The Rand Paul Bubble

Republicans Want an Anti-Interventionist, But Not This Kind

U.S. Senator Rand Paul on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, October 3, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst / Courtesy Reuters)

When the Republican National Committee passed a resolution last week unequivocally criticizing the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs, it was tempting to take it as yet another sign that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) -- the party’s most prominent critic of hawkish security policy -- is the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. As a number of political commentators have pointed out, it does seem that the next Republican presidential primary will be an unusual contest, reflecting a party base at odds with the establishment over major public policy questions, including national security priorities. But contrary to what commentators such as Atlantic contributing editor Peter Beinart and New York magazine writer Frank Rich have recently suggested, that doesn’t mean that the GOP is likely to end up with Paul as its nominee.

It is true that the Republican base and Paul both espouse views that diverge from the policy preferences of the Republican establishment. But it would be a mistake to conclude that those divergences overlap significantly. That is especially true on questions of national security, which Beinart suggests would be one of Paul’s major selling points in a Republican primary. On the surface, it may seem that the anti-interventionist Paul has much in common with a GOP base that is increasingly wary of overseas interventions. But Paul and the Republican base have much more cause to disagree on national security than it seems at first glance.

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