Personal Liberty Poll
As the GOP leadership continues in efforts to marginalize libertarian-leaning Republicans at the national level, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is working to broaden the appeal of libertarianism to traditional Republican voters. During a recent speech before the conservative American Principles Project, Paul suggested that social conservatism and libertarianism can, and should, both exist within the GOP.
“To some that’s sort of still a bad word,” Paul said of “libertarian.” “To others it’s a word that may expand the party.”
The possible 2016 Presidential contender told the gathering of social conservatives that embracing certain libertarian issues would help to increase the GOP’s reach, putting the Party in a better position to gain support for its broader fiscal agenda.
Paul argued that it is time for social conservatives to embrace the principles of freedom and liberty espoused by libertarian-leaning Republicans, rather than accepting negative stereotypes about libertarian views on drugs and sex, which mainstream Republicans perpetuated to denigrate the national Libertarian Party.
“‘Libertarian’ …doesn’t mean ‘libertine,’” he said. “To many of us libertarian means freedom and liberty. But we also see that freedom needs tradition.”
Paul suggested that libertarian-leaning members of the GOP share plenty of middle ground with traditional social conservatives.
“I don’t see libertarianism as, you can do whatever you want. There is a role for government, there’s a role for family, there’s a role for marriage, there’s a role for the protection of life,” he said.
Since being elected to the Senate in 2010, Paul has advocated a libertarian approach to reforming the justice system’s handing of drug-related and non-violent crimes. And while social conservatives have traditionally been in favor of tough-on-crime legislation, Paul said that Christian members of the GOP should remember the Bible’s teachings on forgiveness.
“I think there are things we can and should talk about, as Christians, who believe in forgiveness,” he said. “I think the criminal justice system should have some element of forgiveness.”
The Senator argued that re-thinking the GOP’s traditional stance on drug policy could also help the party draw more minority support, as members of minority classes are often hardest hit by drug policy.
“I think these are things we can look at,” Paul said. “I’m not talking about legalization. I’m talking about making the criminal justice system more fair and giving people a second chance when they serve their time.”
In reference to the GOP leadership’s recent suggestions that the party should head in a more moderate direction, Paul hinted that he is glad to swim against the party current.
“Everybody else told Reagan to shut up, too,” he said. “They said, ‘Shut up and wait your turn.’
“Fighting doesn’t have to be impolite. It doesn’t have to be rude, but there needs to be a struggle over the direction of the party.”
Paul said it is time for truly conservative members of the GOP to “go bold” and send a message to the party establishment, which he believes hasn’t gone far enough in resisting Democrat policies.