Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) published a piece
for the Huffington Post late last week, making a broad pitch for support from "our nation's young people" and announcing the launch of "Students For Rand." That wouldn't be especially noteworthy, except for the way in which the Republican presidential candidate made his case.
If the Republicans want to be the party of tomorrow, it needs ideas that excite young people. Only a candidate who is a socially tolerant, fiscally responsible and principled leader can reinvigorate the Republican brand. [...] We must stand for something so powerful and so popular that it brings people together -- whether they lean left, right or find themselves squarely in the middle. My message of liberty, opportunity, and justice is for all has resonated everywhere, especially in the places Republicans are too scared to go.... Government has no business in your business, period.
At face value, that may seem like a pretty compelling message, particularly to younger voters, but there's a problem with the message -- or more accurately, the messenger.
Rand Paul presents himself as "socially tolerant," though he neglected to mention that he opposes both abortion rights and marriage equality. The Kentucky senator also wants to defund
Planned Parenthood and is one of the co-sponsors
of a far-right bill that would make anti-gay discrimination easier in the wake of the Supreme Court's marriage ruling.
In March, the Republican senator told religious right activists that the debate over marriage rights is itself evidence of a "moral crisis
" in the United States. He added at the time, "We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals."
So, the government "has no business in your business," unless you're gay and/or want to exercise your reproductive rights, at which point Rand Paul is certain that your business is the government's business.
These details didn't seem to make it into his Huffington Post piece. Right Wing Watch noted yesterday
that this conflict -- pitting libertarian-minded Rand Paul against conservative culture warrior Rand Paul -- pops up quite a bit.
In his communications with anti-abortion activists, Paul has taken a hard line, writing in a fundraising email for one pro-personhood group that his Life at Conception Act would “collapse” Roe v. Wade without even needing a Constitutional amendment and telling another Religious Right group that American civilization won’t “endure” without ending all abortion. [...] But to the mainstream media, Paul has been more circumspect, claiming that the no-exceptions abortion ban he sponsored would have “thousands of exceptions,” saying that the country is too divided to change any abortion laws, and opining that laws about the very procedure that his bill would attempt to ban nationwide would be best left up to the states.
To be sure, the GOP senator is hardly the first politician to offer competing, practically contradictory messages to disparate audiences. It's especially common among Republican presidential candidates who tell the religious right movement how eager they are to deliver a socially conservative agenda, while telling major donors and party insiders that they're not especially interested in fighting a culture war.
Rand Paul's problem is that he isn't playing both sides particularly well. Social conservatives have more reliable and more consistent alternatives in the massive GOP presidential field, while more secular, establishment insiders also prefer trusted allies.
The senator hoped to be able to appeal to multiple factions at once. As things stand, at least for now, Paul is satisfying no one.