Rand Paul is Not His Father

Rand Paul will run for president in 2016. The freshman senator from Kentucky, and heir apparent to his father’s base of support, hasn’t announced anything, but he is clearly behaving like a candidate. Over the weekend Paul was in Iowa trying to convince evangelicals that they can feel comfortable supporting a hypothetical Paul candidacy.

One of the primary tasks that Senator Paul has when he talks to groups like this is to distance himself from his father. After all, the elder Paul’s libertarian constitutionalism earned him the enthusiastic support of young voters in 2008 and 2012 and the eternal scorn of older evangelicals. Personally, I find the criticisms of Congressman Paul by Christian groups a mixture of curious and hilarious. He’s been married to the same woman for 55 years, vigorously supports homeschooling, opposes abortion and is open, although humble, about his Christian faith. That guy wasn’t worthy of the evangelical vote, but Newt Gingrich was? Guess that whole character thing doesn’t matter after all. But, I digress.

The reality is that Christian groups generally view libertarianism as one step shy of the gates of hell. Following the junior Paul’s Iowa speech, one skeptical pastor stated, “Straight libertarianism has nothing Christian about it.”

Well, I suppose that depends on how you define “straight libertarianism.”  You can poorly define any political philosophy so as to make it un-Christian. You could, for instance, point out that conservatives’ enthusiastic support for bombing innocent people in other countries is fairly un-Christian. That one never seems to make the evangelical voters’ hit list, though.

Where the road gets tough for Senator Paul is in attempting to quell the fears of conservative Christians while still retaining his father’s more libertarian base. This has already begun to backfire on him as his quote, “I’m not a libertarian. I’m a libertarian Republican” has begun to make the rounds on the internet. To say that the libertarian community is not accepting these comments well is an understatement. The senator is already on thin ice with people who consider him to be more of a politician, and therefore less politically pure, than his father. Comments like those he made last week only add fuel to the fire.

Being both a Christian and a libertarian I have the somewhat unique experience of seeing both sides of this story. If anyone is asking, my response to Rand Paul is a big ol’ shrug of the shoulders. To begin with, even though I was an avid Ron Paul supporter in 2012 I disagree with the whole notion that one guy is our best hope for freedom. Only one man who has walked this earth can make that claim, and his father was considerably more important than Ron Paul.  But beyond this, I don’t really see the issue for either Christians or libertarians. In Rand Paul, Christians are going to have a guy who is just libertarian enough to make them uneasy and libertarians are going to have a guy who is less libertarian than his dad. That’s just who he is.

Ultimately, the primary issue with Rand Paul, and really any federal politician, is his position on the Constitution. Forgotten in all the hubbub over his infamous, “I’m not a libertarian” statement was the end of that quote: “I’m a constitutional conservative.” That’s really the only thing I care about and from what I’ve seen in his short political career, Rand Paul is well-educated on the Constitution and principled enough to follow it.

If he recognizes the limitations placed on the federal government by the Constitution, I could really care less what he thinks about the legalization of drugs. On the Constitution he is certainly light years ahead of any of the non-Ron Paul Republican presidential candidates over the last several elections.

I think both Christians and libertarians ought to focus less on the question of his libertarianism and more on his adherence to the Constitution. Maybe at some point down the road Christians and libertarians will walk in perfect harmony, but for now they can at least recognize that the common enemy of freedom and virtue is centralized power. Perhaps Rand Paul gives us the chance to support the rare federal politician who recognizes constitutional limits on the federal government.

2 comments

  1. Fun topic. Being from the Bluegrass, and both a supporter and avid watcher of Rand Paul, I take some keen interest in his political actions.

    One of the things you touch upon is the issue of “definitions”. Words like Libertarian, and even Christian, take on different definitions, largely depending on the listener. Words often lack the stability of definition to be adequately used to convey accurate communication. (I suspect this is a by-product of a poor education system, and the desire by those who wish to control others, to render communication ineffective, but this is likely deeper consideration than this topic needs.)

    While I can be accused of using these terms, and differing with others as to the “definition” of them, I think it is important to consider these differing definitions when trying to communicate to people. Avoiding “terms” such as these, especially political terms which those opposed to American Liberty have purposefully distorted, is often the best course of action in discussions.

    The statists in the media, and in political circles, have proven very effective in so bastardizing our language, that when they are presented with an opponent, they can quickly redefine who or what that person stands for.

    For this reason it is important to point to the actions of people, relating them to the experiences and understanding of those you are speaking to. This of course makes it more difficult to communicate in our “sound bite” society.

    Conservativism, Libertarianism, Constitutionalism, are all much more difficult to convey in a 15 second sound bite, than Communism or Socialism. It is much quicker and easier for a person to say, “I want you to have a cell phone provided by the government”, than to explain to a person why that is a really bad idea.

    Rand Paul would do himself a huge favor to avoid trying to accept “labels” others try to attach to him.

    My experience with most who consider themselves “Libertarians”, is that they are aware enough, thoughtful enough, and self-educated enough to recognize the actions and statements from politicians which are in line with their ideals. However, I fear that many of those who consider themselves “Christians” are not. I have no other way to express this than those who park in a Christian Church parking lot and have pro-Obama, and pro-Abortion bumper stickers on their cars.

    I don’t suggest there is a political test for one’s “Christianity”, nor do I suggest that any of the other alternatives to Obama have been “more Christian” than he, but rather, for a person to take on such support for such political positions which are very obviously anti-Biblical in their purpose, suggests a non-thinking position.

    I think this is a hurdle any politician has with nearly every political contingency.

    As you stated, Ron Paul gathered a great deal of support from the younger generation, and while many may attribute this to those of that generation being more “thinking” in the area of politics, I think that many were “Paulites” because they were single issue voters, and that issue being legalization of drugs. While this might be seen as “libertarian” position, I would not classify these single issue voters as “libertarians”.

    Much like a single issue voter of any political flavor would be hard pressed to be defined by a single political category.

    So if asked, I often defer trying to define myself with a “label”. I prefer to speak of specific issues and concerns. This is not sound bite material, and I am not running for office (thank God!)

    It is impossible for a candidate to adequately “define” himself to the voters in the short amount of time they would have to interact with them. This is especially true the higher in the political offices one goes (which directly relates to why our Founders intended the government which would have the “most” impact on people be the closest government.)

    So it is the job of those who support a candidate to be able to explain this stuff to others, and that is why we must have a good grasp of the candidate’s actions/positions, as well as those of our ‘audience’, so we can better relate this information.

    1. Totally agree, labels are largely useless, and that seems to be particularly the case with libertarianism. What Rand has going for him is that he is much, much better on the Constitution than nearly everyone else in the federal government. I don’t have to agree with him on every political position if he believes in decentralization.

      BTW, thanks for being pretty much the only person actively engaged on my blog. 🙂

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