Rand Paul Sweet Talks Libertarians, Anti-Interventionalists, Touts Their Potential Home in the GOP

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) walks a delicate line, trying to placate his dad's fans and occasionally rabble-rousing about the TSA or the NDAA,  while also trying to ease into the Republican establishment. His official endorsement of former Gov. Mitt Romney did not make a lot of people happy. Nor did his mostly establishment-friendly speech at the Republican National Convention at the end of last month. 

However, as in most things, it depends on your point of view. Paul the younger's speech may have seemed line-toeing when compared with dear old dad's hell-raising, 20-year smackdown of the GOP. But compared to the other RNC speeches, Rand Paul was downright anarchistic, if only for the four subversive paragraphs that Matt Welch pointed to on August 30. Perhaps the most overtly libertarian being:

Republicans and Democrats alike must slay their sacred cows. Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well-spent, and Democrats must admit that domestic welfare and entitlements must be reformed.

More exciting still, on CBS This Morning, the good Senator also urged that the U.S. rein in its habit of bombing the hell out of people in other countries. To be fair, Paul took a pragmatic angle there as well,  saying that the GOP might do better on the west coast and in New England if they got a bit more Ron Paulish in their foreign policy ambitions. As Reason 24/7 noted earlier today, Paul said:

I think one of the problems we face, as a Republican party, is that we’re behind the eight-ball to begin with

We’re not winning the West Coast. We’re not winning New England. Maybe we need to embrace more Ron Paul Republicans, more libertarian Republicans. … It means people who are little bit less aggressive on foreign policy. They believe in defending the country, but they don’t believe we need to be everywhere all the time

We should have a more defensive foreign policy, a less aggressive foreign policy. I think that would go over much better in New England than the typical ‘we need to bomb everybody tomorrow’ policy you hear from some Republicans.

In further reaching out to poor, lonely libertarians, Paul also went on ABC's This Week on Sunday, and said  that the GOP should try to bring libertarians into the fold. And in order to do so, the party could try, again, to be:

Maybe a less aggressive, more socially tolerant but still fiscally conservative policy that may be more libertarian. Might do better in California, might do better in Oregon and Washington and New England, and I think if we had that it would be a great strategy. 

Paul also has a new book, Government Bullies, which he talked up on HuffPost Live earlier today.  Its subject is federal power run amok, something that the Republicans talk about, but with a lot less specificity and vitriol than Paul during, say, his attempt to prevent the PATRIOT act from being re-upped back in May 2011. Paul's current efforts to to sneak some liberty into the party that sorely lacks it may be too subtle for many. And is Welch noted in the afore-linked piece, the most disturbing aspect to Paul's quiet attempts may be that he is a radical anti-statist anti-interventionist when compared with most others in the party (Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) and his vintage-2004-Bush RNC speech being one troubling example). Still, Paul's handful of spirited, Senate floor defenses of the Fourth Amendment constitute more good than most politicians have ever done. That is something, no matter if he goes on to break small government hearts by, say, turning into another Ronald Reagan, all talk, but no friend to liberty. 

Reason TV explored the question of how much of a line-toer Rand Paul will be, back at the RNC:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Yeah, I believe that Rand Paul is trying to walk a balancing act between appearing to be a good, mainstream Republican member (even though he isn't), while still holding onto more libertarian voters.
    That's what his endorsement of Romney was about; trying to get the establishment to consider him more seriously. At the same time, he's trying not to alienate libertarian-minded voters. If he can hold onto libertarian voters while keeping the establishment (which going into the future will in part mean Mitt Romney) on his side, he'll have a good chance of running for President in 2016 on the Republican Party ticket. He'll need both sorts to win a 2016 nomination, let alone an election run.

