Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul announces presidential bid

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced his 2016 presidential candidacy today in Louisville.

“Today I announce with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America,” Paul said in his speech Tuesday.

Paul followed Senator Ted Cruz in declaring candidacy fairly early. He is the second official Republican presidential candidate for 2016.

Paul was born and raised in Lake Jackson, Texas. He attended Baylor University for undergrad and graduated from Duke Medical School in 1988. He practiced ophthalmology in Kentucky for 18 years, where he currently lives with his family.

Paul hit several topics, such as ISIS and governmental surveillance - specifically section 215 of the Patriot Act - which he deemed too big and too invasive.

“As president on day 1, I will immediately end this unconstitutional surveillance,” he said.  “Warrantless searches of America’s phones and computer records are unAmerican and a threat to our civil liberties. I say that the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business.”

Paul criticized the Obama administration, but also admitted the Republican party needed to stay on issue.

“Too often when Republicans have won, we have squandered our opportunity by becoming part of the Washington machine,” he said. “That is not who I am.”

Paul is son of former Congressman Ron Paul, a three-time presidential candidate.

As the anti-vaccine controversy dominated the news cycles, many politicians weighed in, including potential Republican candidates for president. Sen. Rand Paul, heir apparent to his father’s movement, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, considered by many to be a moderate Northeast Republican, both stated that vaccines should be voluntary.  


Christie stated his belief in the importance of vaccines, and that his children are vaccinated. However, he also stated, “Parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well.”  


Christie, usually blunt, appeared to be walking a tightrope between the opposing sides. Paul stated in an interview with CNBC: “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.”  


However, there is a contradiction in conservative philosophy and the Republican Party platform. If we take conservative arguments against mandatory vaccines and replace the word “parents” with “women,” and “children” with “uterus,” conservatives believe the opposite when it comes to abortion: The state doesn’t own your uterus. Women own their uterus, and it is an issue of freedom.   


UT's chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas professed the same conflicting statements regarding the two issues: "YCT is 100% pro-life," and "YCT is not against vaccinations but we do believe that individuals should have the right to opt-out." 


Conservative philosophy argues that the government does not have the right to legislate parents’ decisions for their children, but argues that the government has the right to legislate women’s decisions concerning their own bodies. It’s more than simply an “issue of freedom.” 


For the sake of argument, let’s consider the conservative belief that abortion is morally wrong.  In this case, a woman’s decision affects the fetus in her womb and herself. Abortion is a private decision. Not vaccinating your children contributes to the resurgence of deadly diseases that present a serious danger to the entire population. Plus, the scientific community has debunked the claim that these vaccines have such negative effects. A parent’s decision not to vaccinate their children affects many beyond their own children. It’s a public decision. It becomes a public health concern.  


You can’t falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, you can’t drive a car as fast as you would like and you can’t drive drunk. You aren't allowed to do these things because doing so puts many other people at risk of injury or death.  


Not vaccinating our children puts many other people at risk of serious illness and death. You need to vaccinate your children, and the government should make us. We all hate speeding tickets, but without speed limits the roads would be much more dangerous. We should not sacrifice health and safety for the sake of blind freedom. Freedom for the sake of freedom is not good policy. 


While the GOP probably views it as a necessary compromise, the hypocrisy undermines their platform. The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, famously said, “A house divided itself cannot stand.” 


The Republican Party will not fare well in 2016 if the candidates have to split their allegiance between the social conservatives and the libertarians still in the closet. Republicans either need to embrace personal freedom across the board or cut the tea party loose.  
What if the anti-establishment conservatives had to fend for themselves? What if all the pot-smoking gun enthusiasts had a party to call their own? What if there was a new legitimate third party? A new libertarian party could pull a substantial amount of Republicans out west (Colorado and Washington), socially-liberal-fiscal-conservatives and many young people disillusioned by Democrats’ and Republicans’ similarities. A Libertarian party free from the Republican establishment has real potential. If the right candidate went viral on the Internet, he or she could poll at 15 percent and participate in the presidential debates.  


We cannot have a real debate or productive dialogue with such ideological contradiction. All I’m asking for is consistency. Be true to yourselves. And please, for society’s sake, vaccinate your kids.


Burchard is a Plan II senior from Houston. Follow Burchard on Twitter @nathburch.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference, Thursday, March 6, 2014.

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has been at the forefront of the 2016 presidential election for some time now — not only because our Republican-dominated state holds the second highest number of electoral votes, but also because Gov. Rick Perry has his eye on the GOP ticket. However, Perry was far from a substantial contender in this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, which occurred from March 6-8, ranking in ninth place, despite his concerted effort this year to appeal to a more conservative base. 

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the son of Libertarian Ron Paul, came in first place with 31 percent of the vote, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came in second place with 11 percent. Paul calls himself a Libertarian-Republican but has written two books touching on the Tea Party platform. Cruz, in case you haven’t noticed, is perhaps the most vocal Tea Party advocate to ever have held the national spotlight. Together, the two men garnered 42 percent of the vote, highlighting the growing influence of far right ideology within the GOP. 

