The emergence of Rand Paul as a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination marks an important turning point: Extreme libertarianism has entered the mainstream of American politics.
This shift has been coming for 30 years, a period of growing attacks on government as "the enemy" combined with extolling the laissez-faire idea that the free market can solve all our problems.
These attacks have not emerged out of thin air. Billions of dollars have been spent by corporations, foundations, and wealthy individuals to fund a large conservative policy and media infrastructure on the right, led by think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute.
Standing on the mall Monday among the great and diverse crowd who came to celebrate the second inauguration of the President, I reacted strongly to two aspects of the day. The first was to the feeling produced by the crowd, to the moment itself. The second was something else, something perfectly clear: a new American “demos” has arrived.