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19 May 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:19am

The unbelievably wholesome Rand Paul

Hold on tight, here comes the Tea Party!

By Sophie Elmhirst

The upsets have begun: the Tea Party activist, doctor and all-American family man (endorsed by the mighty Palin) Rand Paul has won the Republican primary contest in Kentucky and come November will be up against the Democrat candidate for a place in the US Senate.

A lot, inevitably, has been said about the desire to unseat incumbents, about the anti-Washington, anti-government atmosphere and about the rise of the Tea Party movement. Not enough, in my opinion, has been said about Rand Paul himself (at least not over here in the UK, where our heads have been uncomfortably wedged in the sand of our own “new” politics).

He’s so wholesome! He’s more wholesome than a wholegrain organic tuna sandwich made by the hands of aid workers. Take a look at his profile. This man is a full-time doctor and wins humanitarian awards in his spare time, while simultaneously coaching Little League and finding time for a significant amount of churchgoing. Unprecedented wholesomeness.

And then there’s his wife, Kelly Paul, who actually out-wholesomes old Wholesome himself. Watch her message (and note the comments below, describing the tears of joy shed in response to her unadulterated goodness). The film is divided into sections, such as “Humanitarian” and “Conservative Values”, in which Mrs Paul describes her heroic husband.

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About halfway through you get to a bit called “Family Affair” and for a moment I thought she might have spliced in some dirt, but no, it was simply to document how their three sons had pitched in with the campaigning, playing guitar (not sure how that helped) and delivering leaflets. In the “Why We Need Rand” section, she might as well have said, “because he’s essentially Jesus, walking on this earth before your very eyes”, rather than going through his virtues and values yet again.

And that’s when the unstoppable tide of cynicism descends. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. There’s only so much goodness I can take. Aside from a gamut of extreme right-wing policy positions (hawkish, pro-life, an advocate of “real free-market principles” to fix health care), it’s those little sanctimonious moments in his rhetoric that really grate. Like when he talks about “taking government back” and describes himself as a “a hard-working, dedicated physician, not a career politician”.

I accept he’s had a different career pre-politics, and that he’s lived far away from the Washington bubble, but let’s not forget that Paul is the son of Congressman Ron Paul, and that he first attended the Republican National Convention aged 13 (the turning point in his life, says his wife). But more than that, isn’t there a central hypocrisy in the anti-career-politician line? Hang on, Rand — aren’t you giving up your job as a doctor to go and work in politics? Where you will now build your career? Don’t genuine campaigners, the ones trying to battle the forces of power, stay on the outside?

The blurb also claims that Paul’s “entrance into politics is indicative of his life’s work: a desire to diagnose problems and provide practical solutions”. Woah there. To me, sounds a lot like that scary thing you call “government”. How are you taking it back to the people? I guess if you moved Capitol Hill to Kentucky or used (if you win in November) your new power to torch Washington to the ground and instigated full-blown anarchy, then that might just about do it, but you won’t . . .

Yes, I’m being facetious. But the point is, Rand campaigns on an anti-government-in-all-its-guises ticket, and yet it would only be government, and being in government, that would allow him to realise his vision of a low-taxes, free-market, socially conservative US where federally funded abortion would be banned.

The Fox News (“Fair and balanced”) account of Paul’s victory quotes a resident of Kentucky, Bill Osburn, who said he voted for Paul because “he’s not a politician”. But Bill! HE IS NOW.


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