Rand Paul’s acolytes often claim the senator gets marginalized because of his ideas. It’s because he’s a libertarian, they say, that he’s not treated fairly by the media. It’s a hard argument to make. Paul is a staple of the mainest of all mainstream media, the Sunday shows, and widely considered a top-tier presidential contender by middle-of-the-road analysts.
But let’s imagine the junior senator from Kentucky were a woman. Not just any woman—let’s call her Randi—but, for the sake of this argument, a beautiful woman. The “men want to sleep with her, women want to be her” echelon of physical attractiveness. Everything else is identical: self-certified eye doctor, first-term senator, and she got the job with a boost from her father.
While the Republican Party is taking a nosedive in popularity, she says: “Does anybody remember Charlie Sheen when he was kind of going crazy ... And he was going around, jumping around saying ‘Winning, winning, we’re winning’? Well I kind of feel like that, we are winning. And I’m not on any drugs.”
People snicker about how dumb she is. Twitter erupts with sarcastic hashtags: #RandiLulz, #CandywithRandi and #RandiLogic. She’s considered a ditz—the Senate’s answer to Michele Bachmann. Still, Randi gets ratings!
People tune in to her media appearances just waiting for her to say something stupid. It’s like NASCAR—part fandom, part hoping for a crash. It’s self-perpetuating: Because she’s shameless and gaffe-prone, she becomes fascinating at a Real Housewives level. Her profile grows, and soon the conventional wisdom is that she’s very popular. Pundits deem her a kingmaker. “People find her very compelling,” liberal talking heads concede. Conservatives say Randi is Everywoman, the voice for mothers and career women alike. “And look, we’re talking about her again!” they all agree.
But Randi has a problem with the facts. They seem to elude her. She repeatedly says we have a trillion-dollar deficit when, according to the CBO, it’s only $642 billion and falling sharply. Plus she mixes up deficit and debt. The Beltway press diligently points this out, smirking. She’s “ambitious”—a word her detractors say with a snarl. “But easy on the eyes,” her supporters counter. The debate becomes Pretty vs. Pretty Dumb.
Randi tries to position herself as above this fray. "The fact-checking is not fact-checking. These are people with a bias. It's purely an opinion. The stuff is so ludicrous I don't even read it,” she says of her critics.
The headline is: “Randi Admits She Doesn’t Read!” The Internet breaks out in a rash of mansplaining. She’s dubbed Bluegrass Barbie.
Randi tries to show off her policy chops to prove she’s serious. Not just about a potential presidential run, but generally “serious.” She’s a lawmaker—a senator! All the giggling at her flubs makes her seem “unserious.” The media chides, “She wants to be taken seriously.”
So she uses the filibuster. She spends 13 hours railing against the use of unmanned drones. Yes, unmanned drones. An issue that would bring the country together! Civil liberties and constitutional rights all rolled into a perfect issue. "Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" she demands.