Rand Paul’s Campaign Was Irresponsible

As I’m writing this, you have information that I don’t. For me, it’s Monday night, about 20 hours before the polls close on Election Day. For you, it’s Wednesday morning or after, and the results of who won the races and the fate of the ballot amendments are likely well established. Did Craig Greenberg cruise into the mayor’s seat? Did Morgan McGarvey even break a sweat on his route to Congress? Is Rand Paul returning for a third term? Or were there upsets? How compromised is the future of abortion access in the Commonwealth? You probably already know (at least some of) those answers, but one of the only things that I know so far is that the aforementioned incumbent Republican U.S. Senator, Rand Paul, ran a cowardly and dangerous campaign against his progressive counterpart Charles Booker.       

Days after Paul missed the deadline to accept an invitation to a candidate forum hosted by KET in early October, and it became clear he was not going to answer Booker’s calls for a debate, the senator worked to flip the narrative by releasing an inflammatory ad. It was a doom-and-gloom video suggesting Booker befriends violent people, and that the challenger wasn’t actually interested in an exchange of ideas, despite calling multiple times for exactly that.    

It’s a loaded and gross ad that is accusatory toward several prominent local Democrats, but the tagline at the end is the most explosive aspect: “It’s clear: Charles Booker doesn’t believe in civil discourse, only violence.”

Booker, who ran a campaign on unity and hope, was framed as aggressive and militant. Paul choose to fan the flames and heighten the political temperature through partisan dogwhistling, which, in the current climate, is extremely dicey and irresponsible.  

In an appearance on Fox News shortly after the attack on Paul Pelosi, Rand Paul spoke of the parallel between the Speaker of the House’s husband’s recent hospitalization after being hit by a hammer during a home invasion, and his own experience of being tackled and severely injured by his neighbor in 2017. At first it seemed that Rand Paul — who has been unnecessarily made fun of about the attack on him — was going to be level-headed during a time when misinformation was spreading like wildfire. While he didn’t lean into deep conspiracy, he, after trying to initially sound empathetic, almost instantly made the situation about politics, accusing the Dems of creating a “misdirection.” 

“I think we should have some compassion for Paul Pelosi and not make everything about politics,” he said on Fox News. “But I see today, and yesterday, all the left-wing is doing, all the Democrats are doing, are trying to make this about politics and I think this is a misdirection thing to get away from all of the things they are doing so terribly with the economy, with crime and everything else.”

How do you contradict yourself that hard in less than 100 words? He thinks he’s throwing out feints within feints here, but this is just blatantly egregious political pandering. There’s no buffer between the show-some-compassion-this-is-about-more-than-politics part and the Democrats-are-ruining-America part. 

This isn’t a low-stakes situation. In terms of the Pelosi attack, there’s a disinformation campaign centered around a man who committed a crime after being radicalized from disinformation campaigns. Several right-wing politicians and pundits are spreading it. The richest person in the world — who now owns a major social media network — posted a link to a debunked conspiracy theory about the attack. 

It was an opportunity for Rand Paul to rise above that. He failed.

Even looking back at Paul screaming at Dr. Anthony Fauci during the peak of COVID, it was clearly political theater, more of a PR stunt than a conviction contest. He was campaigning. A viral batshit video is essentially a free campaign ad when you’re trying to inflame a certain base. 

To me, it’s clear that Paul is floundering as he’s morphing into something that he once claimed to hate: a career politician who spends their time playing the game instead of working for the people. And he’s diving in hard during a significantly dangerous time to do so. •

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