Ryan Lees

It is common to have ‘non-mainstream types’ populate the U.S. House of Representatives after electoral landslides. With two-year terms, House offices are vulnerable to tempestuous voters; voters are more willing to test different views in a shorter term, and a Representative has less potential to do harm in a chamber of 435 peers. What is far less common is when an outlier is elected to the Senate.

The Senate does not react well to catfish: people who stir up the sediment. It was built to be stable and enduring with longer terms and greater influence. It was built to carry out concrete plans (though intended to be accountable to the state). When a personality such as Rand Paul (KY) is elected to the Chamber, it is a shock. He is drastically different from the typical Senator. Even those in his party are not sure how to react. This was evident in Minority Leader McConnell’s post-election press conference that suspiciously excluded any mention of fellow Kentuckian Senator-elect Paul.

How different is Paul? A good way to determine the degree of separation is to compare him to a Senator vaunted on a bipartisan basis: The Lion, Ted Kennedy (MA).

Edward M. Kennedy served in the Senate for 47 years until his recent death. His term was the third longest in U.S. History. He entered the Senate in 1962 at age 30, filling his brother John F. Kennedy’s seat, who was at the time President of the United States. He was the youngest of four brothers: JFK, Robert F. Kennedy and Joseph Kennedy, Jr. (killed in WWII). RFK was a Senator and the U.S. Attorney General at the time of Ted’s election and if alive, Joe Jr. no doubt would have ended up in politics.

Ted Kennedy never accomplished anything as a private citizen. Born to Joseph Kennedy, Sr., a voracious businessman and U.S. Ambassador, his life was set up for a political career. After law school, Ted was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1959. He ran JFK’s presidential campaign in 1960 and was reserved JFK’s Senate seat by a special appointment/favor by then Massachusetts Governor Foster Furcolo.

From that point he continued his privileged, aristocratic life on the Kennedy compound and on the Hill. Among all the scandals, he remained Teflon-coated. He served for the ‘little people’ and padded his seat by taking from the ‘big people.’

Rand Paul (KY) has a different profile. Not old enough to remember Kennedy’s election (Rand was born in ’63), Paul is not a political elite and had nothing set up for him, other than the emphasis of a quality education and productive life.


Ryan Lees

Ryan Lees is the Director of Media Outreach and a Program Coordinator at the Patrick Henry Center.