SYNDICATED COLUMN: Rand Paul Proves That the American Political System is Broken

I have been arguing for years that the American political system is broken. Not in the way that everyone else says it is – the Democrats and Republicans unable to compromise or get anything done. Given what happens when the two major parties cooperate – “free trade” agreements that send American jobs overseas and cut wages for those that remain, wars we have no chance of winning, and tax “reform” that only benefits the extremely wealthy and the corporations they control – we could use a lot more Washington gridlock.

The best indication that the United States government is no longer a viable entity, and so beyond reform that we need to start from scratch, is the fact that the best and the brightest no longer aspire to a career in politics or governmental inspiration. It’s not just anecdotal; polls and studies show that the millennial generation, like the generation Xers before them, care deeply about the nation’s and the world’s problems but don’t think that it’s possible to solve them through the political system, refuse to sacrifice their personal privacy in a campaign, and are disgusted by the requirement of raising millions of dollars in order to run.

Despite the obstacles, every now and then – like that one tadpole out of a thousand that manages to evade the snapping jaws of hungry fish – someone interesting and intelligent decides to enter public life. Unfortunately, these poor souls must present themselves as boring and stupid in order to do so – and shred every last ounce of integrity they had before they entered the political process.

If there is a better case for this political system being over and done, I don’t know what it is.

Current case study: Rand Paul.

The senator from Kentucky has been a principled voice of resistance to the Obama administration’s most egregious violations of privacy and civil liberties. He has relentlessly opposed the National Security Agency’s wholesale collection of Americans’ personal communications and digital data, filibustered to protest the attorney general’s refusal to rule out using drones to kill American citizens on American soil, and followed his libertarian father’s tradition of non-interventionism by opposing the post-9/11 endless “war on terror.”

In many respects Paul, a Republican, has been more liberal – and certainly more vocal – than the most left-leaning members of the Democratic Party.

Now, however, he has officially declared that he is running for president next year. And so the usual coalition of GOP officials, Washington Beltway pundits, and no doubt his campaign advisers are telling him that he must abandon the interesting, intelligent and true-to-the-Constitution stances that got him noticed in the first place.

Gotta become “electable,” you see.

In just one week as a presidential candidate, he has backed away from his 2007 statement – which happened to have the virtue of being correct – that Iran did not represent a military threat to the United States. To be a Republican these days, you have to be against everything Obama does, and he just finished negotiating a deal to normalize relations with Iran.

Paul made some major efforts to reach out to African-Americans over the last few years – rare for a Republican – but there are early signs that his unwillingness to call out the racist “dog whistles” of his Tea Party-besotted opponents will neutralize his previous expressions of sympathy for black victims of police profiling and brutality.

He even flip-flopped on drones. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him,” he said recently.

What’s next: selling us out on the NSA? Apparently maybe.

I am tempted to argue that Paul is wrong, and that he would be better off personally as well as politically sticking to his guns. After all, he has, or at least has had, these popular positions all to himself. Why follow the lead of Al Gore, who foolishly decided not to emphasize his credibility as an environmentalist in 2000?

Be that as it may, let’s focus on the big takeaway: the perception among the political class that, to be electable, you have to adjust your positions to conform to the banal, the uninspired, the illegal, with total disregard for the will or the greater good of the American people.


(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)



11 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Rand Paul Proves That the American Political System is Broken

  1. It’s starting to get interesting. Faced with a (hypothetical) choice between Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton, I would have to vote for the former. 🙁

    • If I had to vote for one of those two, yes, I would have to go with the former as well. But fortunately, we don’t live in a country where voting is mandatory yet.

      • Of course, if a 3rd-party candidate were on the ticket (Bernie Sanders), I’d vote for him, even though it might be a “throw-away” vote. 🙁

      • A throw-away vote is when you vote for something you don’t want and get it.

        We ask for principles in politicians without having principles as voters.

        Does anyone really expect office holders to be more principled than the electorate?

  2. Americans are losers.

    They vote for the best sales pitch and then blame the pitchman for their own chumphood.

    When Americans recognize that they are losers and vote for losers like themselves in large enough numbers, they might have a chance of becoming winners.

  3. Until ’68, about a dozen old white Democrats chose the Democrat nominee, and about a dozen old, white Republicans chose the Republican nominee. In ’32, the Democrats picked FDR, who ran on helping the unemployed, and managed to create a few jobs. How did FDR get in? Before, both parties usually chose someone who followed Shumpeter, who said that depressions were caused by misallocated resources, and they had to work themselves out with no government interference, since government interference would slow down the reallocation and make things worse. (Of course, it wasn’t FDR who ended the ’29 Depression, but the brilliant economists Adolph and Tojo.)