  • Calidissident||

    Yeah, a lot of hardline libertarians and Ron Paul supporters disowned Rand after the Romney endorsement, and while I wasn't happy about it, I'm still willing to support the guy, because while he hasn't been a perfect senator, he has been very good at advancing liberty on a wide array of issues, and is about as good as is realistically possible at this time. I think he realizes that in order to have success, and implement his policies, he can't be as openly hostile to the mainstream as his dad is. Don't get me wrong, I think Ron Paul's straight forwardness, honesty, and hostility to the establishment, all to the point of jeopardizing his political career, is admirable, and in fact probably necessary from a public figure in order to get the ball rolling, so to speak. But to take the next step, people like Rand, who are publicly more friendly to the mainstream, while still advancing the cause of liberty, are necessary

  • BakedPenguin||

    This.

  • ||

    He's sort of the opposite of the normal politician: most of them will promise they'll be good on civil liberties and war and the economy, then do nothing (or do even worse) on those issues while they're in office, all the while telling people how great they are and how they should get another term.

    Rand's a bit different: he's been very consistent on civil liberties, war, and the economy. While he says things like endorsing Romney, which pisses off libertarian-minded folks, he still presses hard for less war, eliminating civil liberties abuses, and fixing our budget deficit.

    People focus too much on words. People praise normal politicians for platitudes and empty promises, without holding them accountable when they don't come through. Even libertarians, frustrated with normal politicians, do this. They judge Rand by one thing he says (supporting Romney as President), rather than focusing on how much he pushes for good legislation, and against bad legislation, all the while lecturing the Senate on how terrible they are.

  • Calidissident||

    Yeah, and I've said this to people who think libertarians should instantly stop supporting him; If Rand Paul runs for president, I will evaluate his record, and if I feel that he has fought overall to significantly increase liberty (and to this point I think he has) and, assuming I have no good reason to think he wouldn't continue to do so as president, I will vote for him

  • BarryD||

    Off with your head, infidel!

  • Cytotoxic||

    This. I'd add we need all types: out and proud, 'pragmatists' who use the out 'n prouds for leverage etc

  • Calidissident||

    Yeah I'd agree with that. Especially considering libertarians aren't in a position to be overly choosy as to what type of pro-liberty politicians to have

  • Cytotoxic||

    People here give Barr a lot of bad press, and for good reason, but he did sneak that sunset clause into the PATRIOT act. That's huge. That kind of 'black ops' anti-statist sabotage is arguably more effective than grandstanding. But of course we need both and they need each other.

  • BarryD||

    Maybe more libertarians will start to recognize this fact, but I'm not holding my breath.

  • Atanarjuat||

    You mentioned 2016...If Romney wins this year, Rand Paul will have a hard time challenging him in the primary next time around. However, if Barack Obama wins, IMO, Romney will be out and Paul has a much better chance in Republican primaries.

  • John C. Randolph||

    I've supported him in the past, but I won't contribute another dime to his reelection campaign unless he rescinds and apologizes for endorsing that douchenozzle.

    -jcr

  • Cytotoxic||

    ^Moron^

  • John C. Randolph||

    Fuck you too, sunshine. I obviously place far more weight on integrity than you do.

    -jcr

  • Father Jack||

    Feck off, cytoscum. Now go suckle Mitt Ramennoodle's member and drift off to sleep like a good little statist. Drink! Arse! Girls!

  • ||

    We should have a more defensive foreign policy, a less aggressive foreign policy. I think that would go over much better in New England than the typical ‘we need to bomb everybody tomorrow’ policy you hear from some Republicans.

    As much as I'd like that, I don't know why he thinks this. New Englanders tend to not give a shit about anything outside of New England, including the rest of the US. You could bomb Delaware and they'd shrug.

    "You can't bomb there from heah"

  • ||

    You could bomb Delaware and they'd shrug.

    "Hi...I'm in...Delaware."

  • Paul.||

    I thought you were in Cleveland.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "We should have a more defensive foreign policy, a less aggressive foreign policy. I think that would go over much better in New England than the typical ‘we need to bomb everybody tomorrow’ policy you hear from some Republicans."