Historically, the CPAC poll has been a good indicator of whose names we’ll find on the Republican presidential ticket. With the exception of Ron Paul, the 2010 and 2011 victor, each individual who has won the straw poll more than once since 1976 has appeared on the Republican ticket for the presidency, making Rand Paul, who consecutively won the 2013 and 2014 poll, the apparent front-runner.

Cruz didn’t do so badly either, though. In fact, numerous second-place CPAC victors in polls two years before the national election have appeared on the ballot — Mitt Romney took second place in 2010, John McCain took second place in 2006 and George W. Bush took second place in 1998.

Put simply, the poll's results seem to indicate that the next GOP ticket could be even less moderate than the last, all while national polls indicate that the country as a whole is becoming more progressive, particularly on social issues such as same-sex marriage, immigration reform and marijuana legalization. While it is unlikely that Cruz has a shot at the White House, considering his far-right stance, Cruz’s second-place victory should still mean his party is hell-bent on ignoring the nation’s feelings on progressive issues such as gay marriage. 

A Washington Post/ABC News poll this year found that 58 percent of people believe Americans should be able to marry whomever they choose — a stance that neither Rand Paul nor Ted Cruz supports. Even the youth in the GOP are erasing the lines on social issues. A February poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the percentage of millennial Republicans who favored same-sex marriage stood at 50 percent.

Immigration, another issue that is particularly important to Texas, was also largely avoided in the CPAC convention, but it remains one of the most divisive issues among conservatives. This continual gap between conservatives and the nation as a whole on key issues raises a crucial question: Where is the Republican Party headed? With conservatives moving further and further away from moderate Republicans, and politicians such as Cruz and Paul taking center stage, particularly in the CPAC poll, it seems as though moderates are losing their place in the Republican Party. Thus far, the GOP strategy to deal with this divide has been to avoid touching on social issues altogether, touting a so-called fiscal conservatism to attract young voters to the party. 

But, rather than falling into the trap of giving into such rhetoric, young voters, particularly voters in a state as conservative as Texas, must think carefully before throwing support behind either party. Austin may be a bubble in regard to its progressive stances on social issues, but the rest of the nation is not. So voters should pay attention to which groups politicians vying for the 2016 GOP ticket appeal to in the early campaign stages. Because, while trying to draw support from conservatives, otherwise moderate leaders may be pushed into taking a more right-wing stance. And that’s something to be aware of, especially in a state that has recently shown overwhelming support for the Republican party.

Randolph Lewis, associate professor in American Studies, works to understand the real vulnerabilities shaping the anti-surveillance bravado of political media figures such as Alex Jones and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

The department of anthropology presented a talk Monday afternoon at the Student Activities Center led by Lewis and anthropology assistant professor Craig Campbell, regarding Jones and Paul.

Part of Campbell’s research involves studying photography as surveillance, especially in Soviet archives where Russians photographed and documented the indigenous peoples of Siberia beginning in the late 1800s. 

“Even though Soviet communism claimed to be anti-colonial, it was in many ways extending a colonial project in Siberia,” Campbell said. “Production of photographs in a socialist colonial context is part of a violent scopic regime that objectifies, scrutinizes and ultimately disempowers those people it photographs.”

Campbell said surveillance as an extension and articulation of state power has been central to most theories of ethnographic and expeditionary photography, especially in the colonial context.

Lewis said concerns about surveillance looking into our intimate sphere is coming from Texas where Paul, a first-term U.S. senator, grew up. Lewis said Paul is an ally of Jones, who is a kind of dystopian, anti-totalitarian and liberty extremist who has produced more than 30 DVDs on political topics and garnered nearly three million listeners at his peak on 60 different radio stations in the country.

“I see them as Texas-based, gun-toting, whole-foods warriors,” Lewis said. “There’s a lot of military bravado and luster. They’re very passionate about the second amendment and they see themselves as rugged individualists.”

Lewis said their concerns regarding public exposure issues are part of a broader worldview in which they are really worried about purifying water, adopting silver as currency, nutrition supplements and non-genetically modified food. He said Jones and his followers accuse the TSA of hiring pedophiles who have been defrocked to run the scanner machines at airports. 

Jones publicly speaks about the potential for domestic use of drones. Lewis says Jones is worried about drones that can take any random protester out of the street, and their abilities to look into people’s intimate spheres is a major violation.

“These are guys that are easy to dismiss,” Lewis said. “I would say Alex Jones is one of the most important political media figures in the country that most people have never heard of. His circle of Texas libertarians is maybe the most important zone of resistance to surveillance culture right now outside of [American Civil Liberties Union] and other more sober enterprises.”

Graduate student Paul Gansky said he thinks TSA is kind of part and parcel of a larger culture of fear around airplanes in general.

“There’s only going to be a certain kind of group that will be flying,” Gansky said, “and I think its just really odd that this is the technology that is freaking people out and it’s not other forms of surveillance that have been going on for a long time.”