If just for a second you set aside how he would ever get past the primaries (just as we must do when we talk about Bernie surviving the Clinton-industrial complex), consider that, at this point anyway, Rand is creating a lane for himself. That’s not the same thing as a path to victory, but it’s real fucking important.
In his brilliant diary of his campaign for governor of New York, Mario Cuomo spent quite a bit of ink on explaining his “rationale for office.” For Cuomo this was the first and single most important question he had to answer for himself before he could run a successful campaign.
Obviously, in the wake of the disintegration of Ted Kennedy’s 1980 campaign for nomination against incumbent Jimmy Carter following a horrible interview in which Kennedy stared in blank silence and then babbled incoherent nonsense for a painful minute or two in response to Roger Mudd’s simple (but, at that time, not all that obvious) question “Why do you want to be president?”, Cuomo thought it wise to be ready for such a question himself.
But, as he discussed it in his book, Cuomo also had something more fundamental and important in mind: A credible candidate must know what significant ends s/he will achieve in office that could not or would not be achieved by other contestants for that office.
On the Republican side of the field, despite stylistic differences and minor variations of emphasis and market segment appeal, it’s hard to understand why, other than ambition, half of them feel like they need to hold the office of President of the United States, since the other half are pretty much the same set of guys (well, Carly Fiorina isn’t a guy; on the other hand, her rationale pretty much overlaps Donald Trump’s: None-too-bright, not terribly successful business exec with a chip on the shoulder who is embarrassingly inept at campaigning– Trump video…Fiorina video).
As for the Democratic side, Bernie clearly has a rationale for office. And Hilary well may too, but just this week, she has actually been lauded in America’s now supine media for actually telling an audience that her reason for running is, in effect, just ambition to be president.
In the case of Rand Paul, only he would use the office to fundamentally change how we approach war fighting (which we have gotten used to treating, somewhat alarmingly, as identical to “foreign policy”) and national security. And while he has not made clear how the office of the presidency could be used to reduce rates of incarceration, particularly for Black men, he has made it a centerpiece of his campaign, unlike any other candidate in the field.
And beyond handicapping his chances for victory, his campaign now is accomplishing something valuable for the GOP (and, indirectly, for presidential politics more broadly). He is clarifying the ideological framework of conservative/Republican presidential politics. For 40 years, the “conservative movement” has posed as the force moving the GOP to stake its place as “the party of small government.” Paul’s stance against the party’s reflexive warmongering and imperialism and his eagerness to undo the most egregious elements of the national security state brought into being by the Patriot Act, as well as the civil liberties rationale he offers to explain his desire to reverse the nation’s unprecedented rates of incarceration, rip the mask off the Republican and conservative masquerade of hostility to “big government” and its alleged infringements on liberty. Paul makes clear what real small government ideology actually entails, thus making clear the truth that the modern GOP is only hostile to government infringements on the liberties of corporations and business owners, not citizens as such.
Indeed, Paul’s threat to the façade of conservative ideology is so real that the Republican Party media operation known as Fox News is systematically working to make sure that Paul does not make it into the GOP primary debate roster (skim these two articles [one article, the other article] and see if you can connect the dots. Hint: if the debate host gets to use the candidates’ polling status as the basis for who gets an invitation, it will be difficult to get a spot for the presidential debates if for some reason you are not included in the polls…)
Okay. For a certainty, I would eat my hand before I would let it pull the lever for Rand Paul. But unless Sanders somehow pulls off a revolution and gets on the ballot for the general, my vote will be entirely one more vote against a Republican. And I doubt I will be alone. So we should be glad that Paul’s chances of making it past the GOP gatekeepers are lower than Hilary Clinton taking an oath not to appoint Goldman Sachs hacks in her administration. Because, on the salient issues, for anti-war, anti-security state progressives, Paul might not have quite the scare factor that Hillary will need to rely on for their turnout. And for younger voters, Paul could be quite appealing on the merits.
 It remains a mystery how the son of such a brilliant and stalwart liberal leader and skillful governor turned out to be such an odious piece of shit…
 In the more savvy (cynical) parlance of contemporary politics we talk about the candidates’ need to do what other branded products must do: “differentiate” and “take advantage of market segmentation” (::vomits::). In other words, especially in a crowded field, each candidate must establish a separate lane in which to run the race. But Cuomo was sincere about his need to understand what made it necessary for him in particular to be the governor of New York.