Rand Paul

Is Rand Paul Doubletalking Libertarians & Evangelicals?


A few days ago, my colleague Mike Riggs pointed to comments in Iowa by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—Reason's own "most interesting man in the Senate"—that should give most libertarians pause.

I've got a column up at The Daily Beast that asks

Is Rand Paul simply the latest in a long line of Republicans who cultivate libertarian-leaning voters—broadly speaking, people who believe in fiscal conservatism and social liberalism—as they gear up for presidential bids? And then disappoint those same voters almost immediately? In a 1975 interview with Reason shortly before he made a nearly successful primary run at Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan opined, "I don't believe in a government that protects us from ourselves" and "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism" —before attacking the idea of legalizing drugs, gambling, prostitution, pornography, and other "non-victim" crimes.

I conclude:

If he's serious about scraping the moss off the Republican Party, [Paul] needs to boldly defend his most contrarian, libertarian positions rather than temper his comments based on his speaking venue.

I think Rand Paul is the most articulate and insistent defender of limited government currently in office. I hope he doesn't muffle his message in the coming years.

Read the whole piece here.


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  1. Look at his voting record. He’s playing the game in the opposite direction that Ronnie Raygun did. And, frankly, it’s about time someone tried it.

    1. And I was highly skeptical in the beginning.

    2. Making all the wrong noises and all the right votes.

      1. Yeah, this is why I feel okay giving him a pass on this – so long as he keeps it up.

    3. I agree. I haven’t read the article yet, but just months ago we were reading here about Rand Paul’s extraordinary effort to hold up some amendment that would’ve had (and eventually did have) the effect of newly criminalizing certain so-called bath salts. IIRC he gave some other excuse for blocking it.

      I’m all for being sneaky and playing dirty in politics — even doing questionable stuff like Dan Halloran but preferably not having it used against you legally like the feds are trying to. I think we should try to fool people more, so they won’t take us to be rubes.

  2. I hope he doesn’t muffle his message in the coming years.

    If wants a realistic shot at the Presidency, he will have to muffle his message. He needs to first win the Republican primary, which he can’t do by completely alienating conservatives.

    1. I notice the past few cycles people referring to the presidential nomination process as “the primary”, as above. Just noting language trends, that’s all.

  3. Remind me again how Ron Paul fared in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses as compared to how Rick Santorum did? (And please don’t bring up some arcana about the actual working of the caucuses doesn’t report results until months afterward–you saw that the GOP bigwigs can change the rules on the spot if they feel they must.)

    1. Paul came within a day or two of winning until the socons freaked and decided to jump over to Santorum at the last second.

      1. How many votes are in a day?

        1. About 3000.

  4. So Nick is trolling Tulpa now?


    2. No; he’s trolling the people who want good alt-text.

  5. Ned Randers

  6. How many will go on to say “it’s OK when our guy does it”?

    1. It’s OK when our guy does it.

      1. OK?? It’s fucking better!

    2. I have a friend that used to be a libertarian. He actually went door-to-door campaigning for Obama in 2008, completely suckered in by him. By 2012, he was disillusioned, and voted for Johnson. I’d say it’s reasonable to give a chance and then refuse to be fooled twice.

  7. I’ve got a column up at The Daily Beast that asks


  8. Unfortunately, the House of Paul has ties to the bat-shit insane Gary NorthR.J. Rushdoony axis.

    1. So, what would happen if Gary North types somehow gain power.

      (And while I appreciate some of what Mr. North says about monetary policy, I’m not the biggest fan; he dissed Dungeons & Dragons: “‘Without any doubt in my own mind, after years of study of the history of occultism, after having researched historical research, I can say with confidence: These games are the most effective, most magnificently packaged, most profitably marked, most thoroughly researched introduction to the occult in man’s recorded history, period. This is NO game.’ Dr. Gary North, editor of the Remnant Review.”)

  9. So far his stances have been more principled then any other senator I can think of in the past twenty five years. If for no other reason he has my support.

    Also, after the last four presidents, the phrase “as bad as Reagan” doesn’t exactly sound that bad. I still give the man credit for reviving the economy, pumping enough capital into the system to start the tech revolution and defeating the Soviets.

    I don’t expect perfection. I don’t expect purity. The only thing I wish for is to stop the decay. Should Paul manage to win the presidency, I’ll hope for a Thatcher like reprieve from our current culture.

  10. He’s running for President. I don’t think it’s bad for Nick and others to be wary of him, but isn’t it obvious he’s saying what he needs to say to quell the fears of socons whose votes he needs to win the party nomination? Maybe he’s not as pure as his dad. Or maybe he’s just a much smarter politician. Maybe both.

    Personally, I welcome the day I get to criticize a Rand Paul presidency.

    1. Consider what we’re reading about IRS. Could it be that Reason needs to attack libertarian politicians to protect their own ass?

  11. After six years of Obama, it’s gotten to the point where I just don’t give a shit anymore.

    If Rand Paul is double-talking libertarians and evangelicals, that’s just fine with me. …so long as it gets his ass into the Oval Office.