    That's just crazy talk

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Paul has, what, a couple more years before he has to start running for re-election. He has some time to say some crazy libertarianish things before having to start moderating himself. And who knows, if his fellow senators see someone speaking to liberty and being lauded for it, gaining a little notice because of it, maybe they'll find some small government Jesus. (While still finding a way to line their pockets with lobby money and power, of course.)

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I would like to think that his comparatively mainstream attitude (compared to Dad) *is* his concession to moderation. I could always be wrong, I admit.

  • ||

    Yeah, he didn't even claim (in the interview, at least), that personhood started at conception. The closest he got was condemning 8- and 9-month abortions.

  • Cytotoxic||

    another Ronald Reagan, all talk, but no friend to liberty.

    Yeah he only helped tear down the USSR and America's insanely tax code. ALL TALK.

  • The Hammer||

    That would be the tax code that still exists, and is still insane(ly)? He escalated the drug war, further entrenched the Military-Industrial Complex, and attacked that McDonald's. On balance, no, not a huge ally of liberty.

  • Paul.||

    Reagan was no Libertarian in the pure sense. There was plenty to dislike about Reagan, and plenty more to dislike about his cabinet.

    But in comparison, Reagan might well have been the last president of the 20th century to actually understand economics-- supply, demand, Laffer curves, and the general idea of government power in aggregate.

    Picking a favorite president is a bit like picking a favorite Supreme court judge... eventually they'll disappoint you. But if given a choice of Obama, Mittens or Reagan, I'd knock door-to-door for Reagan.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Ya I know he sucked on a lot of stuff but to the extent that we still have a chance today it's largely because of him.

  • Couves||

    Lucy, regarding your HuffPost question: Rand has the same position as his father, which is that drugs laws should be entirely up to the states. So he's for ending the federal War on Drugs, even if he doesn't say it that way.

  • ubercynic||

    Much as I'd like to be proven wrong, I can see only two possible outcomes: he gets marginalized like his father, or he sells out. If the former, he could still do some good (assuming you buy the "educational" approach), if the latter, he could do a lot of harm.

  • JeremyR||

    The trouble with that theory is that people on the West Coast and New England don't seem to mind it one bit when a Democratic president bombs other countries.

    There is no true Anti-War movement. It only exists as a way to attack Republican presidents.

  • wef||

    How about, Paul is trying to position himself to lead the freedom faction of the disintegrated republican party after the smash-up and self-destruction and jacobin terror following the November loss.

    He would need enough sentimental capital to isolate the noble house of bush and the other gamers and con artists.

    Fantasy, yeah.

  • Cytotoxic||

    THIS. If (when?) Romney blows it, the GOP masses will be thronging for a political Red Terror given to establishment/neocon types. This is where 'good libertarian' Rand Paul steps in. He'll be good, but not for them.

  • Paul.||

    And "line-toeing"? Really? Are we not on Reason any more? Everyone with a braincell knows it's "lion-towing"

  • Father Jack||

    No one here bothered to cover Gary Johnson's Town Hall meeting? Jebus....

  • Alien Invader||

    You've put this same comment up in enough places by now that you could have covered it yourself with a roughly equal amount of effort.

    Anyway, slamming Repugnicons is waaaay more important.

  • zhangli||

    This is a really good site post,I'm delighted I came across it.i will be back down the track to cheak out other posts that.

  • R C Dean||

    Personally, I see no reason to believe that the current Republican masters, or rank and file, will do a perfect 180 on "defense" and military spending. Sorry, Rand, but that's just the way I see it.

    Look at their horror and outrage over the really rather modest cuts. The cuts are about $50 - 60BB/year over 10 years, out of an $850BB total budget, or about 6%/year, and that's assuming the defense budget continues to increase at, if memory serves, 3%/year. As near as I can tell, the sequester is a 3% real cut in the total defense budget.

  • Ryan60657||

    If only... he hadn't endorsed Big Government Mitt Romney.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement