In one sense, perhaps, but in another sense, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) may find himself right at home in the nexus between libertarianism and college-campus activism. Not too many Republicans get standing ovations from audiences at UC Berkeley, after all, which is one of the most activist-progressive campuses in California or the nation. However, Paul’s focus on individual liberty and constraining federal intrusion into private lives offered a rare bridge between a major national GOP figure and Berkeley students, and Paul made the most of it:
Delivering a rare speech for a Republican at this bastion of liberalism, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday was given multiple standing ovations by the left-wing audience after railing against government surveillance and warning the students: “Your right to privacy is under assault.”
“I am here to tell you that if you own a cell phone, you’re under surveillance,” he told the crowd. …
“No one should be allowed to invade your privacy,” Paul said. “That’s why I’m announcing today that when I return to Washington, I will push for a select committee styled after the Church Committee that investigated the abuses of power of the intelligence committee in the 70s. It should be bipartisan. It should be independent, and wide reaching. It should have full power to investigate and reform those who spy on us in the name of protecting us.”
Added Paul: “It should watch the watchers.”
National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher calls this a behind-enemy-lines operation to allow Republicans to compete for votes in what had been one of the strongest Democratic Party demographics:
“For the Republican Party to win again we need to go places we haven’t been going, and we need to attract people we haven’t been attracting. Part of that is the message, but part of that is also showing up,” Paul told National Journal. “I think we need to show up in challenging circumstances, so you don’t think of Berkeley as being a bastion of Republican politics and so I think it’s a good place to go.”
Paul, a fierce critic of the National Security Agency’s tactics, believes the issue of surveillance can—and has already started to—peel young voters away from President Obama and the Democratic Party.
“The youth vote went 3-to-1 for President Obama but recent polls, in the last six months, have shown his support dropping because, mostly because of the NSA scandal, I think,” Paul said.
Paul said he also wants to make a push into big cities where Republicans have been swamped in recent elections. “We have a trip planned to Chicago and Milwaukee to talk about school choice and to talk about education in the large cities and how we can do a better job than what we’re doing,” he said.
If Paul does follow through on that strategy, then he can expect to take some heavy flak from Democrats, certainly heavier than he will attract with his Berkeley speech. House Budget chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) tried talking about poverty recently, agreeing with President Barack Obama on the need to change the culture in urban areas where poverty runs rampant. For that bipartisan agreement, Ryan got pilloried as a racist, Rich Lowry writes:
n his instantly notorious interview with radio talk show host Bill Bennett, Ryan discussed fatherlessness and the importance of role models to passing along an example of hard work. “We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular,” he said, “of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”
For this offense, Ryan was awarded an honorary white hood by the liberal commentariat. But the broad sentiments are indistinguishable from those of Obama in the statements quoted above—all emphasizing a breakdown of work and the consequences of fatherlessness and social isolation—except Obama’s comments were more explicitly racial.
When Barack Obama says such things, which are undeniably correct, he is a brave truth-teller; when Paul Ryan says them, he is making an odious play for racist votes.
We may get a chance to discuss this with Rep. Ryan today on the Ed Morrissey Show. Meanwhile, here is Rand Paul’s full speech to the Berkeley Forum. He includes “full-throated defense[s]” of traditional Republican fiscal positions, according to Politico, but mainly focused on privacy and libertarian-friendly themes to offer a new and, er, tastier image of the GOP. “Remember Domino’s [the pizza chain] finally admitted they had bad crust?” Paul said in response to a question after his speech. “I think the Republican Party finally admitted it. OK, bad crust, we need a different kind of party.”