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If any Ken­tuckian is in the running for the 2024 pres­i­dential election, it is Sen. Rand Paul, not Gov. Andy Beshear. It was recently argued that Beshear would be an ideal can­didate to step in if Pres­ident Joe Biden does not run for a second term, thus cre­ating an opening for a new Demo­c­ratic nominee — but that was a flawed analysis. Simply put, many of the same issues that are causing Biden’s approval ratings to plummet have been whole­heartedly endorsed by Beshear. 

Take the COVID-19 response as an example. While not one of the first to ini­tiate a lockdown order, Beshear kept Kentucky’s lockdown orders in place until June 28th, 2020 — the third-longest in the country, and longer than the states of Michigan, Illinois, and New York, all of which were con­sidered to be among the most extreme in the country. Fur­thermore, Beshear has been par­tic­u­larly aggressive in lim­iting con­sti­tu­tionally guar­anteed freedoms. On Easter Sunday in 2020, Beshear sent Ken­tucky State Troopers to record the license numbers of wor­shippers at in-person ser­vices. In April 2021, he said that he would only lift restric­tions once enough Ken­tuckians got vac­ci­nated — essen­tially con­di­tioning the right to peaceably assemble, among other fun­da­mental rights of cit­izens, upon enough acqui­escing to a then-exper­i­mental medical treatment with still unknown long term effects.

On edu­cation, Beshear has been little better. He was pro­pelled into office in no small part by fights over the teachers’ pension system, which col­lapsed when his father, Steve Beshear, was gov­ernor and under­funded the pension fund by bil­lions. As Attorney General, he sued to prevent the pension reform act passed under Repub­lican Gov. Matt Bevin, whom he replaced in 2019. Since then, he has been a reliable ally of the teachers’ unions, who unan­i­mously endorsed him, and gave $1.2 million to Beshear-aligned super PACs, in a race where the Beshear cam­paign itself was unable to raise even eight times that amount. Beshear has duti­fully repaid that alle­giance, by promising to increase teacher salaries by $2,000 per year, vetoing a school choice bill (while his children attend a private school), and re-imposing mask man­dates on all schools in the com­mon­wealth, even private ones.

While his campaign’s inter­ac­tions with teachers’ unions and the sub­se­quent actions and pro­posals Beshear has made once taking office are unseemly, they are not iso­lated inci­dents. Both he and his father’s admin­is­tration have been plagued by alle­ga­tions of cor­ruption. His top deputy while he was attorney general was con­victed in federal court for a kick­backs scheme, and as gov­ernor, he has made several ques­tionable, no-bid con­tracts with cam­paign donors. This ten­dency was put on par­ticular display in Beshear’s han­dling of unem­ployment insurance, which came to the fore­front after he ordered the state lockdown, putting hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ken­tuckians out of work. Weeks into the shutdown, he fired the cam­paign donor and per­sonal friend of the Lt. Gov. he appointed to head the office, despite having zero expe­rience in unem­ployment matters. The Beshear admin­is­tration so spec­tac­u­larly mis­handled unem­ployment that tens of thou­sands of Ken­tuckians were unable to receive timely adju­di­cation of their claims, some waiting more than four, five, and even six months.

Beshear has done all of this in a state that he won in an off-off year election (2019) by slightly more than 5,000 votes. Moreover, Beshear would have lost against any other Repub­lican statewide can­didate. He has hardly any support even within the commonwealth.

But the Demo­c­ratic Party’s pres­i­dential nom­i­nation is not the only one poten­tially up for grabs in 2024. A great deal depends on whether former Pres­ident Donald Trump runs in 2024. While many believe it is likely, if he does not, it would leave the Repub­lican field wide open. Kentucky’s Rand Paul would be equipped to step into the fray. Unlike Beshear, Paul has far greater support among Ken­tuckians, gar­nering well over one million votes in his last cam­paign, and winning by a margin of over 200,000.

Also unlike Beshear, Paul has been a forceful and high-profile opponent to the pre­vailing COVID-19 hys­teria. A cer­tified medical doctor, Paul has repeatedly taken Dr. Anthony Fauci to task over his support for gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the likely origin site of COVID-19. In addition, Paul has been a strong advocate against the medical tyranny pushed by bureau­crats in Wash­ington, D.C., and the com­mon­wealth, pushing for the recog­nition of the pro­tection afforded by natural immunity and against the unnec­essary use of masks. Finally, he has been one of the most vocal in opposing attempts to mandate vac­ci­nation, demon­strating that one can be both in favor of vac­ci­nation and also per­sonal liberty in medical decisions.

Paul’s posi­tions on COVID-19 are typical of his standing on other vital issues. Unlike Beshear, he is in favor of school choice and opposes Critical Race Theory being taught in K‑12 schools. Paul has spoken in oppo­sition to Attorney General Merrick General’s attempts to chill the free speech rights of parents by siccing the FBI on them without any pred­icate for federal involvement. Paul has also railed against the cen­sorship of Big Tech, in part because of his advocacy on COVID-19 issues that at the time was labeled “mis­in­for­mation,” only for those very stances to be acknowl­edged as fact later.

The dif­fer­ences between Andy Beshear and Rand Paul preview the choices this country must make in the 2024 pres­i­dential election. Beshear rep­re­sents the top-down, bureau­cratic, liberty-sti­fling path, which believes in the rule of experts over any inde­pen­dence of the people, the path which is cur­rently being blazed by Biden. Paul rep­re­sents a dif­ferent path, one that rejects top-down rule by bureau­crats and embraces liberty and self-gov­ernment. If the response to the Biden administration’s policies on COVID-19 and CRT are any indi­cator, it is Paul’s path, not that of Beshear, that the American people will choose in 2024.