Rand Paul's most important campaign isn't over yet

Paul’s unique foreign policy, a meeting of realism and non-interventionism, will also be called upon to play a role in the future life of American politics. It reconnects American policy thinking to lost or abandoned traditions of foreign engagement. And America will need an alternative as the Bush-Obama consensus of toppling regimes in the Middle East continues to produce chaos in that region and operating bases for international terrorists.

Paul’s supporters may face their own temptation after this cycle as well. Having failed to generate as much excitement as previous Paulite runs, they may worry that they need to return to the more stern, radical, and abstract libertarianism of think tanks like the Mises Institute. Or perhaps they may just give up on practical electoral politics altogether, having concluded that the American people have been too corrupted for the cause of liberty. Or they may be attempted by more radical voices on the populist right. I believe each of these courses would be a mistake.

Paul’s emergence in the Senate has already opened up the debate in Washington on a number of issues. More opinion-leaders and think-tankers on the right find themselves agreeing with his libertarian ideas now than they did eight years ago. Or at least, they are more willing to listen. That’s an accomplishment that Paul can build on over time. “Brushfires of liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I,” said Paul, upon his exit.