Rand Paul co-opted by Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment

Paul and McConnell caught by a hot mic discussing their strategy regarding the government shutdown

HOUSTON, April 5, 2014 — Most Republican politicians who run for national office make conservative promises and claims to get elected. Once they arrive in Washington, facing the unbelievably corrupting influence of the GOP establishment, those politicians turn into moderates who will do whatever the party leaders demand, regardless of their own true values and principles.

In 2010, when Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was elected, many people thought that he was different, possibly even immune to the overwhelming power of the GOP establishment to co-opt even the most principled conservative.

Unfortunately, beneath the Tea Party and libertarian facade, Paul is proving himself to be just another pretender.

One year ago, Rand Paul gained a ground swell of support after his 13-hour filibuster attacking the Obama administration’s drone policy. It was a brilliant political move, gaining him support from both the Tea Party wing of the Republican party and the GOP establishment at the same time. Libertarian-leaning Americans believed they had finally found a national politician who represented their values.

Less than one year later, it has become apparent that Paul is not the tireless soldier in the battle against Big Government that he claims to be. He has switched positions on several critical issues in order to align himself with the GOP establishment, in the hopes that they will support him during his presumed 2016 presidential run.

To completely comprehend how Rand Paul has abandoned many of the values and beliefs that made him a hero to conservative Americans, it is crucial to understand what the “GOP establishment” actually is. About.com defines it:

“the permanent political class and structure that makes up the Republican Party. The establishment tends to control the rules of the party system, party elections, and funding disbursements. The establishment is typically viewed as more elitist, politically moderate, and out-of-touch with conservative voters.”

The establishment does not prioritize conservative values. Instead, they follow the polls and change their positions on critical issues based on what is best for “the party” at that specific moment. The establishment rewards those who have been most loyal to the party when assigning committee positions in Congress or choosing congressional candidates to support.

Holding strong on conservative values and beliefs that we know can lift this country up is not a priority of the establishment. They benefit from the status quo and are just as upset as the Democrats are when truly principled conservatives refuse to do as they are told.

From the perspective of someone planning to run for the presidency, it is a smart move to cozy up to the GOP establishment, but for Paul’s supporters, it’s disturbing. Americans who were so excited to support a man who they believed was unafraid to represent libertarian values in the face of the establishment have to be concerned about Paul’s compromises.

During Paul’s Senate campaign in 2009 and 2010, he adamantly supported term limits for U.S. representatives and senators. In November, 2009 his campaign released this statement:

“More than 95% of incumbent politicians win re-election to the US Congress. Incumbents win re-election at a higher rate than they did in the Soviet Politburo… With each successive term, politicians grow more and more distant from the people. Long term incumbency leads to politicians who seem to care more about what is best for their career than what is best for their country. I hope you will help both the Term Limits movement and the country by supporting my campaign for the US Senate.”

Paul’s support for term limits was widely accepted across Kentucky and across the country. Since joining the Senate club, however, some of his actions strongly indicate that he has evolved on this issue.

In March, 2013 Paul endorsed Mitch McConnell for Senate in Kentucky. McConnell has been in the Senate for 30 years. He represents everything that is wrong with establishment politicians, but he carries a lot of clout and could help to direct support and donations for Paul’s almost certain 2016 presidential run. Politically, it may benefit Paul, but this endorsement is contrary to many, many of the positions and values he advocated during his 2010 run for Senate.

When McConnell recently said that he wants to “crush” conservatives and Tea Party challengers, Paul refused to repudiate his comments.

In 2010, Paul campaigned on the promise that he would never accept money from any senator who voted for the TARP bailouts, one of the main catalysts for the rise of the Tea Party. However, just 24 days after he won the Republican nomination, he allowed McConnell to host a fundraiser for him in Washington. McConnell was not only one of the main authors of the TARP bill, he also took to the floor of the Senate to beg his Republican colleagues to pass it. This taste of establishment money may have been the corrupting influence that led to further unprincipled decisions.

Paul flip-flopped on supporting a path to citizenship, and again on providing another extension to unemployment benefits, thus aligning himself more closely with the positions of McConnell and the establishment. Paul stayed silent in Ted Cruz and Mike Lee’s fight to defund Obamacare and Cruz’s battle to couple the most recent debt ceiling hike with some sort of spending cuts. Paul silently voted for a clean debt ceiling hike, giving Obama a blank $2 trillion check, after campaigning against the wasteful Washington spending.

Rand Paul is courting McConnell and the establishment. This will benefit him in his likely attempt to win the Republican nomination for president in 2016, but it is time that conservative and libertarian-minded Republicans realize that he has been co-opted by the establishment. He has no problem placing his principles second to the demands of Mitch McConnell and the rest of the ruling class.

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  • Info Enthusiast

    Alex Jones says that Rand Paul is just pretending to be neocon on some issues because Rand knows that to win an election he will need the establishments support. If he acts too much like his father they will destroy him.

    Give him credit for voting against the Ukraine aid.

    • Centaur927

      As long as Alex Jones continues supporting him, even covertly, Rand has no chance.

    • CallMeHoss

      >Alex Jones says that Rand Paul is just pretending to be neocon

      So in other words, he’s just another dishonest politician, right?

  • Thank you for the clarification of Rand Paul, whom I like as a candidate but would prefer someone who does not support Mitch McConnell. Perhaps Rand can strengthen his support from me if Mitch loses his seat.

  • Erin

    So Sen. Paul is now a darling of the establishment because he has a close relationship with his fellow state Senator and a major (if not “the”) party leader? Huh.

    Any potential GOP nominee will rightly seek the help and approval of party leaders. I do not see any legitimate evidence of Sen. Paul sacrificing his integrity as a legislator. (Indeed, who just voted against –well, everyone– on the Ukraine bill?) Try again.

  • Very well written, and a perfectly understandable sentiment. However, its important to point out that your critique of senator Paul is representative of the debate between purists and pragmatists that has been raging within libertarianism for decades. You see his moderate concessions as inherently negative, but I’d like to offer a couple pragmatic counterpoints before we all condemn him.

    First, there is nothing innately un-libertarian or anti-conservative about forming alliances with people like Mitch McConnell who, despite their philosophical impurity and past transgressions against libertarian ideals, may play an important role in spreading those ideas in the future (i.e. helping sen. Paul). Expect many more such alliances along the way, and welcome them.

    Secondly, there is nothing unethical, in my opinion, about accepting money or support from people we aren’t in perfect agreement with (otherwise each candidate would raise enough money for exactly one yard sign). Ron Paul was endorsed by hordes of unsavory characters, and his response to criticism was dead on. He essentially said their endorsement of him should not be misconstrued as his endorsement of them. Take the money and use it for good.

    To the extent that he seems to be distancing himself from (rather trivial) statements he made on the campaign trail, he deserves to be criticized. But if the contention is that he’s a sell-out politician contaminated by Washington, I think its a rather weak argument.