trump. It’s our future. While we saw absolute stagnation and decay under Obama, we’re seeing how this can be used to our advantage under Trump. By bringing the way too powerful federal government to a standstill, and by freeing up the American people, we as a nation might understand the value of federalism again, turning to state and local governments to get things done. Should those stagnate, we reduce and privatize more and more, increasing liberty at each step. Really, the good political news we received at the end of this year wasn’t accidental, but it also wasn’t the result of genius. Instead, it was an example of how if libertarians play their cards right, they can utilize our inevitably polarizing governmental system to sneak in victories, that when you add them all up, are welcome steps in the right direction, especially for a country that has been in retrograde for too long.