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"But we're a diverse nation," he said, to a crowd that was almost entirely white. "We're going to win when we look like America. We need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to with tattoos, without tattoos, with pony tails, without pony tails, with beards, without."
The Republican Party also needs (openly) gay members—and, as important, voters who might well agree with most or all of the party's rhetoric about smaller government but are put off by what they rightly see as revanchist attitudes toward alternative lifestyles. There's a palpable—and largely correct—feeling that many leading conservatives and Republicans would love not simply to scotch all this talk of marriage equality but any "normalizing" of homosexuality or lesbianism as a sexual preference. Cue Huckabee, Bachmann, the American Family Association.
That backward-looking feeling gets in the way of the central political message that Rand Paul and other libertarian-leaning conservatives and Republicans are selling as the best way forward not just for the GOP but the country. A majority of Americans think that same-sex marriages should have the same legal status as man-woman couplings and, as the College Republican National Committee's recent report stressed, younger voters see attitudes toward same-sex marriage as a "deal-breaker." That is, Millennials are less likely to vote for a candidate they agree with on most issues if he or she is against marriage equality. From a strictly tactical perspective, if the GOP wants to be the anti-gay-marriage party, it will diminish its future prospects.
More than any other politician on the national scene, Rand Paul has consistently argued for limiting the size, scope, and spending of government during his short time in office. No one, including such a civil libertarian stalwart as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), has been more effective in pushing for constitutional limits on state power used at home or abroad in the name of the "War on Terror." The reason Paul is the leader of the rising libertarians in Congress—and drawing sad-sack attacks from scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and writers at National Review—is precisely because he is holding the conservative movement to its stated rhetoric of minimizing goverment across the board. Most Republican get the vapors the minute that cuts in defense spending or old-age entitlement reform are broached. Not Paul.
It's good that he clarified his position during the course of the day, but Paul's immediate reaction to the Supreme Court ruling is at odds with his expansive view of a party that needs "to be like the rest of America." In an age of prolonged recession caused by government interference in the economy, of prolonged overseas wars caused by government recklessness in both articulating and prosecuting foreign policy, and of prolonged deficits caused by an inability to reel in the size, scope, and spending of government at all levels, Rand Paul has the right message and the right solutions. Trepidation about gay marriage, or pot legalization (another issue that has majority support), or other social issues just shouldn't figure into his discussions about paring back the state.
For the past decade, a majority of Americans agree that "the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses." That same majority thinks that marriage equality is OK. The first national politician who seriously and credibly fuses those two sentiments into a coherent platform will transform America—and in a good way.