Rand Paul Does Berkeley

Rand Paul is one of a small number of Republicans–Marco Rubio is another–who have the potential to expand the playing field in 2016 and bring a mostly-conservative message to voters who aren’t used to pulling the GOP lever. He showed that again today when he visited the University of California at Berkeley:

Nobody should be surprised that Rand Paul got so warm a welcome Wednesday, even in a city whose name is often preceded in conversation by “The People’s Republic of…”

After all, the junior U.S. Senator from Kentucky and likely contender for 2016′s Republican presidential nomination is following in his father’s footsteps by drawing crowds of enthusiastic young followers, particularly on college campuses, wherever he goes. …

In a speech peppered with references to Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451″ and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” Paul told a crowd of about 400 that he will call for creation of a bipartisan committee to probe and reform the intelligence community. Much like the post-Watergate Church Committee of the 1970s, “It should watch the watchers.”

“Your rights, especially your right to privacy, are under assault,” he said….

After all these months, I am still on the fence on the “surveillance state” issue. I am in favor of just about anything that helps us to combat terrorists, and the NSA’s vast data-gathering apparatus has not been misused, as far as we know. But isn’t one of the basic principles of conservatism the conviction that power will always be misused, eventually? Which is one of the reasons why it should be dispersed, not centralized.

The linked news story notes that former Clinton Labor Secretary Bob Reich, an unrepentant liberal, observed Paul’s performance from the back of the room. To me, the most striking thing about the story was his reaction:

“There are not too many people who can get a standing ovation at CPAC and a standing ovation at Berkeley,” said Reich, now a UC-Berkeley professor.

But Reich said Paul still might be missing some keys to the youth vote. “I don’t think he’s here to talk about his stance on abortion or gay marriage.”

How pathetic is that? Reich’s knee-jerk response is one more indication of how out of ammo today’s Democratic Party is. For what it’s worth, I don’t even know what Paul’s positions on abortion and gay marriage are. He doesn’t go anywhere to “talk about his stance” on those issues. But the Democratic Party apparently has no better strategy than to try to ride those old warhorses until they drop. That’s what happens when after seven years of controlling Congress and five years in the White House, the economy is a mess, we are more than $17 trillion in debt, Americans’ health care is being devastated, and foreign policy is a disaster. If the Democrats want to build a firewall against Rand Paul or any other Republican nominee in 2016, they will have to come up with something much more persuasive.

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