Rand Paul

Must Conservatives Be Cop Lovers?

Rand Paul challenges fellow Republicans to rethink their reflexive support of law enforcement.


Running for the U.S. Senate in 2010, Rand Paul became known as that crazy right-winger who expressed reservations about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But in the last two years, the Kentucky Republican has emerged as his party's most passionate voice on criminal justice reform, explicitly decrying the system's disproportionate impact on African Americans.

You might assume that Paul, widely seen as a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, is trying to redeem himself with black voters who were alienated by his criticism of the Civil Rights Act. Yet both positions spring from the same wariness of state power, as illustrated by the senator's recent comments on the over-the-top police response to the unrest that followed the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

Paul has always said he supports the provisions of the Civil Rights Act that apply to racial discrimination practiced or enforced by the government. But during his 2010 campaign he said he was not so keen on the parts of the law that ban discrimination by private businesses, likening such "abhorrent behavior" to the racist speech that we tolerate, even while condemning it, because of our commitment to individual freedom.

Not surprisingly, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous vigorously disagreed with Paul's views on the Civil Rights Act. But Jealous also said this: "I have got to hand it to Rand Paul. It takes some serious guts to publicly challenge such a cherished pillar of the modern American identity."

Paul's positions on criminal justice issues also take some serious guts. He is not just reaching out to a segment of the electorate that is overwhelmingly hostile to Republicans; he is challenging members of his own party to rethink their reflexive support of law enforcement and tough-on-crime policies.

"There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response," Paul wrote in Time last week. "There is a systemic problem with today's law enforcement," he added, and "big government has been at the heart of the problem," fostering the militarization of police equipment and tactics.

Paul went further, encouraging Republicans to consider what it feels like to be on the receiving end of excessive police force and excessive criminal punishment. "Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system," he said, "it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them. This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri."

The point is not that Officer Darren Wilson committed a crime when he shot Michael Brown, a question that has yet to be resolved amid conflicting accounts of the incident. The point is that black residents of Ferguson had ample reason to suspect the shooting was not justified and to worry that the official investigation would be rigged in Wilson's favor.

"Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention," Paul said. "Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth."

We are not used to hearing Republicans say that sort of thing. But it happens to be true, and Paul, who in March 2013 introduced a bill that would effectively abolish the federal government's mandatory minimum sentences, is trying to do something about it. He is also sponsoring legislation aimed at restoring the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences and mitigating the lasting impact that serving time has on people's employment prospects. "I believe in redemption and forgiveness," he explained in USA Today last month.

Paul is not asking conservatives to abandon their beliefs. He is asking them to extend their avowed skepticism of big government to the parts of that apparatus that lock people in cages and shoot them down in the street.

NEXT: Is Everyone Buckled Up?

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  1. Paul is not asking conservatives to abandon their beliefs. He is asking them to extend their avowed skepticism of big government to the parts of that apparatus that lock people in cages and shoot them down in the street.

    The conservatives will just say those people deserve it.

    1. What’s with all of this collectivist stereotyping? This conservative would never say such a thing (my contempt for cops is far too strong).

      1. “This conservative ”

        You too, eh?

        1. Do you make a special effort to be unintelligable, or does it come naturally?

          1. Bo has a thing for conservatives. Gets him going. I did like the story of the “libertarian conservative” from the other day.

            1. Yo, fuck conservatives. And fuck progressives. (That should be clear enough even for a conservative.)

              1. As a former Republican Conservative I have to take my medicine and accept completely the fallacy of my formerly held beliefs and the crimes I supported against individuals by the State. I’m sorry, I was wholly ignorant and Rights were a thing I thought the State had given to me, this colored my entire world view. I have no issue with Rand making the attempt to bring conservatives to liberty, but on these boards how can there be any confusion as to the coercive and violent polices conservatives often support?

            2. I’m just always interested in the high number of non libertarian conservatives that regularly post on Reason, an organization long thought of as more on the left side of the libertarian movement. What’s up with that, as the SNL character would say.

