Even though it feels like hordes of Republicans are running for president (and but a single Democrat), in fact last week Rand Paul became only the second declared GOP candidate. So for now, with just 16 months to go, he and Ted Cruz stand alone in what will soon be a crowded field. Both Paul and Cruz appeal to the tea party base, but the similarities seem to end there. From my perspective, Ted Cruz presents the most unpleasant face of the Republican party – obstructionist, narrow-minded and mean – whereas Rand Paul represents its most interesting faction. An anti-war iconoclast whom Lindsey Graham called “to the left of Barack Obama” on foreign policy, he thinks the government should stay out of our private lives, opposes lobbyists, pork and the Patriot Act, and actively courts minorities and young people. For this child of the 1960s, I thought, here is a breath of fresh air.
Then I looked a little deeper: Paul advocates U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations and calls Obamacare “unconstitutional” despite the Supreme Court's ruling otherwise. While he accepts donations in bitcoins, he has flirted with a return to the gold standard. He believes climate change is caused by humans but opposes regulating carbon emissions and loathes the EPA. He has linked vaccinations and autism, opposes all gun restrictions, abortion funding, same-sex marriage, the separation of church and state, and the Federal Reserve.
The deeper I look, the more Rand Paul morphs into Ted Cruz.