Commentary by Erin McCormick
The grand thing about the United States is that we are guaranteed freedom of speech, and we can think and outwardly state nearly anything we so choose. It is a privilege that many around the world do not get to enjoy, and we Americans are lucky to have it. There are downsides, however. For example, we have to hear the opinions of Rand Paul.
Paul is a U.S. Senator hailing from Kentucky and a registered Republican, though many of his views are a bit more radical than those of the GOP. He is also a medical doctor, a former ophthalmologist who graduated from Duke University School of Medicine. Yet he was quoted last week as saying the Ebola virus we are hearing so much about is “incredibly contagious,” despite only being able to spread through bodily fluids. A disease so “incredibly contagious” would likely have more than three CDC-confirmed cases in the U.S. He spoke to Bloomberg News, and said that the federal government wanted to downplay the disease. This kind of fear mongering being espoused by Paul and other politicians concerning Ebola has become more and more prevalent in the days leading up to Election Day. They are trying to convince voters that they are the ones with the public’s health and best interests in their mind, and that the “others” are actively lying to them and are trying to keep Americans in the dark. Never mind that all of this defies medicine, science and logic; it’s what Paul and others are doing to win the votes they need.
This is the very fabric of Rand Paul. He has, since he came onto the American political scene riding the coattails of his father Ron Paul in 2009, perfected the art of playing to the fears of Middle America. He has done this by endorsing various ideas and borderline conspiracy theories, telling discouraged Americans what they want to hear and have suspected all along. He is using this, while brushing up against the arms of radicalism, to woo an ever-growing group of those who have felt alienated the last six years under a liberal presidential administration.
Despite denying the label, Paul has become a face of America’s Libertarian movement, a platform on which his politician father has also run. He’s become a poster boy among libertarians for your racist great-uncles and rich college boys who have discovered pot and philosophy but still hate poor people. An ideology that used to have a degree of credibility has become entirely fear-based and now makes up most of the foundation for the Tea Party movement. To appeal to these voters, he has stated in interviews that he believes in conspiracies such as the Bilderberg Group and the power elite of the world pushing for a One World Order. He has even cited by name the views of Alex Jones, the messiah of the tin foil hat-wearing crowd.
So how could Americans elect such a person for president, as many pundits have speculated that he is planning to run? He may be trying to modify his views some, so as to try his hardest to appeal to Americans of sound mind. While formerly a strict isolationist who believed that America should more or less mind its own business and not interfere with conflicts around the world (though he apparently prefers the phrase “non-interventionist”), he is now stating that there is no way that America can fully pull away from all global affairs. Maybe it is a step in the right direction for Paul, whose political doctrine is one of no government intervention into individual rights. Yet, he stands against same-sex marriage, abortion and drug legalization.
His chances of running a successful campaign are best summed up in the words of Mark Salter, who ran John McCain’s Republican presidential campaign in 2008. Salter said that Paul’s “foreign policy views, steeped as they are in the crackpot theories that inform his father’s worldview, are so ill-conceived that were he to win the nomination, Republican voters seriously concerned with national security would have no responsible recourse other than to vote for Hillary Clinton.” Paul seems like the answer to many Americans, but these are the voters who are asking the wrong questions.