Rand Paul, Icarus, And You

“I warn you to travel in the middle course, Icarus, if too low the waves may weigh down your wings, if you fly too high the fires will scorch your wings. Stay between both.” – Ovid, Daedalus and Icarus 

It was a fun moment. Rand Paul announced he would seek the Republican nomination for the open Senate seat in Kentucky. Dad was gone, but the Paul legacy would live on! It could even be better in a younger, more telegenic package with better public speaking skills. Paul went from fringe underdog to runaway winner. It was not just that, but he was making it look like fun. Whether you were a libertarian or just a cynic, it felt like someone who understood the corrupt DC creature was going to be in DC itself. Many people got lost in the outsider marketing and forgot that besides those money-bombs, he received a healthy dollop of RNSC money.

The moment grew in fun, length, and effect. Senator Paul wasted no time pointing out quick, easy ways to slash the budget by half a billion. No one in DC listened. Paul took stands against drones, unlawful detention and whatnot to scale back the surveillance state. His filibuster was a fun political show, and so successful in infecting the public discussion space that opportunist Sen. Cruz copied it later. In an age where we raise awareness of things everyone knows about, Rand Paul actually raised awareness about the media-suppressed droning of U.S. citizens. He was a lone voice in DC, playing a modern day Mr. Smith and shouting for the increasingly nervous slice of informed citizens. He also had fun and was smart with social media. For a skeptic like me, it was fun to watch. The post-Snowden world of suspicion towards the government seemed tailor-made for him. Rand Paul fans were gleeful. The press even wrote on a possible “Libertarian Moment”.

Then he had to make noise about running for president.

If there was a “Libertarian Moment,” it lasted as long as a puff of smoke. Senator Paul started making odd moves and statements. The anti-drug war talk turned into talk about incarceration on all offenses, black outreach, and even pictures taken with Al Sharpton. As anti-war as he (and his dad) had previously been, he softened a bit. He met with Israel-focused donors. He started to dance the dance. His statements became typical politician platitudes and talking points. In the post-Snowden world, he decided to tone down the concrete message of “stop spying on Americans.” A pro-freedom message is not his core message. Since he is associated with the Tea Party wave election, does he sound like a politician looking out for the dwindling middle? No, that’s Trump’s message. Rand became just… another… politician.

This is the system, and you fell for it. He was always a politician. To give credit to the Paul fans, it felt different. There was a palpable panic that the Tea Party caused for the GOP’s Establishment that is echoed today with the anti-Trump hysteria. That last remaining source of opposition campaign money (middle-class whites) propelled Ted Cruz to the Senate in ’12; just read the primary campaign details. The Establishment chosen GOP candidates were losing in primaries and having to resort to dirty tricks to win (Sen. Thad Cochran bribing recruiting blacks for the run-off). Many believed these guys were different. Compared to the normal GOP, they managed to throw some sand in the USG leviathan. Holding just the House of Representatives, they caused budget fights and managed to change spending a little. That is all history now, as they have been absorbed by the Establishment and co-opted for the elite’s goals.

That feeling of “one of us” ran deep and the realization of betrayal hurts. A Rand fan sent me a note typing a great line, “It’s like they know we love him, they know we know their control, and now they make him look like a clown to rub it in.” It feels that way sometimes. It also feels like watching a friend ride the wave of drinking and fun too long and crashing into a rehab stint. I knew his campaign would fail miserably, which is why when asked about it, I would say it would be like Icarus’ flight. Rand is perfect VP material for this system, not a figurehead president, because he caters to an elastic voter segment and is “cool.” The Icarus comparison is easy to push. Father teaching son, but the son did not listen and flew too close to the sun, trying to reach the highest of heights that dad did not dare to try.

His dad did not quite get it either, and recall the old Moldbug line, “Electing Ron Paul is like showing up at an autopsy with a live human liver. Yes, the patient died of liver failure, but that was a week ago.” This system creates a box and is for show, and if you don’t play ball, you will be squashed very early on (state Senate or House) or not tapped on the shoulder for a call up to the majors. Rand did not have to be squashed. He did something worse. Did he sell out and play ball? Did he shed the thing that so many people liked about his father and the message? Nah, he just showed you that the system is complete, that he was part of it and wanted to lead it. He wanted to win their game and play by their rules. What’s worse is he showed you for the hopeful believer in democracy’s redemption that you still are.

