This Washington Post story is interesting for its topic but what I found especially interesting is near the end in the discussion of Mitch McConnell and his role (and presumptuousness) in his state’s politics.
McConnell didn’t recognize the Tea Party people. What greater testimony to his “establishment” Republican character? What a tantalizing idea that the Tea Party might have been, after a few elections, the means of developing a new third party in the US had it not so closely allied itself to the idea of influencing the Republican party. (I write as a liberal interested in seeing electoral choices greater than those the system now provides and one who has wished for but seen no chance of a real alternative party for either conservatives or liberals.)
“Paul’s infiltration strategy began in 2008, after his last presidential bid, when he saw the potential to continue building his movement by working within the Republican Party.
But the idea took off in 2010 when Paul’s son Rand ran for Senate. On an outsider, small-government message very similar to his father’s, Rand Paul won the Republican primary that year against an opponent who was handpicked by Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader and senior senator from Kentucky. (All emphasis added)
Then, quite strangely, the establishment and the Pauls came together.
At McConnell’s request, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent an adviser to Kentucky to watch over Rand Paul’s general-election campaign — “to be the grown-up in the room,” according to one Washington Republican who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.
The adviser, Trygve Olson, developed a friendship with Rand Paul, and the two realized that they could teach each other a lot — to the benefit of both candidate and party. Olson showed Paul and his campaign establishment tactics: working with the news media, fine-tuning its message. And Paul showed Olson — and by extension, McConnell — how many people were drawn to the GOP by his message of fiscal responsibility.
One day that year, at Paul’s request, McConnell joined him for a tea party gathering in Kentucky, according to a Republican who was there. “Who are these people?” McConnell asked, bewildered by the dearth of familiar faces at a political event in his home state.
And at Rand Paul’s suggestion, Olson joined his father’s presidential campaign this year, basically to do what he did for Rand: help bring the Paul constituency into the Republican coalition without threatening the party. It’s probably no small coincidence that the partnership helps Rand’s burgeoning political career, too.
“You can dress in black and stand on the hill and smash the state and influence nobody, or you can realize the dynamics and the environment and get involved in the most pragmatic way to win minds and win votes and influence change,” said Benton, the campaign manager. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”