Guess who was making waves at this year’s SXSW festival, no, it wasn’t the latest synth-pop outfit that’s about to have a breakthrough single, I’m talking about someone who doesn’t even have a soul patch, I’m talking about Kentuckian Senator Rand Paul, son of America’s greatest living Libertarian. Paul was interviewed at an event hosted by Lincoln Labs, a group of tech entrepreneurs which has taken a position against the Obama administration’s successful proposal to reclassify the internet as a public utility, arguing that the move will stifle growth and innovation. Paul’s relationship with the group is a natural one, his libertarian values coincide with their stance against government regulation of the internet. In this older video below, Paul talks about his stance on the issue of net neutrality.
The significance of Paul’s interview goes beyond this specific issue. Paul has long positioned himself as the government outsider who’s working to change the status quo in Washington. At the same time, Paul’s campaign committee has been taking in contributions from various Silicon Valley industry leaders. Besides making jokes at Hilary Clinton’s expense, Paul clarified that his message was intended for the “leave me alone coalition”, that is, anyone in favor of less government.
Ever the iconoclast, Paul spoke on a diverse range of topics, including giving a huge tax break to the city of Detroit and the need for Federal voting rights act that would restore voting rights for non-violent criminals. Ahead of his likely run at presidential candidacy, Paul is attempting to court the under thirty vote by painting himself as a line of defense against the erosion of digital privacy. The senator voiced his hope that young voters who have overwhelmingly supported president Obama will leave the Democratic fold over this administration’s failure to defend their privacy rights.
Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. Senator Paul’s conservative streak could turn off a lot of voters who would support him on the privacy and deregulation issue. The Republican Party is going to have a hard time finding another candidate who can come across as tech savvy. One that, like Paul, can claim to know the difference between traditional media personalities and youtubers, whom he says are like reality TV stars. His biggest competition for the nomination might be Jeb Bush, he who bungled his attempt to seem transparent last month by mistakenly releasing e-mails containing people’s private information including social security numbers.
So, how much does your choice of candidate depend on their ability to ‘get’ modern technology?