Via Hot Air comes this CNN report by Pete Hamby, who's following Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on his college tour. During a talk at the College of Charleston, Paul demonstrates why he is the future of the Republican Party.
Hamby asks the Kentucky pol about gay marriage:
"I don't want my guns registered in Washington or my marriage," he told me. "Founding Fathers all got married by going down to the local courthouse. It is a local issue and always has been."
But can Republicans win a national election if they aren't in tune with rapidly changing opinions on the matter? He took a soft tone.
"Society's changing," he said. "I mean, people change their minds all the time on this issue, and even within the Republican Party, there are people whose child turns out to be gay and they're like, oh well maybe I want to rethink this issue. So it's been rethought. The President's rethought the issue. So I mean, a lot of people have rethought the issue."
"The bottom line is, I'm old fashioned, I'm a traditionalist," he said. "I believe in old-fashioned traditional marriage. But, I don't really think the government needs to be too involved with this, and I think that the Republican Party can have people on both sides of the issue."
What about birth control, especially Plan B, the contraceptive "morning-after pill" that's often confused with RU-486, a drug that causes an abortion in a pregnant woman?
"I am not opposed to birth control," he said. After a pause, he elaborated. "That's basically what Plan B is. Plan B is taking two birth control pills in the morning and two in the evening, and I am not opposed to that."
And legalization of pot and harder drugs?
Another student here pressed him on "the drug war," asking if Paul would support legalizing marijuana, cocaine and heroin. He said he wasn't supportive of drug use, explaining that pot "is not that great," but said drug laws should be left up to states. Colorado and Washington are experimenting with legalized marijuana, he said, and we should be watching carefully….
"My position has not been for legalization [of coke, heroin, and harder drugs], my position has been for less criminalization and more fair adjudication for people that are caught in this, and that kids who make youthful mistakes should get a second chance," he said.
From a Reason-style libertarian view, it's easy enough to fault Rand Paul for the timidity of his positions. Come on, already! The government shouldn't discriminate based on sexual orientation! It's my body and I should be free to put whatever I want in it! You know the catechism. And there's this, which is pretty unforgivable:
Soon after [his talk], he packed a nearby restaurant with fawning college kids at an open bar sponsored by his political action committee. Paul and his wife, Kelley, danced and sang along to Chumbawumba, the 90s-era pop band with an anarchist streak.
But from a mainstream political view of either the Democrats or the Republicans (but especially the latter), Paul's comments are pretty groundbreaking stuff. It shows that Paul is standing by his statement to Reason TV (see below) that if the GOP is going to survive, much less flourish in, the Libertarian Moment, its members have "to become more live and let live."
That's absolutely accurate. Large and growing majorities of Americans embrace marriage equality and pot legalization. Abortion, which Rand Paul opposes, is also supported by a large and stable majority of Americans and the weird, anti-sex and contraception vibe given off by many Republicans is no way to win the future (or even hold on to the past). Paul's foreign-policy views—he calls himself a realist and, despite some iffy positions, is clearly less interventionist than your garden-variety Republican bomb-dropper—are giving the GOP establishment the vapors, but the fact is that he's in synch with most Americans on this too. Despite the momentary surge toward action in the wake of ISIS's brutal beheadings, Americans have never taken warmly to being globocop for any length of time.
Whether or not Paul gets very far in the presidential sweepstakes is less important than the fact he is bringing a clear libertarian-inflected sensibility to one of the nation's major parties (on economic issues, he's been outfront on the need to cut spending in a way that few of his party mates will spell out with any clarity). Even if the GOP manages to bag the Senate in the midterm elections, it's clear that a party that pulls just 23 percent of millennials has nowhere to go but down over the long haul.
Over at Hot Air, the wonderfully lapidary Allahpundit considers the gay marriage issue and writes acidly, "How do you suppose Ted Cruz would respond to this question?" Allahpundit further notes that while unapologetic social cons such as Texas Sen. Cruz and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal got rave reactions at the recent Values Voter Summit, Paul "was received politely but tepidly."
From where I'm watching, that's good news for Paul and possibly for a rejuvenated GOP. Cruz can give a hell of a speech but it's characters such as Rand Paul who are reaching out to new constituencies, including younger Americans sick of war and the loss of privacy and rigged old-age entitlements that screw millennials to preserve the status quo for baby boomers.
Social cons make up a smaller and smaller share of America and they're going to have to figure out how to live in a world that is teeming with gays, pot, and multi-ethnic folks (the percentage of the foreign-born is already near levels not seen since the 1920s; that ain't changing anytime soon even if the borders are sealed and deportations proceed apace).
If the Republican Party has a future, it's going to look and sound a lot more like Rand Paul than Ted Cruz or Bobby Jindal. We're in a Libertarian Moment—one that embraces increased choice and individual preferences in everything—precisely because the old right-left, conservative-liberal, Republican-Democrat dyad has failed us spectacularly in the 21st century. Authority, knowledge, power—it's all decentralizing and the old politics of command and control have less and less relevance with every passing day.