              1. Forget it, Bo. It’s Paleotown. Now where the fuck is my cocktail?

                1. It’s over by the complimentary copy of the NYT of course.

              2. Bo, I have no idea why non libertarian conservatives post here. Maybe they are more libertarian than you give them credit for being. You know, it is possible for someone to think something is morally wrong, and yet not want the government to be involved. That is my stance anyway.

                1. That is way too complicated for Bo. Better to just stick to the collective ‘conservatives are poo-poo heads.’

                  That said, not sure what the term conservative even means anymore. Even more fragmented than the term libertarian.

              3. There is a bit of a spectrum, not everyone takes self ownership and moves all at once to it’s natural conclusion on all policy issues. It’s difficult to abandon everything you thought was true, for all your heroes to die, and to see through the brain washing all at once. Sometimes I still have a knee jerk response, then reason it through and realize it’s just my old doublethink rearing it’s ugly head. Hell, sometimes I can’t reason out certain issues and have to look elsewhere for help. Is that really such a crime if some ‘non libertarian conservatives” are essentially on the boards doing that same thing?

                Rand’s approach is fine and will reach some. But those that simply call a spade a spade and renounce State violence and all the compromises demanded of ‘moderate libertarians’ are just as right and also reach some people. Personally, I needed the radicals, the moderates didn’t help me really understand since they tended to also have doublethink.

                1. That was well said Freddy.

                  I also think a fair amount of the “right libertarianism” (which really doesn’t exist BTW, you are libertarian or not, it’s a matter of how much)comes from individuals attempting to fold their religious beliefs into libertarianism. It works for certain issues, but not so much for others.

                  1. Thank you, I appreciate that. I still miss the mark sometimes and through faulty logic find myself on the wrong side of liberty. Easier to do than some people assert.

                    It seems to me folding any other belief system contrary to self ownership (religious, ideological, or otherwise) tends to create contradictions only solvable by ignoring the unequal rights created (granting some party or group greater rights than another). I try to boil down to what, as Molyneaux might say, is a “universally preferred ethic”. Is someone hurting someone else, is someone stealing, is someone using coercive force? This usually leads me to a place that I’m comfortable I’m not supporting policies or beliefs that trample other people’s self ownership.

                    Again though, a little patience from purists can be helpful.

          2. Bo is Reason’s Torquemada, his life’s work is rooting conservative heresy out of libertopia.

            1. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

              1. Ironically, I knew you were going to say that.

  2. Must Conservatives Be Cop Lovers?

    Yes because 9/11.

    ZOMG why do you hate heroes?

    1. Actually, politically “conservative” types at least since the 1960s have been avowed cop-lovers. As near as I can figure, it’s their sense that the police help enforce the culture vs. the counter-culture, and/or that the counter-culture unfairly reviles police.

      1. Do the conservatives get the police union money? Not a counter argument, just an aside.

        I think you’re right, but I think its purely vote pandering. “Tough on Crime” and other such nonsense is used to motivate the prols to vote. Perhaps it is cop love, but I’m inclined to believe it’s self serving rhetoric, power seeking, and vote pandering.

      2. I’ve got conservative leanings, and I WANT the cops to be worthy of positive regard – but I can see that they too often are not, and that the reasons seem to be all too endemic to the structures they work in and for.

    2. That’s usually how Facebook comment threads on Reason articles seem to go.

  3. OT: I might not be around for morning links today to post this:


    Boise State football coaching staff trains with SWAT, sponsored by the dairy industry.

    The SWAT team’s performance is sickening. This isn’t policing, it’s combat. Supposedly they’re doing a search warrant exercise (“Police – search warrant!”) but shooting as soon as they enter the rooms shouldn’t be the default behavior where the occupants have a legal right to be and a right to be potentially armed themselves.

    1. No word on whether the SWAT training was done at the correct address…

    2. Is that how they train? Because that’s the most lackluster, slow-arse, room clearing exercise I’ve ever seen.

      Not one bit of hustle from those guys.

