Rand Paul’s roundtable shows dedication to democracy

Published 6:46 pm Thursday, August 22, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

Sen. Rand Paul couldn’t make it to Danville Wednesday due to complications from surgery on his lung. But his scheduled roundtable happened anyway, thanks to dozens of engaged local leaders and residents — and Paul’s staffers, who admitted they were stepping into a real-life version of a bad dream.

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“Have you ever had the dream where it was the night before the final and you weren’t prepared to take the final and you didn’t even know where the class was? And you woke up in a cold sweat?” Rob Givens, Paul’s state director, asked the crowd during his opening comments. “Yeah — I’m living that dream today.”

Givens stood in for Paul, distilling Paul’s “philosophy” into partial answers to the audience’s questions, with help from Communications Director Kelsey Cooper.

Givens, a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, told the crowd it wasn’t an easy job: “I’ve got over 100 career combat flights and, quite frankly, those were not as scary as addressing this crowd right now.”

But the most was made out of an event that could have been canceled awkwardly at the last moment. And Sen. Paul and his staff deserve credit for how they organized the event in coordination with the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce.

When we learned of Paul’s planned visit in July, we advocated for a transparent, productive meeting, rooted in the basic values of representative democracy. We didn’t want the meeting to be a PR gimmick; we wanted it to connect the people with the person elected to represent them.

We believe Paul and his staff accomplished that goal — as best they could without the senator actually being in attendance. A truly diverse crowd of elected officials, community leaders and political opponents were invited and attended the event. The newspaper partnered with Sen. Paul’s office to kick off the Q&A session, but Paul’s office had no input or prior notice of the newspaper’s question. No attempt was made to shut down or cut off anyone asking an uncomfortable question.

The topics touched on during the roundtable prove how appropriately organizing the event allowed the local community’s real problems, strengths and desires to take center stage. Criminal justice reform and jail overcrowding; opioid addiction and drug abuse; fossil-fuel pipeline safety — these are all topics that get politicized and are used to divide at the national level. But here in Boyle County, they are real issues that all political sides have unified around in an effort to make the community better.

That community unity in the face of often overwhelming obstacles is what shone through during the roundtable.

Regardless of whether you like Paul’s positions, regardless of whether you plan to vote for him in 2022, we believe Wednesday’s event shows he is dedicated to doing his job the right way.