Let’s be clear. Rand Paul is almost certainly the best sitting United States Senator (well, perhaps second best, as the Senator from Washington D.C. doesn’t get a vote, and can therefore do the least harm). This of course isn’t saying much when talking about the psychopathic, ignorant control freaks that largely populate the U.S. Senate. In contrast, Rand seems to be more reasonable and often falls on the right side of many issues. We here at Lions of Liberty have not hesitated to highlight when he is right on an issue, such as his support for the legalization of industrial hemp or his attempt to ban F-16 and M1 tank sales to Egypt.
On the flip side, we do not hesitate to criticize him when he’s wrong. We’ve taken him to task on his TSA “privatization” bill and his stance on government default, among other issues. I find that we often get flak from other libertarians when we criticize Rand Paul. This flak is typically not about the substance of the issue or our specific criticisms, but more often about the fact that we criticize him at all! We’ll often hear things like “Well hey, he’s mostly libertarian and he’s the best we’ve got!” One of our fans on Facebook even recently commented that Rand Paul was just “tiptoeing the establishment line” because it “is the only way to trick these idiots into voting for him” (emphasis mine).
It’s a wonderful fantasy, isn’t it? Rand Paul spends years mixing libertarian and establishment rhetoric, just enough to “trick” mainstream voters into supporting him. He then becomes President of the United States, rips off his Neocon Suit to reveal his “Ron Paul R3volution” shirt, ends the War on Drugs, brings the troops home, shuts down the Federal Reserve and ushers in a new age of freedom and prosperity!
Unfortunately, this scenario is just that…a fantasy.
We will never achieve a more free society just by getting certain politicians to say the right things and get elected and then enact their policies. The people must change the way they view government; they must change the way they view the use of collective violence to achieve their goals, rather than through free markets and reasoned persuasion. This can only occur by communicating the ideals of liberty to the masses, and by doing so in a principled and consistent manner. Rand Paul does not always do this, and it is important for the purposes of education to point out when he does not even if his motives are sound and pure.
So why single out Rand? Why don’t we so deeply analyze the maneuvers and statements of every other politician out there? This is because Rand, rightly or not, is largely seen as representative of a libertarian movement. Is this fair, when Rand has even said that he is “not a libertarian”? Well, you know the old saying – “perception is reality”. And rightly or wrongly Rand Paul is seen as a “libertarian” by many and promoted as such in the media. Here’s a few recent examples from a Google search of “Rand Paul libertarian”.
*Includes photo and discussion of Rand as a libertarian
You get the idea. For better or worse, Rand Paul is seen as the leading representative of libertarianism. Therefore, when he makes a statement that is decidedly unlibertarian it should be pointed out and corrected. It is important to protect the “brand” of libertarianism, and not allow it to be muddled by the rhetoric of politicians, even if they are politicians we like and agree with often.
This isn’t about Rand Paul, it’s about liberty.
Rand Paul’s media director, the “Southern Avenger” Jack Hunter, recently put out a column condemning criticism of Rand over his recent flap on the use of drones by law enforcement, and calling for Rand and other liberty politicians to be given the “benefit of the doubt.” Hunter writes:
If a libertarian Republican runs, with a 99% great record – will libertarians discard them over 1%? Will they constantly fight about that 1%? Or will they give them the benefit of the doubt?
If they don’t, the establishment Republican unquestionably wins.
More importantly, if libertarians cannot support liberty candidates who aren’t 100%, then no libertarian candidate ever wins.
If a libertarian Republican is lucky enough to make it into a general election, will libertarians support them against media attacks, similar to this week? Or will they give the media the benefit of the doubt, as many did this week? Obviously, there are limits, but in a general sense, if Hillary or Biden supporters go to the wall for their candidate – and they will – will libertarian Republicans do the same for their candidate?
And if libertarians won’t, does this not put liberty Republicans at a permanent disadvantage? Does this not permanently stunt our movement?
Establishment Republicans and Democrats always have a core base of support that they must expand beyond to win elections. Will libertarian candidates even have that core base of support? Will we be too busy bickering with each other to effectively confront the forces that conspire against us?
What Hunter is essentially saying here is “Guys, sometimes you just need to shut up, forget about your principles, and play along with us.”
But isn’t this the antithesis of what the Ron Paul movement was all about? Doesn’t the establishment “unquestionably win” if the message of liberty is muddled in the name of politics? Wasn’t the Ron Paul campaign successful in waking up so many to the ideas of liberty because of Dr. Paul’s consistency and refusal to compromise principle for the sake of political gain? Hunter and his ilk continue to refer to any criticism of Rand as “bickering”, as if it is just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. As if we have nothing better to do!
This attitude is understandable from those like Jack Hunter who are on the payroll of the Rand Paul political machine and have a vested interest in his political success. And people like Rand Paul and Jack Hunter are certainly much more closely in line with libertarian ideals than most others in the political mainstream. It is for this reason it is important, at least for those whose vested interest is not in political victory for the sake of victory but rather for advancing the ideals of liberty, to support them when they are right, and hold their feet to the fire when they are wrong.
And with Rand Paul recently making even Glenn Beck sound more libertarian than him on the use of drones by law enforcement, it looks like we’ll have a lot of fires to be lighting in the future.
Nobody will be “tricked” into supporting liberty. Rand Paul’s position as a political leader in the “liberty movement” should not grant him an eternal benefit of the doubt; rather the spotlight he is under should drive libertarians to push him further towards true libertarian views, and help educate others new to the ideas of liberty in the process.