Rand Paul er en kommende stjerne på den konservative scenen i USA. Senatoren fra Kentucky er motstander av the Security State, av blanco-fullmakter til overvåking. Mens de toneangivende i det republikanske parti hittil har vært for Big government og overgått demokratene i bevilgninger til krigen mot terror, en type neoconservative, er trenden nå i retning grunnlovsvern, konstitusjonalisme.
Denne grunnlovstanken, som er forbundet med grasrot-patriotisme, har en appell blant amerikanere som går ut over partigrenser. USA ble grunnlagt som et opprør mot big government, og ut fra at ønske om å følge sin egen samvittighet. Den «overlat det i våre hender»-overbærenhet som Obama-administrasjonen står for, skurrer kraftig i amerikanske hører.
Tim Stanley bemerker i Telegraph at NSA-skandalen gir Rand Paul rett. Det var all mulig grunn til å være skeptisk til blancofullmaktene.
There are now two distinct groups emerging within the GOP: the security state champions led by senators Graham and McCain and the small state folks being drawn to senator Rand Paul. The Graham/McCain nexus used to be the moral core of the Republican Party back in the War on Terror days, the kind of people who would make political ads full of eagles and flags, talk a lot about “homeland security” and tie the whole package up with a paradoxical promise of more war and lower taxes. But they are yesterday’s men. Not only does the public not trust these folks to manage the economy but they have also been undone by the Prism revelations. The Graham/McCain argument is that we need the mass collection of data to prevent atrocities like Fort Hood and Boston. Only problem with that: we had the mass collection of data and Fort Hood and Boston happened anyway. American voters might be happy to swap 100 per cent liberty for 100 per cent security, but they haven’t been given that 100 per cent security. What they have got is NSA agents perusing their emails and TSA agents copping a feel.
By contrast, the Randian argument has been legitimised by the big government scandals. On reflection, it’s fair to say that the Paulite libertarian experiment started too early. When Ron Paul ran for the nomination in 2008 his ideas were assaulted from two sides: a) the War on Terror was ongoing and Republicans weren’t in the mood to have it criticised and b) everyone panicked when the Credit Crunch hit and the common attitude was that we needed more regulation not less. Ron Paul wasn’t just a lone voice in the wilderness, he also looked and sounded a little crazy – lecturing and jabbering where some cool soundbites would’ve been more useful. Things were better for him 2012 because the Tea Party movement had begun to shift the Republicans away from welfarism and back towards constitutionalism. But the time still wasn’t right: the GOP wasn’t prepared to give up on the Bush/neocon inheritance just yet.
The recent scandals change all that. Hitherto the conservative case for civil liberties was pushed by a small minority of Republicans and felt like a niche libertarian issue. Now, it’s something that makes the headlines and it validates many of the concerns about the scale of internal surveillance that the Paulites were talking about for years. To clarify, almost no one is against any surveillance: surveillance is unavoidable in a society as electronically integrated as our own and it is necessary in some circumstances to catch the bad guys.
But what’s changed is that the public now sees that state power has grown to proportions previously unthinkable and that it has the potential to be abused. Indeed, it is being abused. The discovery that the IRS was harassing Tea Party groups and the DOJ was hounding journalists all points to government as Leviathan. Combine this fear about the existential threat of government with the very real, material threat of spiking premiums for health insurance thanks to Obamacare and you suddenly get the perfect recipe for a libertarian backlash. Enter Rand Paul.
As Jim Antle points out, for the first time in a very long time the Right is using libertarian rhetoric. It’s partly to do with being out of government, which frees conservatives to criticise its every error – economic and military. It’s partly to do with frustration directed at this particular president, a man who spends like there’s no tomorrow. It’s also partly to do with an implicit rejection of the Republicanism of the past – a recognition, like the one Senator DeMint makes, that Bush was the one who gave us Medicare Part D and the Patriot Act. But it intellectually all comes down to this: the simplest solution to the myriad of problems facing the republic is to return to the spirit and the limits of the Constitution. Of course, that Constitution requires a presidential leadership figure to make political change happen – which is why all eyes are on Rand Paul and his obvious desire to occupy the White House. And it’s why grassroots conservatives are grateful that he’s proven himself not to be a fruitcake. By visiting Israel, making the right noises about missile defence and highlighting where libertarianism matches the spiritual needs of the GOP (guns, healthcare, taxes), Senator Paul has slowly pushed himself to the front row of the Republican presidential pre-contest. He and Rubio are the ones to watch.