“I would absolutely not run unless it were to win,” Senator Rand Paul said on Fox News Sunday today in response to questions about a potential run for President. “But I think the country is really ready for the narrative coming — the libertarian Republican narrative.”
So what is the “libertarian Republican narrative?”
“I think people want a party that’s a little less aggressive on foreign policy — still believes in a strong national defense but less aggressive,” Paul said. “The young people want politicians who don’t want to put them in jail for 20 years for a nonviolent drug possession charges…I think people want a little different face on immigration, frankly, they don’t want somebody who’s going to round people up in camps and send them back to Mexico.”
In other words, Senator Rand Paul stands for a sort of Republicanism that is less socially conservative, more open to immigration and tougher on spending.
That’s quite a departure from what the Republican party has been for decades, and we need look only at the last two-term Republican presidents to see that. Ronald Reagan was a drug warrior (remember we got “Just Say No” from Nancy Reagan), George W. Bush was a strong proponent of an aggressive foreign policy and the party as a whole still has a lot of resentment over illegal immigration.
But times are changing. Demographics are shifting. The Republican party needs to shift too if it intends to stay relevant. Is the shift Senator Paul is proposing in the right direction for the party?
I think it is. Senator Paul is talking about a shift in positions that is consistent with notions about individual liberty, but palatable to new generations of Americans. What Paul is talking about is the future. The question is whether or not Republicans will want to follow him.
One thing is certain. If Senator Paul gets traction in the GOP it could mean a national realignment of the sort not seen since the “Dixiecrats” left the Democrat party in the middle of the last century. Senator Paul’s brand of libertarianism could bring new voters to the GOP but is also likely to alienate social conservatives who tend to be fairly fiscally liberal but sided with Republicans over opposition to gay marriage, etc.