The Washington odd couple of libertarian Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and liberal Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) have struck again. It is reported that the two unlikely allies are teaming up in an attempt to bring an end to the federal prohibition on medical marijuana. The Senators have previously worked together on criminal justice reform by crafting the REDEEM Act, which would lessen criminal and legal burdens on nonviolent offenders.
As millions of Americans decry gridlock and polarization in Washington, Paul’s joint ventures with Booker are more than welcome. Most importantly, these are not bipartisan proposals which compromise either man’s principles; all of the legislation which the two work on together have advanced liberty and reduced government restraints.
Noticeable and previously mentioned is that this is not the first time that the Senators have worked together. The duo has become known as a Washington “bromance” for their willingness to find common ground. Such bipartisanship in longed for in American politics, and a high-profile, enduring example has seemingly not been in existence since Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton teamed up with respective House Speakers Tip O’Neill and Newt Gingrich.
For as much serious business as is involved in so much of the work done by Paul and Booker in Washington, they have used their time working together as a way of identifying with the current generation; the statesmen have done numerous interviews together over the past year, famously Tweeted at each other during “Festivus” in December and even took a selfie together.
By showing such initiative, both are cementing themselves as leaders of their political parties. While most of the issues they have addressed together have been traditionally “liberal” or “Democratic,” Senator Booker’s party has been noticeably absent from the dialogue in years past. It is for this reason that he deserves praise for making legitimate efforts where his predecessors have only given lip service.
As for Paul, his moves are even more bold. He is, through his own volition, attempting to make a change to his party’s tune on criminal justice. Long the party of “law and order,” the Republicans have, not coincidentally, had a difficult time connecting with poor and minority voters. Through his legislative accomplishments, Paul is doing more than just campaign-year outreach to historically disadvantaged communities; he is putting in the work to show that he’s serious about what he says.
Perhaps the reason for their camaraderie is that they have so much more in common on a basic level than what would be first observed; both men have been in the senate for less than 5 years and were born in the tumultuous 1960s. Neither is entrenched in the minutiae of Washington politics, or swayed by some kind of defined loyalty to one’s political party over principles. When we look at these two men, we do not see the “old guard” which is content with doing whatever is necessary to keep their seats and please leaders in the party; we instead see two fresh faces who are ready to change “business as usual.”
As Senator Paul moves closer to a run for the presidency in 2016, his bipartisan work with Senator Booker will be a useful tool as he reaches out to new constituencies in ways which no other candidates, Republican or Democrat, can. While it is difficult to predict if Senator Booker will have any official role in a Paul Administration, there is plenty of reason to hope that the legislative relationship that these political newcomers have forged will continue to prosper, even as each individual advances in stature on his side of the aisle.