But I digress. Back to Rand Paul. He’s obviously moderating his image — successfully. He seems reasonable, calm and thoughtful. But he leaves room for the suspicion that there’s a more aggressive agenda behind the facade. But that agenda is less scary. Whereas the typical Republican often talks in a way that fuels (unwarranted) fears of theocracy and the Handmaid’s Tale, there’s something about the way Rand Paul talks that fuels the suspicion he’d actually be much more libertarian than he lets on. Of course, that suspicion is one reason why conservative hawks distrust him so much and leftwing doves give him so much of a pass. But when it comes to domestic policy, he gives the impression that if he actually got his hands on the levers of power he’d just leave us alone.

Because his rise fuels a narrative the media loves — civil war on the right — Paul’s libertarianism will be treated as charming and harmless for a while more. The fact that the left likes his foreign policy dovishness and the “neocons” don’t also makes him a useful foil for some liberals. But you can be sure that if he got real power and influence within the party or if he were the actual GOP nominee, his charming libertarianism would instantaneously terrify a lot of people. But for now, it all works for him.