How influential is Rand Paul

What is really important to Rand Paul, he does not hide. The Republican wants to succeed US President Brack Obama in November 2016 and is setting up his campaign under the motto "Defeat the Washington Machine". That machine, i.e. the political establishment of the US capital, suffered a serious defeat in the US Senate: Through clever blockade tactics, he ensured that parts of the controversial NSA spying program "Patriot Act" expired (details in this SZ.de-Text).

As a result, it is currently illegal to collect metadata about telephone calls from US citizens (enshrined in "Section 215" of the Patriot Act) for no reason; the NSA had to shut down its servers. Of course Paul knows that he will not be able to prevent a slightly changed form of surveillance: In the course of the week the Senate will probably approve the "USA Freedom Act", which is supposed to replace the Patriot Act.

This new law has already passed the House of Representatives and provides for the metadata to be stored on the servers of the telephone provider - the NSA would have to request it for analysis by court order on a case-by-case basis. This reflects the distrust of many US politicians towards state institutions, but the changes are not revolutionary (the surveillance of foreigners is not even discussed). So is it just exaggerated vanity that drives the 52-year-old? It's not that easy. Rand Paul's action can be explained by two factors.

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  • Protest out of conviction: Republicans or Democrats, most of the other members of Congress are upset with Rand Paul. The Washington media speak of a "lonely victory" that isolated the Senator. Not only in the eyes of Paul's - often young - supporters, these reactions show one thing above all: that steadfastness and conviction have become rare in Washington's political scene - and are considered something bad. Certainly: Paul seeks and enjoys the limelight, but he does so on the subjects that he has been talking about for years. He knows from his appearances at colleges that young Americans also pay attention to privacy - and that, according to recent surveys, 60 percent of US citizens reject the Patriot Act in its current form.

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In the polls, Rand Paul currently has nine percent and is sixth in the tightly packed Republican field of applicants. Since Paul is campaigning for a less active US foreign policy, he is seen by hardliners like John McCain, Lindsey Graham or Marco Rubio as unsuitable for the office of president - and thus of commander-in-chief. And his views are arguably too bulky to be nominated by the Conservatives to run against Hillary Clinton (or any other Democratic candidate) in November 2016.

What does Hillary Clinton think about the surveillance of US citizens

But Paul's blockade of the Patriot Act extension should achieve three things: It has a simple "Keep it up!" prevented, which slightly improves the privacy of Americans. In addition, the debate on civil rights and surveillance will now continue. Paul will do everything to ensure that the other conservatives have to make their position clear in the TV debates - and he will criticize them for it with publicity.

After the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act was promoted by then President George W. Bush and was always extended by a large majority. Thanks to Rand Paul, the bipartisan consensus, according to which everything must be allowed to protect the home country, has been scratched for the first time - and especially among the Republicans, the different opinions are suddenly particularly evident.

According to the motto "The end justifies the means and the homeland must be protected", Hillary Clinton has also argued so far. The former secretary of state and Democratic favorite will hear critical questions from her challengers Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders - an issue that is important to the particularly dedicated Democratic party members attending the primaries.

Link tips:

  • You can read an SZ portrait of Rand Paul here.
  • Politico describes in this piece why the current situation was exactly the moment for which Rand Paul has been waiting for a long time.
  • Who will be Obama's successor? Almost all of the presidential candidates are featured in this series of images.