    In ’32, the men who chose the Democratic nominee were scared that something like the USSR could happen in the US, and they could lose everything. After FDR, the Republicans put up Ike, who followed much of what FDR put in. Taxes were 91% on unearned income (wages had a maximum rate of just 50%). So CEOs earned about 5 times as much as the median worker. I tried to point this out, and someone who said he’d voted in the ’32 election said everyone only thought about the Depression, no one thought about the USSR. But the voters had no say at all in the nominees, and if he REALLY voted in the ’32 election, he must have been born before ’11, making him at least 104 years old. (He got lots of Recommends on the New York Times news site, far more than my comment.)

    In ’68, a slender majority of Democrats were against the war. A large minority of Democrats and a big majority of Republicans thought that Chamberlain lost the war in Munich, so the US had to win or we’d have Soviets taking over the US and we’d have to queue for meat and only have just one brand of toothpaste. The Democratic leadership put up Humphrey, who promised to continue the war, but agreed that victory was impossible because of MAD, and withdrawal would be as bad as Munich, so permanent war in Vietnam was absolutely essential, it was the only viable possibility. Many Democrats stayed home, and Nixon won. And after Carter, Reagan brought Shumpeter back.

    So what’s the answer? Some say, ‘Nonviolence.’ Doesn’t work. Some say a violent revolution. Also doesn’t work.

    Some colonials in the Raj tried violence. Those who weren’t shot were hanged. Some tried non-violence. Those without backers were shot, those too well known to be killed were ignored. And if many in a village were rebelling, the Brits dropped poison gas and killed everyone in the village.

    Then Britain lost WWII. The US demanded the dissolution of most of the British Empire, and Britain had no choice but to comply, so they did.

    So, today, the US economy doesn’t provide much for citizens who aren’t in the privileged class. And the US leadership can take whatever it wants from whomever it wants wherever it wants, as graphically described in An Anti-American Manifesto and Confessions of an Economic Hitman.

    And every candidate that wins must be vetted, and the vetting means no one who wants to change the system can be nominated, let alone elected.

    • The wonderful thing about war is that production can be boosted without worrying about having the excess inventories that would usually means layoffs.

      You can keep on building anything, if you keep on blowing it up, without having overproduction clogging up your warehouses.

      That’s also the horror of war, and capitalism.

      Production could be boosted to meet human needs instead of the profits of war. But that would be socialism, which we are told by the Masters of the Universe, is evil. Not nice like war.

    • The ’32 voter, if he claimed to have voted for FDR doesn’t have to be 104. The Dems invented voter fraud a LONG time ago, don’cha know.

      You (like our self-proclaimed intellectual superior, “W,” always manages) have forgotten the presence of George Wallace in the 1968 election, in your facile analysis. GW got almost 20 time the votes (13.5%) as the difference between the Crook and the Hump (0.7%).

      The US didn’t so much “win” WWII as it subsumed fascism for its own.
      I have not read any of the writings of excellent economist Hitler. Did he ever dream of the global dominance for Germany that the US has attained — and constantly kills to maintain?

      • Actually, Hitler leveraged out of the Rothschild banking empire, that’s why he (and Germany) was wholly destroyed, instead of being co-opted.


  4. Standing for your principles goes a long way for me. However, as Ted pointed out – Rand’s going back on some of his so-called principles.

    But what those principles are mean something as well. No way in hell am I going to vote for an anti-choice, voodoo-economics, pro-summary-death-penalty-for-liquor-store-holdups candidate, even if he does occasionally make sense.

    (& btw, how does a drone or a policeman either one tell the difference between a robber and an open carry nutjob?) ((trick question: answer is “who cares? shoot the black one.”))

    But as to Ted’s larger point: yep, the system is broken. The R’s played wedge issue cards so often that the Koolaid Party idjits expect ’em to deliver. Good luck with that.

  5. I just realized that a lot of these discussions go from the premise that voting is the only choice. I don’t mean that taking the Oswald route is a viable alternative. But there are other alternatives: recall petitions, boycotts, and so forth. I think that if those were implemented more frequently at the lower levels of the political infrastructure, the higher levels would tread a little more carefully. “What, you think they won’t recall a senator? Look at all the mayors who are outta work. These sheep are riled up about something. …”