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The Tea Party Goes to Washington
by Rand Paul
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This book is Rand Paul's autobiography and memoir of his Senate race in 2010. But it's also an important contribution to understanding the Tea Party. We read this book, in part, with Paul as a Tea Party spokesperson instead of just writing about his own politics.
Sen. Paul claims (p. 86-88) that he was the first Tea Party candidate to win a statewide race. Well, that's an exciting statement, but only true if one looks at it in just the right way. Mike Lee was elected statewide in Utah on the same night, but one time zone west of Paul's Kentucky, so technically Paul was first. Marco Rubio was also elected statewide in Florida on the same night, and in the same pair of time zones, but the polls in Florida closed later than those in Kentucky, so again Paul is technically correct. Scott Brown was elected statewide in Massachusetts months earlier, in an important Tea Party victory, but Sen. Brown does not claim the Tea Party mantle for himself. Nevertheless, Sen. Paul is an important national voice of the Tea Party movement.
So what does Rand Paul believe as Tea Party spokesperson? And more importantly, what does the Tea Party "believe", if one can attribute issue stances to a grassroots organization? Paul hated George W. Bush (p. 52), characterizing his presidency as spendthrift and warmongering; clearly most Tea Party members agree with that. Paul still hated Bush when McCain ran for president in 2008 (p. 82), and his anti-Bush feelings rubbed off onto McCain electorally. That implies that the only reason McCain didn't fare even worse in the 2008 election is that he picked the Tea Party darling Sarah Palin as his running mate, and got SOME Tea Party votes as a result. Mostly Paul hates the neoconservatives (p. 150) who dominated Bush's cabinet, and says the Tea Party hates the neocons too.
Hence Sen. Paul positions the Tea Party as part of the split in the Republican Party between the neocons and the libertarians, claiming the Tea Party is on the libertarian side. The key distinction in that split is whether one believes in a massive defense buildup: the neocons do; the libertarians don't. That distinction does not necessarily apply to the majority of the Tea Party, however: Sarah Palin (who endorsed Sen. Paul, p. 78) would build up the military; so would Sens. Lee, Brown, and Rubio, three Tea Party Senators. The key vote that would occur is whether to accept military cuts as part of a big budget cut package: Paul would certainly vote yes; those other senators MIGHT vote yes, unlike neocon Senators (like McCain) who would certainly vote no.
So is Sen. Paul wrong? Well, we consider his opinion more like "guidance" for where he'd LIKE the Tea Party to go. Of course some Tea Partiers do support military cuts, especially as part of a budget cut package. But we do think Paul has transferred his own view onto the Tea Party. Why would he do that? Let me illustrate with an interview I conducted with David Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States. The purpose of the interview was to ascertain Walker's issue stances for our VoteMatch quiz; after an hour-long verbal interview, I wrote up my interpretation of his answers to our 20-question quiz. Upon Walker's review, we determined that I had interpreted 3 out of 20 incorrectly -- and in all three cases, I transferred my own viewpoint onto Mr. Walker. It's not that I'm a bad interviewer -- that's human nature -- we interpret what we want to hear. I think Sen. Paul has done the same with the Tea Party's stance on military cuts -- Sen. Paul believes in military cuts, and assumes that the Tea Party believes the same. But my editing process corrected my personal misinterpretations of David Walker's positions -- there is no editing process for the Tea Party movement, so we'll have to wait and see if others agree with Sen. Paul or not.
That begs the question about whether Sen. Paul is a libertarian or not. He notes (p. 78) that his OPPONENTS call him a libertarian, but that he's pro-life, anti-gay-marriage, and several other stances that are counter to libertarian ideals. He is the son of Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian standard-bearer for many years now, so many people assume that Rand Paul is just as libertarian as his father. One can see an overview by observing our VoteMatch table for the two of them side-by-side:
-- Jesse Gordon, OnTheIssues editor-in-chief, July 2012
by Rand Paul.
Page last edited: Sep 04, 2012