      1. Why hustle when you can shoot indiscriminately at anything that moves? Also, it is not like they are really expecting any armed, let alone organized resistance.

    3. It’s all about the Cheese.

  4. Boise State football coaching staff trains with SWAT, sponsored by the dairy industry.

    Not sure that headline will be beat today.

    1. Boise State football coaching staff trains with SWAT, sponsored by the dairy industry, millenials, gay marriage, obama.


  5. Flash-bangs are the only way a Mountain West team will ever make the playoffs.

    1. Speaking of which, looks like I might be headed back to the Gator Bowl.

      1. Bye bye Braxton Miller. Bye bye playoffs. Next year…

    2. Ok, that was great

  6. The conservatives will just say those people deserve it.

    THUGS. Not people. Those thugs deserve it, and must be kept away from decent people.

    Jeepers, get your nomenclature straight.

    1. That is right, cuz if we can dehumanize THOSE people, then brutalizing them is just okey dokey.

  7. I’m curious, any idea if Police Unions support (conservative/liberty) candidates?

    My gut tells me police unions put their money behind Democrats. I have no data to back it up, mostly just relying on collapsing Democratic controlled cities and their documented incestual relationship with Blue Team. The Democrats and public sector unions appeared to be pilot and co-pilot in destroying cities like Detroit.

    Sorry to lump conservative and liberty in together, but its sort of inferred in the article so I’ll just chuckle and go with it.

    1. Police Unions likely deep-throat conservative candidates for the most part. Not to be harsh on yo ass but you do realize what a conservative is for the most part, right? NOT a Liberty-centric individual by no means.

      I’ve debated hundreds of these narrow-minded schleps with only a sliver of them holding any resemblance to someone interested in government leaving the goddamn citizen the fuck alone.

      1. A pox on both their camps, you have no argument from me that Republicans have stamped out as much liberty and as many lives as Democrats. I’d have no way of running the bloody and soul crushing tally, so I’ll not weigh in on which is worse. I do tend to see the few ‘liberty’ candidates running as Republicans recently. We have some local CC races in which libertarians ran as Republicans. I don’t see the reverse? Maybe in other locales. That doesn’t change the historical tally of abuse though. I don’t know what the hell it means except voters are given false choices.

        Perhaps chuckle was too light hearted, just didn’t feel like differentiating at the time, my focus was trying to follow the money on this one.

  8. Thats exactly what I am talking about dude.


  9. “There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response,” Paul wrote in Time last week. “There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement,” he added, and “big government has been at the heart of the problem,” fostering the militarization of police equipment and tactics.”

    Yawn. Jacob, want me to show you a dozen liberals who have said the same sort of thing. Just because one Republican has found out that cops now have tanks that means I’m supposed to vote for them? Hmm, no thanks. I’ll stick with Barbara lee.

    1. Barbara Lee?

      Good Lord…

      1. Or Wayne morse https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JiLV-Xeh8bA

        I’ve learned from libertarians that all liberals luv war and yet here are two liberals casting brave dissenting votes. Wayne morse lost his job to the loathesome bob pack wood, who liked to put his hands up the backsides of his female staffers, because of his vote.

        Does not compute, does not compute. Leftists love state power and overwhelmingly have voted for every war since the Battle of Agincourt

      2. Did the libertarian, agonist, and– um– neo-confederate hero Ron Paul vote for the AUMF? I know, I know… Barbara lee is an icky Democrat so no need to consider anything she says.

        1. My experience has been that only libertarians, Greens, and anarchists have been consistent in their questioning of police tactics and culture.

          The Reps, Dems, and others – including socialists – have been pro-cop for quite awhile.

  10. Paul is not asking conservatives to abandon their beliefs. He is asking them to extend their avowed skepticism of big government to the parts of that apparatus that lock people in cages and shoot them down in the street.

    I am against police having military hardware. I think it would be good if a lot of police work were carried out unarmed. I think all cops should wear body cams and all cop cars should have dash cams. I think we should legalize most drugs and release non-violent drug offenders. I think police unions should be busted. I am a strong supporter of second amendment rights.

