Reprinted from The Guardian
Although Paul was celebrated for his views on civil liberties and foreign policy, the Republican race found him pandering to the base in disappointing ways
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Senator Rand Paul dropped out of the Republican race on Wednesday, months after selling out his once-original candidacy to the whims and irrational fears of mainstream Republicans. Before presidential aspirations forced him to pander to the right, he was a promising candidate for those who care about privacy, constitutional rights and a foreign policy that does not cause destruction. Now his campaign will just be remembered as a disappointing lost opportunity.
Rand Paul deserves credit for once having been a unique leader when it came to criminal justice reform. Long before it became a mainstream bipartisan cause -- before even many Democrats were vocal about the issue -- Paul regularly drew attention to the disparate impact harsh mandatory sentencing has on African Americans. He attacked the ridiculous, harmful nature of our marijuana laws when it was a virtually nonexistent subject on cable news.
He was a champion of privacy rights, lambasting the NSA after the Snowden revelations and repeatedly giving powerful speeches defending Americans' right to keep their communications private unless the government has a warrant -- and he was quick to spar with the rest of his Republican comrades who didn't agree with him. (He also went overboard at times: he almost tanked the NSA reform bill known as the USA Freedom Act when he filibustered it for being too weak in 2015, and narrowly missed intelligence leaders watering it down even more after he delayed its passage.)
But then, just as the presidential campaign was getting started, in his transparent attempt to pander to the wider Republican party, he started to backtrack on everything that made him so original. Shortly after his drones filibuster, he claimed that drone strikes on Americans actually are sometimes OK. He also started abandoning his foreign policy stances that so challenged conventional wisdom. He was once a proud defender of diplomacy over bombing but then, when the Iran deal seemed imminent, he suddenly changed his position to align with the rest of his party.