  12. Nick, you have no dirt on Rand Paul. All you have is a speech saying he is not a libertarian. As soon as he starts voting for, and even proposing laws that are non-libertarian, then you have something to write about. In any case, while libertarians want to legalize drugs, they don’t want people to use them irresponsibly. And marriage is historically a definition left to the states. DOMA is correct because it reinforces states rights. If the 14th amendment is used to rule DOMA and the ban on gay marriage unfair, then the 14th amendment should also rule that the progressive tax is unfair, and the 8th should rule that the 16th is unconstitutional (because the 16th is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, or so it seems to me).

  13. libertarian-leaning voters?broadly speaking, people who believe in fiscal conservatism and social liberalism

    I would argue that someone can be extremely conservative on “social” matters, and still be more libertarian than someone who is “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”. It depends more on what amount of power one is willing to grant to government.

    1. ya we need to stop using that phrase.

      Instead say: libertarian-leaning voters – broadly speaking those who believe in fiscal freedom and social freedom

      1. ^

    2. I was going to make this same point… Mr. Gillespie shouldn’t echo this misguided generalization used by Republican rivals against Ron in 2008. Like Ron, Rand Paul doesn’t want people to use drugs — but even less does he want the government over-criminalizing and over-investing in a lost war. Same with gay marriage and other social issues — most of us neither want the government sanctioning NOR outlawing it… marriage really has nothing to do with the government… (or at least shouldn’t…)

  14. Libertarians represent about 5-10% of Republican primary voters at best (maybe 15% in some caucus states), who are generally loathed by all other Republican primary voters. There is nothing to be gained from sucking up to libertarians nowadays, unlike during the Reagan years when few people knew what libertarians even were and the evangelicals and neocons had not yet appeared on the scene.

    So far, I’ve been pretty impressed with Rand. His voting record is far more radical than his rhetoric; for example, he used his hold privilege to stall the ban on “bath salts” for a couple months even as that particular moral panic was ongoing.

    1. I think you’re a bit off about the Reagan years (which I take to mean from 1976, his first year running for president, through 1988, his last year as president). The neocons were definitely on the scene, but they were still in their transition from Democrat to Republican. Evangelicals were very much on the scene and quite a force in the GOP, though they would not cement their influence for a while. By my own polling, a lot fewer people did know what libertarians were, but among those who did know, libertarians under Rothbard’s influence were understood to be very afraid of Reagan’s foreign policy almost until he was out of office.

      1. By “appeared on the scene” I meant becoming the primary movers in Republican primaries (evangelicals) and among conservative media personalities and political operatives (neocons). That process had begun but was nowhere near complete.

  15. Is Rand Paul Doubletalking Libertarians & Evangelicals?

    Maybe he’s doubletalking Evangelicals while winking at libertarians.

    At least, I felt he was winking at me the other day…

    Now, if I could just catch that damned woodpecker that keeps insulting me in Morse code…

    1. I can’t figure out whether Woody’s saying “ef” or “ir”, myself.

  16. What’s great is that we’ve spent lots of time laughing at Obama lapdogs when they excused his immigration and drug policies.

    “Oh no, he has to take those positions because Rethuglicans, fly-over country, the election blah blah blah.”

    We laughed at how clearly they were being duped and Obama had no intention of ever changing on those key issues, and he simply had their votes sewn up and could string them along forever.

    We laughed, and now we’re dismissive when we’re confronted with the possibility of the shoe being on the other foot.

    1. actions != words

      If he starts voting the wrong way, then fuck him. And that is still a possibility. Don’t care about pandering that much though.

    2. At this point I’d say I prefer Rand to any other Republican (or Democrat), but that’s not saying much. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’ll still vote Libertarian or stay home. In my state, it doesn’t matter.

  17. Kentucky senator, there’s a typo in the article that says Iowa.

  18. Rand Paul needs to think more about the movement his father started and watered with unfailing integrity and less about himself. I fear he is drowning in a pool of corruption and self ambition.

    In keeping with the current religious aspect of this story I would borrow some wisdom from the Bible. Remembering how Jesus used salt in his parables at times. Only, let’s turn it the other way around and substitute dog crap for salt.

    Its like a man who makes a wonderful sandwich with lean slices of meat and freshly picked tomato slices, mild aged cheddar cheese and crisp green leaves of lettuce wrapped up inside a freshly baked roll. To top it off he takes a tiny tiny bit of dog crap and mixes it in the the mustard he spreads over the still warm from the oven roll.

    There is no way you can taste the dog crap. Its way too small, there is hardly any there. You’ll never taste it. All the wonderful flavors from the other ingredients will ensure it remains delicious.

    But we still know its in there, don’t we. And how many of us are willing to take a bite?

    I would have used mayo, but the spec of dog crap might have shown through allowing the dinner guest to remove it.

  19. Mr. Gillespie in the Beast piece says the Republican Party is near death! Nick, could you have developed a leather allergy making your eyes water too much to see clearly? I usually credit your judgment, but this is too much. Look at the fraction of voters who self-identify as Republican, look at their seats in state & federal legislatures and state executive positions; they’re at like a 50-year high — not every single individual number or state, of course, but the overall national trend is pretty damn strong. More independents now, but it’s the Democrats who’ve really been sinking — but even they are very far from dead.

    Of course if you step far enough back and forget the fine details and brief swings (and omit consideration of independents), the Republicans & Democrats have been about 50-50 for 150 yrs., and show every sign of continuing so.

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