Friday, June 14, 2013

Rand Paul and the rise of the libertarian Republican


Give Sen. Rand Paul this: He very rarely misses a political pitch slung his way.

The latest evidence is Paul’s (R-Ky.) plan to launch a class action lawsuit against the government for the National Security Agency’s collection of phone records and monitoring of Internet data. “If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington,” Paul argued during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

Paul’s seizing on the NSA issue comes less than three months after he made national headlines for his filibuster of the nomination of now-CIA Director John Brennan. And both issues have a narrative string connecting them: Paul as the most visible defender of civil liberties not only in the Senate, but in elected office right now.

That’s a very good place to be given the rising tide of libertarianism in the country. As we noted in our newspaper column today, the emerging majorities in favor of allowing gays to marry and pot to be smoked without penalty suggest that libertarianism has found a real foothold in American politics, particularly among young people who strongly favor both proposals.

“The way we’re going to compete is by running people for office who can appreciate some issues that attract young people and independents: civil liberties, as well as a less aggressive foreign policy, not putting people in jail for marijuana, a much more tolerant type of point of view,” Paul told Spencer Ackerman during an interview for Wired magazine late last month.

What’s not clear is whether the Republican Party is ready for the sort of message that Paul embodies. While polling suggests that the American public wants gay marriage, for example, to be legal, that’s not a view that a majority of Republicans hold. And Rand’s father, Ron, saw any chance of emerging as a viable alternative candidate to Mitt Romney dashed in 2012 by his refusal to back away from a non-interventionist foreign policy. Can a “less aggressive foreign policy” — in Rand Paul’s words — be sold to a party that made a name for itself during the 1980s by pushing the necessity of military might?

All of that will be litigated when Paul runs — oops, we mean if Paul runs (silly mistake) — for president in 2016. But there is no question now that Paul will find a constituency of libertarian-minded Republicans that exceeds the number his father wooed in 2008 and 2012. Will it be enough? That’s why we run the races.

Full article: http://www.washingto … ertarian-republican/

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