When Rand Paul first started flirting with a presidential run, he looked like a formidable (and formidably scary) candidate. After all, Paul’s libertarian philosophy has attracted a lot of younger people who wouldn’t normally be found within a hundred miles of the nursing home that usually constitutes the Republican party. Paul was never likely to win the nomination, but for a moment last year it looked like he might inject some new (if still crackpot) thinking into the GOP.
Instead, Paul has run won of the worst presidential campaigns ever. And instead of bringing fresh ideas to the party, he seems determined to go out in a blaze of good ol’ homophobic glory that would do Rick Santorum proud.
The problem with Paul’s campaign seems to be Paul himself. He shows little interest in campaigning. Just this week, his staff tried the gimmick of having the campaign livestreamed for a day. In response to a staff-prepared question about the fact that one of the top Google searches for Paul is whether he is still running for president, the candidate responded, “I wouldn’t be doing this dumbass livestreaming if I weren’t.”
Not exactly the words of a man who loves being out on the campaign trail.
Unsurprisingly, Paul’s campaign has been running short of cash. One of the biggest failures of the campaign has been its inability to secure a major donor and in particular gay PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel almost singlehandedly underwote the 2012 presidential campaign of Paul’s father, Ron Paul, who is every bit as nutty as his son.
But Thiel has opted not to shower his dollars on Rand Paul. Ostensibly, Thiel is supposed to be suffering from “donor fatigue.” A less flattering reason is that Paul couldn’t be bothered courting Thiel or for that matter pretty much any other major donor. (Don’t pity Thiel. He can always fall back on another homophobe that he bankrolled: Ted Cruz.)
At this point, Paul’s presidential campaign is on life-support. Even sympathetic right-wingers like Erick Erickson are sounding the death knell. This week, Erickson ran a column on his website titled, “Rand Paul, It Is Time to Take Your Campaign Out Back and Shoot It.”
But before he goes, Paul is reminding us that his so-called new ideas are really just the usual homophobia. In a rant that Mike Huckabee would be proud of, Paul endorsed the closet in the workplace, supported the right of employers to fire us and basically said if you don’t like it, get another job. “The things you do in your house — if you leave them in your house — they wouldn’t have to be part of the workplace,” Paul insisted.
What his comments prove is that Paul is not a new thinker at all. He’s cut from the same cloth as all the other antigay Republicans. Of course, there has been more than ample evidence all along that this was true. After the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in 2013, Paul wondered if marrying animals was next. He offered support to fellow Kentuckian Kim Davis. He wants to kill the Department of Education because “I don’t like the idea of Suzie has two mommies being an appropriate family situation to talk about to kindergartners.”
One thing that Paul’s campaign shows is just how lacking the GOP is in fresh ideas. The one candidate who was supposed to appeal to a younger voter and to stir the race up with unconventional ideas is no different than any other candidate. Until the Republicans can come up with some truly fresh ideas (whether you agree with them or not), they are going to remain stuck in a cycle of lousy campaigns that doom their chances for the White House.