    Having said that, I have yet to see a good argument about how any of those factors have any relevance in Brown shooting or to the racial makeup of the prison population. This is “Reason”, folks, make clear statements, specific policy proposals, and then back them up with data and facts.

    1. You think that locking up hundreds of thousands of Black people because of non-violent drug offenses isn’t part of the “problem” of the “racial makeup of the prison population”? Preposterous. Go back to your “Bell Curve” books.

      1. You do realize that the State is responsible for this racism. The State incarcerates blacks at such a high rate because the State is racist.

        Tell us again of your love for Barbara Lee…

    2. *This is “Reason”, folks, make clear statements, specific policy proposals, and then back them up with data and facts.*


      See, being “reflexively pro-cop” is turrrrible…but being “reflexively anti-cop” is O-tay!

  11. Remember, according to the Great One, Libertarianism is a crusade against problems we DO NOT have or even IMAGINE we have. Christ, when will you deeply-concerned Empathetic Ethicists STOP being so FUCKING obsessed with common folks being abused! It’s just a tedious and irritating exercise that no self-respecting and highly-educated elitist should be engaged in.

  12. They kind of must by definition. Someone has to be the most law-and-order loving, and those people are traditionally called conservatives. Rand Paul is just the slow kid in the liberal class. We give him bonus points for figuring out what all the other kids did a long time ago, knowing that no harm is being done because it’s not like he’ll ever be class president or anything.

    1. Practically all the other kids in that class voted in mandatory minimums and the Drug War political schematic which militarized coppers. I’m a bit mixed on who’s ‘slower’.

    2. Another day, another lie by Tony.

  13. I have a question for anyone who tosses around the word “Conservative” as if they know what it means.

    What does it mean?

    1. Your question is seeking your answer.

      1. Eh, what?

  14. What? No mention of how police unions keep bad cops in uniform?… A privilege granted by big government

  15. Cops are like any other group…. there are good ones and bad ones… The majority are professional and in our culture people paint professions with very wide brushes…. I mean how many LIBERALS do you know who are or want to be Cops… It is just like the Military… they do not SERVE. In fact they attack these groups and any group attacked by the Liberals is probably a good one.

  16. OK, as a result of Paul’s outreach, are thousands of blacks now signing up with the Libertarian Party? Are they subscribing to Reason magazine? Are they showing up at Future of Freedom conferences? If so, please post photographic evidence.

    Let’s see Paul and Reason do some outreach to people who are opposed to:
    * affirmative action
    * minorities-only contracts
    * forced busing
    * Orwellian diversity indoctrination sessions
    * Polar bear punching

    There are millions of Americans who would listen if Paul would listen to their grievances on these issues.

    1. Polar bear punching? Are you talking about the knockout game?

      The wife and I do not believe in asking permission to exercise our right and never leave home unarmed. It would be irresponsible to be defenseless. My neighbor asked me about the pistol in my pocket if I was expecting trouble. I told him no, I’m not expecting trouble, if I was expecting trouble, I’d go get my shotgun.

      I like Rand’s father Ron Paul, who I shook hands with.

      The apple shouldn’t fall too far from the tree, so even though Rand Paul trying to get the Jewish vote, sigh, … ‘end the Fed’ should still be in there somewhere! Hopefully he hasn’t entered into secret agreements like JFK warned us about April 27, 1961.

      All wars are based on establishment lies. The establishment usurped our government in 1913.

      I am not the only person who thinks Israel was the ringleader of the 9/11/2001 inside job.

      If one considers that very real possibility, it turns a lot of stuff on it’s ear.

      The uproar in Ferguson, Missouri makes us look like the next Palestinians. We’re being occupied.(

      check Dr. Alan Sabrosky on YT) I put a link to his views in my page at http://lango.us I’m serious.

      Israel did 9/11.

      Now who do you vote for? I want Putin. He expelled all the Rothschild Oligarchs from the Russian government.

      End the Fed.

      RAND 2016!

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