Rand Paul’s Tea-Party Party

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Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The tea party was ready to rock at Rand Paul’s victory party in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Tuesday, but there was none of the hostility that made so much news of late. I can confidently say that no heads were stomped in my presence. No, the night was all about joy in a decisive victory and the desire to take the country back from the neo-socialist claws of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi hydra.

The celebrants were a curious amalgam of old money and just plain old, traditional Republicans and esoteric Libertarians, middle-class youths and even a few hipsters. They were united by disgust at Washington, D.C., and a desire for “change,” which should sound awfully familiar to Democrats who were celebrating a similar victory just two years ago.

Many in the crowd were first-time volunteers like Charles and Mary Jordan, 70 and 68, from Barberville. “This didn’t seem the way the country was meant to be,” Charles said. He hopes Rand Paul will repeal health-care reform, and gut federal spending, though not for Social Security or Medicaid, which they use. He did say, however, he would forgo his cost-of-living increase if he could.

Obamacare served as a piñata for many in the crowd. Sherry Picket, a regional campaign chair for Paul, said the much-debated bill should be thrown out in the name of a smaller government and a balanced budget. “We don’t want government choosing our health-care plan,” she said. “This is America.”

The tea partiers and Republicans came together for Rand Paul, but what will happen next will test the coalition. For those of a more libertarian bent, there is the hope that Mr. Paul will go to Washington and somehow avoid becoming a politician.

Paul is honest, he speaks the truth, he is believable, I was told. Even his gaffes show that he is not a typical, slick pol. I asked attendees what they thought of Paul’s remarks on The Rachel Maddow Show that he believed a business has the right to discriminate on the basis of race. One of Paul’s defenders tonight on this was Osi Onyekwuluje, 48, from Bowling Green, who is black. He said the Maddow quote was little more than a “gotcha!” moment, and Paul was taken out of context.

The crowd roared as more and more good news came over the transom from Fox News. It became increasingly obvious that Paul was going to win handily. Jimmie Vaughan, brother of the late Stevie Ray, hit the stage with his band and tried to get some small-government mojo workin’, but after a few songs many in the crowd drifted back to the chafing dishes and cash bars.

A much bigger thrill for the attendees was Dr. Ron Paul, speaking via Skype, who kicked off the grand finale of the night’s festivities. Indicative of the crowd’s mindset, his biggest applause line came when he called for the audit of the Federal Reserve.

Soon it was time for the main event. AC/DC’s “TNT” started to blast through the speakers as two of Paul’s sons strummed electric guitars onstage. Then, a little after 9 p.m., Paul took the stage, flanked by friends and family. The crowd let out a lusty cheer, easily the biggest of the night, as he cried out “I have a message! A message from the people of Kentucky that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We’ve come to take our government back!”

Paul’s speech itself was short, just over five minutes. In that time he did not acknowledge his vanquished foe, Democrat Jack Conway, but did find time to needle Barack Obama, saying that we must believe in ourselves and not believe that some benevolent leader in our nation’s capital will “save us from ourselves.”


We are in the midst of a debt crisis, and the American people want to know why we have to balance our budget, and they [in Washington] don't. I will ask them respectfully to deliberate upon this: Governments do not create jobs. Individual entrepreneurs, men and women, create jobs — but not the government.

To say the crowd was amped up would be an understatement. At one point, as Paul paused, a man shouted at the top of his lungs “Capitalism!” as if the very word alone was an answer.