Reasonable expectation exists that Rand Paul will make a bid for the presidency in 2016. Paul’s relationship to his father, Ron Paul, the leading light of the libertarian party, has led many to speculate that Rand will pick up where his now-retired father left off. However, Paul’s misguided attempt to combine libertarianism with conservative Republican social policies would make his potential victory in 2016 a loss for libertarians and a win for the Tea Party.
One only has to look at his record on women’s issues to realize Paul’s true political philosophy. In his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington, Rand succinctly summarizes both his position on libertarian ideals and abortion, “My opponents call me a libertarian but I want to assure you that I am pro-life” (p. 78). Paul’s use of “but” sets up a dichotomy between libertarianism and a pro-life stance. True to his word, Paul is staunchly anti-abortion and has advocated personhood amendments that would equate abortion with murder. In direct contradiction to his purported libertarian ethic, this would both expand the government’s jurisdiction and enable it to limit a woman’s right to choose.
Social issues proved enormously important in securing the victory for Obama in 2012. Women in swing states who cast their vote in favor of the candidate that best served their demographic formed a key voting bloc that assured Obama’s reelection. One would think that Paul would recognize the invisible hand of politics at work and adjust his policies to become more competitive. He might if he were a libertarian. However, as members of the Tea Party, Rand Paul and his ilk are ironically the greatest threat to the very libertarianism that they espouse.
The problem lies in the Tea Party’s obsession with social issues. By railing against popular and practical social policies like the legality of abortion and paycheck fairness, which Paul compared to the Soviet politburo, Tea Party members radicalize their host party and infuse the political philosophy of classical conservatism and libertarianism with cancerous hypocrisy. Conservatives and libertarians laud freedom as the greatest American virtue. By definition, freedom must allow people the right to choose, regardless whether they do so poorly or well. By limiting this right, the social policies of the Tea Party would strip liberties away from the majority of their constituents in favor of social autocracy. As boldly activist as any that the far left generates, the social policies that Rand Paul and the Tea Party promote have caused them become the thing that they hate most: a political party that seeks to limit personal liberty. Such an approach is much more in line with that of the politburo.
Force-implementing outdated social models on women and the American population cannot ensure political or social unity. It will only ensure that the Tea Party’s unpopular stances will eventually render their host parties unelectable. If the 2012 election was any indication of the importance of social issues, and especially those affecting women, Paul should not prove to be a serious candidate in 2016.