Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) endorsed Mitt Romney last Thursday to the dismay of many armchair quarterbacks in the liberty movement. An interesting question I've heard repeatedly is, "Why would Rand Paul do this now? Why would he do it when the revolution is in full swing?"
There's a simple answer to that question.
Rand Paul is widely regarded as a leader in Kentucky's Republican Party and a real hero of the Tea Party movement. This weekend, Kentucky had its Republican state convention. Rand Paul could have walked into that state convention, where Ron Paul supporters were not dominant and said, "The Ron Paul revolution will go to Tampa and entirely disrupt the national convention if we have to" or he could say, "Let's get behind a candidate, fellow Republicans."
In essence, those were his two options. I like drama and might have preferred him saying the former. Being realistic, it's clear that Rand Paul has had a deadline to work with. He had to publicly endorse a candidate by Thursday, June 7, so that he could walk into his state convention with a clear message.
Instead of criticizing Senator Paul for endorsing Mitt Romney so early in the process – after all, there are many state conventions ahead that will determine delegates – Ron Paul supporters must understand that Rand Paul endorsed Romney at the latest that he could have. He endorsed on the last conservative national show the Thursday night before his state's convention.
The guy gave as much time to the Ron Paul revolution as he could and then backed Romney. There are many in Ron Paul's ranks who would never do such a thing. In all likelihood, those people might not be successful at politics. Rand Paul, in all likelihood, will be a political success for many years to come. That means some compromising. Maybe Rand Paul will compromise on values. Everyone surely has a hierarchy of values some of which are vital, some of which are less important. Criticizing a politician for compromising on values is entirely valid, but that’s not what’s happening right now. Right now, Ron Paul supporters are attacking Rand Paul for tactics. It's not really all that fair for a man who has won a Senate election to be criticized about tactics so vitriolically by well-intentioned, yet (largely) politically inexperienced observers. Attack him on betraying values if you feel compelled to – all humans can claim to be expert on values – but if attacking him on tactics is your goal, tone it down a little or at least post your resume showing how many times you have successfully won a federal office.
Ron Paul and son Rand Paul are two different people, and Rand Paul is offering the Ron Paul revolution a bridge into mainstream American politics that may bear fruit. Will it work? Will Rand Paul prove a disappointment to the Ron Paul revolution? Maybe, but we won't know that for many years.
For all anybody knows, Ron Paul supporters might end up liking Rand Paul more than Ron Paul himself. What is clear right now is that Rand Paul timed his announcement perfectly – before his state convention, very late in the process, as publicly as possible. On Thursday, Rand Paul became a national public figure. The liberty movement has another national public figure advocating for their values. That's meaningful.
Many may have wanted Rand Paul to publicly stand by his father until the national convention, but it is nice to know that he as a senator feels responsible to the people of his state above others. That is, after all, the role of a senator – to represent his state. Building the strength of the party in his own state, building his own base, understandably needs to take some precedence over national issues.
It's easy to leave a nasty comment on Facebook, but it's hard to be the one on national television taking the heat. Kudos to Senator Paul for being more than another unsuccessful armchair quarterback. With luck, we'll see him passing lots of constitutional conservative legislation through the senate and maybe even one day, he'll be the one signing that constitutional conservative legislation into law.
I understand that many who do not have the stomach for politics are disgusted with Senator Paul right now. I also understand that someone who has the stomach has stood up and essentially elevated his standing. That both the critics and Rand Paul believe many of the same ideas would lead one to think that the critics would instead support the senator. Rand Paul just took one for the constitutional conservative team. He's endorsing a guy that he doesn't agree much with. Some may call it despicable behavior, but without a doubt, there are others who would call that praiseworthy. Rand Paul has earned clout for himself, which might just succeed at earning greater clout for a constitutional conservative message in the GOP and in Washington, D.C.
Would I have done the same? Probably not. Do I see why his move makes sense? Yes. Might there be a day where the members of the liberty movement are grateful to have Rand Paul in D.C. playing politics? Probably.