Rand Paul is not your “typical” Republican, except on almost every single issue except for drugs, drones and spying.
And that’s something all Americans – especially all progressives – need to remember heading into 2016.
As veteran Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore points out today in a piece for Talking Points Memo, Rand Paul won’t try to win a presidential election the way Ted Cruz will try to win one.
He won’t just rely on the same old conservative base to boost his popularity; he’ll try to attract new voters to the conservative cause, and he’ll do this by emphasizing how different he is from other Republicans on key issues like NSA spying, drones and the drug war.
At the same time, though, Rand Paul will stick to his far-right roots on economic issues.
By doing this, Kilgore writes, “Paul offers limited-government conservatives an interesting bargain: They can take America right back to the economic and social policies of the Coolidge Administration – if they give up spying on, imprisoning and sending off to war young people and minorities.”
In other words, Rand Paul is going to give Republicans everything they’ve ever wanted on economic issues as long as they make a few concessions on national security, foreign policy and criminal justice.
But here’s the thing: Paul isn’t just offering this bargain to conservatives – he’s also offering it to the entire country.
By calling himself a “different kind of Republican,” and highlighting his supposedly bold stances on drones, drugs and spying, he’s trying to trick everyday voters into supporting his right-wing economic policies.
And when I say Rand Paul supports some unreal right-wing economic policies, I mean really unreal.
Not only does he want to do away with Medicare and Social Security, he also supports going back to the “Lochner era,” when the Supreme Court banned child labor laws and basically made life a living hell for the US worker.
So ultimately, Rand Paul is giving US voters a choice, even if they don’t know they’re being offered one.
If they let “President Paul” bring back the Lochner era and turn the US into a testing ground for the most outlandish libertarian ideas around, he’ll bring the troops home, stop the government from spying on innocent civilians, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll decriminalize pot as well.
Of course, we probably won’t hear a lot about the Lochner era during Senator Paul’s upcoming trips to New Hampshire and Iowa.
And that’s the really the big issue here.
Because Rand Paul has spoken out so publicly against NSA spying, drones and the war on drugs, he’s gained a following of sorts on the left.
There are probably even some progressives who would vote for him over Hillary Clinton.
But that would be a huge mistake.
Progressives have every right to be angry at the Obama administration for doubling down on the worst parts of Bush’s war on terror, but the solution is not a President Rand Paul.
The solution is for the Democratic Party to go back to its progressive roots.
Real Democrats like Dennis Kucinich have been calling out the security state for decades.
All progressives need to do to put their party on the right track again is to embrace people like Dennis Kucinich and the principles they stand for.
While a Rand Paul presidency might see, say, an end to metadata collection, the bad would far outweigh the good, and we might just see an end to the New Deal.
So by all means, support Sen. Rand Paul’s work in the Senate to reform the security state and the criminal justice system.
But be careful about the bargain he’s offering as part of his presidential campaign, because it’s not so much a bargain as it is a good old-fashioned bait-and-switch.