On April 7, 2015 Rand Paul announced his presidential campaign from The Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Read further to learn more about Paul himself and the political message he promotes.
Born in Pennsylvania and rasied in Texas, Rand Paul is the middle child of five. His father, Ronlad Ernest “Ron” Paul, was a physician and 14th District congressman in Texas. He felt strongly about libertarianism and individual rights, both of which were major ideologies within the household. In 2008 he ran for president with the support of a fervent grassroots following, but withdrew his nomination after losing the primaries. He ran once again in 2012 but, due to lack in funding, failed to campaign effectively and lost. In both cases Ron Paul ran under the Republican party, but did not necessarily align with their agenda. His refusal to endorse the party was evident during both campaigns. Past events in Paul’s political career communicated his disparities towards the Republicans. The most poignant of which was reflected in a scathing critique he offered on former president Ronald Reagan:
“Since 1981, however, I have gradually and steadily grown weary of the Republican Party’s efforts to reduce the size of the federal government. Since then Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party have given us skyrocketing deficits, and astoundingly a doubled national debt. How is it that the party of balanced budgets, with control of the White House and Senate, accumulated red ink greater than all previous administrations put together?”
– Ron Paul, 1987, Resignation Letter to the Republican National Committee
It is necessary to discuss Ron before Rand because the former considerably influenced the latter. Rand Paul followed the footsteps of his father in an ideological and occupational fashion: both express a keen fascination towards the Austrian School (a doctrine of economic philosophy) and both studied medicine, only to become politicians.
Rand Paul grew up witnessing the evolution of his father’s political career. He even played a direct role by interning for his congressional office. However, he did not immediately delve into the political realm. Although his membership to the Young Conservatives of Texas at Baylor University showed an interest towards politics, he went on to pursue medicinal affairs instead. After leaving Baylor early in 1984, he was accepted into the Duke University School of Medicine and received his M.D. in 1988. He completed a residency in ophthalmology (anatomy of the eye) in 1993 and moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was here where he established an identity as a skilled eye doctor specializing in cataract and glaucoma surgeries. He went on to found the Southern Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic in 1995 for families and individuals in dire need of eye care.
Paul’s forray into politics didn’t begin until 2009. Jim Bunning, the current Republican sentaor of Kentucky at the time, was facing issues with funding and general approval. Rand Paul was aware of these issues and, with the endorsement of his father, hinted at a possible run during a Tea Party rally in his hometown. He also formed an exploratory committee in regards to the opportunity. When Bunning announced that he was not going to run for reelection, Paul and Secretary of State Trey Greyson acted as the two remaining candidates for the Republican nomination. Paul won the Republican Senatorial primary against Grayson and went on to defeat Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in the general election, thus securing his position in the Senate.
It is important to note that, like his father, Rand Paul runs as a Republican but is not stricly defined as such. Responses to Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address acts as an allegory-of-sorts to exempify this position. Since the 60s, it has become common for politicians to offer personal and party-specific reponses to the State of the Union address. When the Tea Party offered their response, it was Paul who delivered, whereas Marco Rubio responded under the Republicans.
Paul is very much the outlier of his party but ideas such as smaller government are key components to his campaign. In his candidacy speech he cited a government restrained by the constitution and a congressional body in desperate need of reformation. In fact, “government restraint” is a massive cog in the Rand Paul political machinery. The same speech contained several references to his disappointment with Washington, calling it “horribly broken.” He even directly attacks what he sees as a disparaging government body in his campaign motto: “Defeat the Washington Machine, Unleash the American Dream.” The second half of that motto provides perspective on his desire for absolute freedom and liberty. Cracking down on the war on drugs via decriminilization of marijuana and restoring voting rights to felons are indicators of a strongly Libertarian influenced agenda. He is also a strong believer in economic reinvigration. So much so that he proposed billion dollar stimuluses for poor areas like Detroit and Appalachia. However, when American soil is not concerned, he seems to have a more reserved, diplomatic viewpoint. “I see in America strong enough to deter foreign aggression, yet wise enough avoid uncecessary intervention,” he said on foreign policy during the candidacy announcement.
The spirit and charisma of the “President Paul” chant during his candidacy annoucement can convince anyone that there is something going on here. Paul is a serious player in the Republican party. His demographic is flexible and non-restrictive. However, it is his uniqueness as a Libertarian-aligning Tea Partier that may cause his downfall as well. Some Americans may find it hard to relate with his position and, consequently, view him as an “outsider” with no defined allegiance towards either major party. It is in the hands of Rand Paul to capitalize on a sense of universal appeal to the American people.