Senator Paul could rally and win the presidential election, but filibustering, #StandWithRand Rand Paul is gone. That guy crashed and burned like Icarus, but he isn’t exactly Icarus. He knew what he faced and adapted to it. The problem is that, like Icarus, you believed it could be different. You tossed aside the warnings and the wisdom. You knew going in that all of these politicians are bought and paid for and part of a system. You liked Rand a little too much. It was you who defied the advice and flew too high. What melted in the sun and crashed into the ocean was your hope that someone was “in” on the system’s corruption and could change it.

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  1. Rand surrounded himself with advisers that are children and they gave him incredibly sophomoric advice in all areas. From the outset, he seemed to focus on winning over college students. That’s what the aim of the criminal justice nonsense was about in addition to it being a ham handed form of minority outreach. I also look at the “chainsaw to the tax code” thing as being in like kind.

    Read about the “fight” between his chief political strategist and a top Rubio aide. And also watch the video. The description of it being a “fight” is all from the Paul person’s side.

    This guy Yob is a child.

    1. He clearly punches him in the face. It is not a fight, but still not something you want to let somebody do to you without consequences.

  2. It’s heresy, I know, but I don’t think that Trumpmania will turn out to be any less of a let-down in the end. Maybe not for exactly the same reasons, though. Perhaps things will turn out less like they did for Paul, Jr. and like they did for Paul, Sr. – Trump will go into the New Hampshire and Iowa primaries at the top of the polls, and mysteriously somehow end up in seventh place when the final votes are tallied. What an odd upset! How mercurial these voters are! Remember what Uncle Joe said about the importance of who’s counting the votes!

    Well, who knows. And it doesn’t really matter. This system is very, very good at neutralizing threats from maverick outsiders who want to shake up the system. One way or another, they are either sent packing or brought to heel. Do you think they want another 1992 on their hands – first Buchanan, then Perot? No way, Jose. The only way a popular reformer is ever breaking into this system is the same way that Sulla did it. Trump? How many divisions does he have?

  3. There is a message in this for rightists of all stripes, libertarian, conservative, reactionary, whatever, and that is not to look to politicians as potential saviours. We should have known this all along merely from the fact that the idea of salvation through politics is one of the key defining doctrines – if not the defining doctrine – of leftism, yet oddly it is a truth that seems to elude us every time a politician starts speaking our language.

    Mr. Landy speaks volumes when he says of Ryan Paul that “He was always a politician.” A politician is someone who wants power and who seeks it through the means of persuading the largest number of the voting public to choose him. To obtain power in this way usually requires that one be an extremely persuasive liar and that one be willing to sell himself, body and soul, to powerful interest groups of one sort or another. This combination of lust for power with the willingness to sell oneself and the ability to lie convincingly is the about the worst set of traits imaginable in a leader. Hence, that great insight of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide” series, that those capable of winning elections, “should on no account be allowed to do the job”. This, of course, is an excellent argument for monarchy and aristocratic leadership in general, even monarchy of the “limited” or “constitutional” type for if we must have elected leaders, it is best that the position they are elected to be the humbling one of servants of a royal master, rather than the arrogant one of public tribune or “voice of the people”.

    What made the elder Mr. Paul so admirable was not so much his libertarian philosophy, which has all the weaknesses of classical liberalism as well as its strengths, but that he was in many ways an exception to the rule, an elected official with genuine character. It would be too much, perhaps, to expect his son to possess this quality as well. Liberalism, individualism, meritocracy, and democracy do not encourage the passing on of traits like this from one generation to the next.

  4. “Father teaching son, but the son did not listen and flew too close to the sun, trying to reach the highest of heights that dad did not dare to try.”

    Dad did run for POTUS…a lot, incl. 2008 and 2012 under the GOP banner. But he ran as a principled libertarian (only differentiating on immigration, actually moving leftward in 2012). His success was impressive and he built quite a donor base. Rand chose to forego that base and run conventionally…in a field of 16, where he would be the least desirable conventional option for the mainstream GOP donor. What a fool. I always had a soft spot for Rand, but his decision-making rationale was incredibly myopic this cycle.

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