Rand Paul Brings the Message Of Liberty
by Tom Donelson on January 29, 2013 at 2:05 PM
Rand Paul has shown himself over the past year to be a serious politician who understands the political landscape and is now attempting to do what his dad could never do and other libertarians failed to do consistently: bring libertarian viewpoints into the mainstream.
A friend of mine once observed that if you have million listeners a day, you have a hit radio show, but if you have million voters, you have the Libertarian Party. As a party, Libertarians have never garnered more than a million votes for the presidency, and in most state races, Libertarians are lucky to collect 1 or 2% of the vote. This is not to say that Libertarians are wrong in their viewpoints, only that they have never established the political organization to become a factor.
Ron Paul's biggest influence never came from those moments that he was an official Libertarian candidate, but when he ran in the Republican primary over the past two election cycles. I would suspect that he gathered more votes as a Republican candidate for the nomination than he ever did or could as a Libertarian candidate. Ron Pau'sl influence is starting to be felt as many of his supporters have gone back to local grassroots politics with the idea of gaining control over the local party machines. The leadership of the Iowa political machine is dominated by Ron Paul supporters who took over much of the machinery after the Iowa caucus. Paul's machine is learning that to win the long term struggle means having access to a major Party apparatus. The Libertarian movement as a separate political identity has reached its limit, but their ideas are now having impact.
Rand Paul's advantages lies with several factors. The first is that his father has shown that there are enough Republicans ready for Libertarian ideas. Many of them are younger voters who are willing to listen to the message, and Rand Paul is a better retail politician than his father. Ron Paul's political base was a heavily Republican congressional district in Texas, but Rand Paul has won a state wide seat in Kentucky. While Kentucky is a red state, it is also a state where a Democrat can win a statewide seat and Paul showed political skills in overcoming the Republican establishment and then managing to unite the Party in the general election to win an easy victory by 11 percentage points. Ron Paul left the impression that he didn’t care if he won or lost an election, it was about the principle, whereas his son understands that a little politics is needed to push his agenda.
This could be seen in how they promote their non-interventionist policy. Ron Paul's critique of American policy has been consistent regardless of who was President, but his critique often resembled what the left has stated: it is America’s fault. For many years, many isolationists viewed that an American interventionist policy would lead to the world contaminating America and lead to an expansion of government powers, but Paul has accepted the leftist view that it is America who is the major problem with the world. A glimpse into Paul's worldview was shown in his cross examination of John Kerry's nomination when he asked John Kerry why is it evil for Americans to have bombed Cambodia in the early 70s, but it is okay to bomb Libya in 2012? This question summed up Paul's own view on consistency and a small government approach to foreign affairs.
Rand Paul's critique is similar to the old right world view that American interventionist policy leads to an expansion of government at home and world instability, but he never publicly viewed America as the source of evil. His unabashed support of Israel stands stark contrast to others in the non-interventionist movement, but he also doesn’t support an activist America policy in the region. There is a difference standing with Israel and intervening in Libya or Syria. His support of Israel is a signal to many evangelical Christians that he is on their side on this issue.
The two biggest challenges to Paul will be his relations with the social conservatives and mainstream Republicans. When it comes to foreign policy, Paul will continue the non-interventionist policy of his dad, even if it means a chance in the nuance of how that policy is stated. The second is his position on many social issues. He is pro-life and like many pro-life libertarians, he views the right to be born as part of the Jefferson written trifecta of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He views the issue through the prism not as a right of woman to choose life or death over the unborn but that both the unborn and the mother are entitled to the right of life.
On the issue of drug legalization and same sex, his position is more nuanced. While he does not approve of same sex marriage personally and certainly, one doesn’t expect Rand Paul to smoke joints on a daily basis, but he views that the issues should be decided by the people themselves. As for the drug war, Paul shares libertarian skepticism toward the drug war and its efficacy. Paul's view is that those items not mentioned in the Constitution like same-sex marriage or the drug war are best left to the people and their local government. These will be areas where Paul will push for the limitation of government, in particular the federal government, in our lives.
Paul points to social conservatives that there are issues best left to the people to decide, and while he may not believe in a constitutional rights for gays to be married, he is perfectly willing to allow individuals to make decisions about their lives. Which brings us to the key aspect of Paul’s challenge, brining Libertarian into the mainstream means Libertarian ideas must be part of a major Political Party platform. While many younger conservatives may find Paul’s libertarian views appealing, many of their parents may not yet. The final challenge to Rand Paul’s future political aspirations is that while many Americans may find his social libertarianism appealing, they have yet to accept his economic vision of smaller government. If they did, Obama would not have won.