Rand Paul, Republican candidate for US Senate from Kentucky, is
perhaps the closest thing there is to a 'tea party' candidate. In
that light, his recent controversial comments are telling.
On Tuesday, Rand Paul showed the possibilities before the "tea
party" movement with his landslide win in Kentucky's Republican
primary for US Senate.
Since then, he has showed the tea party's limitations.
In the past five days, Mr. Paul has made several elementary
He has equivocated on whether the Civil Rights Act was right to
force private business to comply.
IN PICTURES: Tea Parties
He has called the Obama administration "un-American" for saying
its job was to keep its "the boot on the neck of BP" in the Gulf oil
And he has said that the search for blame in the West Virginia
mine accident might be fruitless. Sometimes "accidents happen," he
Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday
that rookie candidates sometimes "stumble."
The comments do suggest political naivete. But to cast them off
as merely the product of political inexperience is perhaps to gloss
over one of the greatest challenges facing the tea party movement as
it seeks to influence politics.
To remain true to the tea party ideology - to go beyond the
Beltway horse-trading and firmly stand on the principles of a
smaller, less-intrusive government - is, in some instances, to
occupy a spot on the political fringes that is anathema and in some
cases abhorrent to many in the American mainstream.
What the tea party wants
While Paul's comments are political gaffes, they do not appear to
be too far afield from tea party doctrine - to the degree that such
a thing exists.
The battle flag of the tea parties has been the Revolutionary War
"Don't Tread on Me" banner. But the enemy to liberty, in this
instance, is not the British, but the overbearing American
The tea parties' 10-point Contract From America includes "restore
fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government in
Washington." As if to underscore the point, it also includes:
"demand a balanced budget" and "end runaway government spending."
Paul has been anointed to carry this gospel to Washington, and in
each instance, Paul's comments last week spoke to the desire to
lessen the grip of the American government on its people - in this
In theory, almost all Republicans have this aim. The difference
between Paul and more mainstream Republicans, however, has been his
apparent willingness (or inability not to) speak the pure doctrine
of Barry Goldwater libertarianism - regardless of the political
Paul is burrowing deep into political theory. …