Dorks Of A Feather
Meet Rand Paul’s Nerd Army: Like Mathletes, but for Liberty
Behind every good liberty-loving crusader is a liberty-loving posse.
When Senator Rand Paul left the Capitol on Sunday evening, after successfully causing the temporary death of several provisions in the PATRIOT Act, he and Congressman Justin Amash piled into a shiny, black Tesla, driven by Congressman Thomas Massie.
With his opposition to mass government surveillance on the American people, Paul stands alone in the wilderness among his Republican colleagues in the Senate. In the House, however, Paul has a band of cheerleaders—and they seem to follow him everywhere.
Amash and Massie had spent the duration of Paul’s lengthy speech observing from the benches in the back of the Senate chamber and out in the hallway, promising to block any measure the Senate sent to the House in the event that they were able to get something passed before the PATRIOT Act expired at midnight. Amash said he and Massie—along with members of the Liberty Caucus—had remained in D.C. last week to “guard the House” from any leadership attempts to pass the renewals.
“There can’t be unanimous consent if one person objects,” Massie told Bloomberg Politics’ David Weigel. Amash countered: “And we would object.”
Amash, Republican from Michigan, is just 35 and looks like a young Dan Hedaya.
Amash is known for his vague libertarianism and beloved by liberty-movement types for reading the Constitution ahead of every vote. House Republican leadership has been less impressed—he was kicked off the House Budget Committee in 2012 for voting against their wishes too many times.
(Amash Tweeted on Wednesday to contest this characterization of him: “I’m not vaguely libertarian,” he said. Though, many capital-L libertarians take issue with r-Republicans describing themselves as full-fledged libertarians.)
His Twitter bio boasts “I defend #liberty,” and there is a Facebook page, “Rand Paul Justin Amash 2016,” devoted to the dream that Paul might choose him as his running mate. Its tagline is “Restore the Republic.” It has over 1,600 “likes.”
“We each have an obligation to support and defend the Constitution,” Amash said in the Capitol on Tuesday. “We’re doing our part on the House side and he’s doing his part on the Senate side.”
Amash said he, Massie, and Paul are personal friends, but said “we don’t interact with each other on a daily basis.”
According to Massie, however, communication with Paul has been constant as the PATRIOT debate has raged on. “This past week we spoke frequently,” Massie said on Tuesday while exiting a press conference with Paul. Asked through what means they communicate, Massie said that if they texted, “Well, then they could intercept it—nah, I’m just kidding.”
Massie, 44, who like Paul is from Kentucky, is another vaguely libertarian Republican, though he doesn’t quite have the star-wattage of Amash. The libertarian periodical Reason described Massie as “Libertarian(ish),” and “Kentucky’s Next Rand Paul.” In August 2013, a member of Paul’s digital staff, “Libertarian Girl,” spoke out in support of Massie on Facebook: “Congressman Thomas Massie is one of my favorite congressman…Shhh don’t tell anyone but I think he might be a libertarian. [sic].” She added a smiley face.
Massie said that what he, Paul, and Amash are advocating for is what the American people want. Their views, he said, are “very popular in Kentucky and everywhere I go. They’re only unpopular inside the Beltway. Like, just go to social media. Go look on Facebook, Twitter—you just won’t see any grassroots movement against what Senator Paul is doing.”
Massie isn’t wrong: Last month, Pew Research Center released its latest analysis of Americans’ views on the surveillance state. They found that 54 percent of Americans “disapprove of the U.S. government’s collection of telephone and Internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts.”
Republicans and independents, according to Pew, “are more likely to disapprove than approve,” while Democrats remain split.
Paul’s posse is rounded out by Congressman Raul Labrador, Republican from Idaho. Labrador, who looks like a cross between Jimmy Kimmel and Nathan Lane, has a formal role on Paul’s campaign, as the “western states” chairman. “He and I have been friends for a long time,” Labrador told KTVB. He added that he will also be “a little bit of a policy adviser” on the campaign, “working with him on some of the issues that he’s developing, and just making sure that he has a good opportunity to be represented out here in the West.”
Ahead of Paul’s “filibuster,” his campaign sent out a press release, advertising that there were “surrogates available to comment” on what he was doing. It read: “As Senator Paul is occupied on the Senate floor, Congressmen Raul Labrador, Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, among others, have made themselves available for media interviews.”
When photos of Paul, Amash, and Massie leaving the Capitol and heading toward the Tesla surfaced on Sunday, they became, as all the best posses do, a meme.
A Reddit thread of the photo has over 3,000 comments.
Twitter responded by comparing them to the poster for the 1992 Quentin Tarantino hit Reservoir Dogs.
Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.
This story has been updated to include additional comment from Representative Amash.