One of the most memorable moments for Rand Paul in the second Republican Debate at the Reagan Library would unfortunately have to be Donald Trump’s rather flagrant criticism of his physical appearance. Trump’s remarks carelessly emerged not long after he made a similar jab at Carly Fiorina, saying, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”
While it is unclear what Donald Trump to be a valid critic of appearances, it is also unclear, according to Paul, what it is that makes him a valid candidate for the Presidency. As Paul remarked during the second Republican Debate, just prior to Trump’s criticism of his appearance, “I’m very concerned about having him in charge of the nuclear weapons [because of his tendency to] attack people on their appearance.”
Indeed, much of Paul’s time in the spot-light has been due to him constantly being at odds with Trump. Paul’s presidential campaign, however, certainly deserves attention beyond what his uncomfortable positions in the Republican Presidential Debates have given him.
Paul officially declared his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential race on April 7, 2015, saying to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters, “The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped.”
When giving his announcement back in April, Paul was the second major candidate to officially announce his participation in the 2016 Presidential race, following Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who announced his bid on March 23. Ideologically, the Kentucky senator and son of Ron Paul is a self-described Tea Party advocate who, like the remainder of the Republican candidates, is running on a platform that discusses issues such as tax reform, federal spending, reform of the criminal justice system, and, of course, immigration reform. Unlike the remainder of his party, however, Paul is a fierce libertarian, and has consistently pushed, throughout both his presidential candidacy and his time as Senator, for the removal of federal government interventions in a number of spheres affecting American citizens.
One of Paul’s most interesting political stunts, for example, was his leadership in a nearly 13 hour filibuster in the Senate in 2013. Paul spoke out against the controversial use of unmanned aerial drones in conflicts against terrorism. The uncertainty of the limits placed on the use of drones against terrorism, Paul argued, was vulnerable to serious abuse, seeing that there seemed to be no guarantee that drones could not be used flippantly against suspected targets and even against domestic ones.
“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul began, “until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime.”
Paul’s filibuster resulted in a widespread attack against the Obama administration for the uncertainty of the parameters of its drone use, and against its refusal to rule out the use of drone strikes on American soil. Ultimately, many of Paul’s colleagues joined in to support his impromptu filibuster, and the act earned him considerable attention in the political sphere.
Considering the nature of Paul’s filibuster stunt, it is not terribly surprising that one of the bases for his 2016 Presidential platform calls for an end to NSA’s bulk collection of American citizens’ personal data.
As Paul remarks, “The founding fathers would be ashamed if they could see the massive growth of government that has taken place at the expense of our constitutional liberties.” Paul suggests that these invasive methods of inquiry into American citizens’ lives are not justified by concerns over national security, and that “[t]his domestic NSA spying is simply not acceptable in a free society.”
In the same vein of libertarianism, Paul has also joined with a decent sum of bipartisan leaders by pushing for an extensive reform of the criminal justice system. According to Paul, the United States’ current methods in the sphere of criminal justice are largely to blame for a dramatic rise in the national rate of incarceration per capita. The rise has made the United States the leading incarcerator in the industrial world.
“Although I was born into the America that experiences and believes in opportunity,” says Paul, “my trips to Ferguson, Detroit, Atlanta, and Chicago have revealed that there is an undercurrent of unease brought forth by our unjust criminal justice system.” Paul’s proposed solutions to America’s criminal justice system include expungement of records for non-violent juveniles, departure from mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the treatment of simple possessions of controlled substances as misdemeanors rather than felonies, and a thorough review of civil forfeiture laws.
Although Paul’s status as an intensely conservative libertarian is exactly what makes him popular among his supporters, it is also what makes his ascension to the office of President unlikely. Some of his opponents have used his libertarian views as ammunition against him, and a recent article appearing in Salon, written by Conor Lynch, even goes so far as to say that Paul “is beginning to resemble a teenage malcontent who just discovered ‘Atlas Shrugged.’”
Although Paul has been slowly rising in the polls throughout the Republican Presidential race, he currently retains only about 3.2% in the polls, compared to Trump’s 27% and Carson’s 21%, making him 8th in the race, behind Huckabee at 4%. Indeed, Paul’s odds are not looking stellar, but his extensive participation in the Republican Presidential race has added a uniquely conservative libertarian voice to the field, and his conflict with Trump and others has helped in defining a number of key issues in the race.
-Austin Wash ’16, Senior Politics/Opinions Editor