The most interesting – and quite possibly the most important – discussion about the future of American politics took place just last week. And unless you subscribe to Glenn Beck’s The Blaze TV – of all places! - you probably missed it.
“I think Republicans will not win again in my lifetime...unless they become a new GOP, a new Republican Party,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told the lachrymose former Fox News host who now runs his own online media empire. “It has to be a transformation. Not just a little tweaking at the edges.” Not only that, says the Tea Party favorite and persistently popular 2016 presidential hopeful, the Democrats are overdue for an ideological overhaul too.
Only Team Red and Team Blue dead-enders can disagree. In January, Gallup found a historically high number of Americans – 42 percent – self-identify as politically independent. The Republican brand is totally in the crapper, with just 25 percent copping to that affiliation, and the Democrats are flatter than a leaking bottle of SodaStream seltzer, pulling just 31 percent (abandon hope, all ye who pray for Elizabeth Warren).
Neither party is clicking with voters any more. That’s despite – read: because – each party over the past dozen years has had ample opportunity to implement its preferred policies. Bush had six years of a Republican Congress and a free hand after the 9/11 attacks. Obama got everything he wanted during his first two years in office – expansion of TARP, stimulus, passage of The Affordable Care Act. The main result, other than the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression? Losing the House to the Republicans in 2010.
Since assuming office over the initial objections of the senior senator from Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2010, Rand Paul has injected an unmistakably libertarian element into national politics. He’s called for major, across-the-board cuts to federal spending, pushed back against the Great American War Machine, and punked the D.C. establishment’s love of drone attacks and secret surveillance in a kidney-busting, 13-hour filibuster that set Twitter afire like a Miley Cyrus twerkathon.
None of this has endeared him to his party’s establishment. After his filibuster (in which he was joined by Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden), John McCain dubbed him a “wacko bird” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie aspirated against Paul’s “strain of libertarianism” as “very dangerous.” Apologists for Obama’s expansive understanding of executive power and the Democratic establishment were no less sparing, writing Paul off as delusional, paranoid, and altogehter nuttier than a Baby Ruth bar.
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