He’s one of TIME magazine’s 100 influential people this year. He’s become the most revolutionary figure in Republican politics as his influence permeates the permanent political class. And in the future, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.) could very well become the new face of the Grand Old Party.
Paul’s evolution from persona non grata to political heavyweight in the Senate began when he entered the national spotlight this past March. Paul filibustered John Brennan’s nomination as CIA chief in order to increase transparency about the government’s use of drones. His actions ignited the conservative, and especially the libertarian, base; polls indicate that 79 percent of Americans supported his actions, which effectively launched his political career.
Paul’s meteoric rise has been anything but comforting to many conventional GOP foreign policy hawks who distrust his isolationist worldview. Among these conventional figures is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who claims he’ll have a tough time deciding between Paul and Hillary Clinton if they become the presidential nominees in 2016.
But there’s a deeper issue at play in Rand’s rise, besides irking the old guard.
Independent of his policy beliefs, Paul’s message is clear and his vision compelling. At a time when the party runs a significant intellectual deficit, Paul’s willingness to challenge conventional thinking is refreshing. According to the Washington Post, “Paul, in short, seems to be a step or two in front of the ongoing transformation of the Republican Party from a hawkish conservatism to a sort of populist libertarianism.”
While many on the left and some on the right see Rand Paul’s ascendance as a further sign of the Republican Party’s departure from reality, his evolution into a savvy legislator and his expanding influence within the party should be embraced.
Paul certainly isn’t your typical Republican, but his diverse profile is something the party should consider emulating.
The GOP has identified inclusivity as a growth area key to its success in future elections, but party leaders have yet to clearly define how they plan to bring this about. Rand Paul articulates a brand of populist conservatism which is dynamic in design and attractive to millions not previously aligned with the Republican Party. As such, he could be the revolutionary figure whose platform attracts voters who are only one issue — and maybe a few tax brackets — away from voting Republican.
Paul offers a fresh brand of conservatism which embraces independence and diversity. Whether or not he runs for president in 2016, his presence within the GOP can only increase the possibility of Republican success in future national elections.
One thing is for sure. Rand Paul and others like him are now responsible for the action within the Republican Party; the establishment now merely reacts.
—Nathan Williams is a sophomore studying economics and political science