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Rand Shows He’s Different from Ron Paul — In a Good Way

Senator Paul Seems Intent Upon Learning from Father’s Errors

by Josh Guckert

On Tuesday, Rand Paul finally entered the fray of the hotly contested Confederate flag debate, calling the flag “a symbol of human bondage and slavery,” and stating that he supported its removal from the South Carolina State House, emphatically remarking that “[I]t’s time to put [the flag] in a museum.”

The announcement comes one day after Paul responded to donations to his campaign from white supremacist Earl Holt III by pledging to send the money to a fund set up for the victims of the Charleston shooting.

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Most intriguing is how Paul has handled these situations which could have otherwise gotten very out-of-hand. As a “libertarian conservative,” Paul is very prone to accusations of racism and belief in otherwise unorthodox philosophies. Indeed, Paul found out at the very beginning of his political career, in discussing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, that the discussion of certain issues can be quite toxic to pro-liberty candidates if not articulated in the proper way.

The most notable other time when Paul found himself being lumped into a fringe group was this year when he attempted to defend his support for voluntary vaccines. Many news outlets reported that he had become an “anti-vaxxer,” and had suggested that he believed vaccines led to mental disorders, though neither claim was true. Still, Paul did bear some responsibility, just as in the Civil Rights instance, for allowing himself to be portrayed in such a manner.

Perhaps in learning lessons from both of these misunderstandings, Senator Paul has grown as both a representative of the liberty movement and as a presidential candidate. Even more likely is that Paul has learned from all of the mistakes which he has seen his father make in those same roles.

Ron Paul is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most important figures in the history of the libertarian movement. Particularly with his presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, Paul educated and energized millions of Americans who had never even considered the philosophy which he so passionately espoused.

However, there were marked failures in those two campaigns as well, most of which had less to do with what Ron Paul said and did than what he didn’t say and do. Paul allowed himself to be surrounded and actively supported by individuals who were detrimental to both his candidacy and the liberty movement. Rather than actively calling out these persons and decrying the ways in which they were perverting libertarianism, Paul chose instead to pander to them in an apparent attempt to build the raw numbers in his coalition.

RELATED: Why Libertarians Should Distance Themselves From The Confederacy

For example, on a 2007 episode of Meet the Pressless than 2 weeks before the 2008 Iowa Republican Caucus, Paul took time out of his interview to explain as to how Abraham Lincoln was wrong for starting the Civil War, scoffing at moderator Tim Russert‘s statement that slavery would still be in existence. While perhaps there can be debate as to this argument, when a liberty candidate is given a prime television spot, and uses it to seemingly side with neo-Confederates, it does no good for the cause. This unease at Paul’s stance on the subject could only be compounded by appearances such as when he discussed the merits of secession while standing in front of a Confederate battle-flag.

Additionally, Paul, though never explicitly endorsing conspiracy theories on matters such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and John F. Kennedy‘s assassination, has been more open than what would seem comfortable for most. In regard to an article published on his website suggesting that the US may have been complicit in the 9/11 attacks, Paul said only that “people should have a right to express their viewpoints,” and that criticisms of the assertion were “little bit overkill with political correctness.” On the JFK assassination, Paul would only say that “[W]e don’t know the truth about that, and probably about 80 percent of the American people don’t believe Oswald was the only one involved.”

On top of these few details are the infamous newsletters which, though published under Paul’s name, were likely ghost-written by one his confidants. Even if one believes that Paul had nothing to do with the writing of these incendiary documents (as most do), it is still unsettling that someone who believed such things was within Paul’s closest circles.

It is for these reasons that Rand Paul’s actions within the last few days and months are so meaningful. There is almost no claim to be made that Ron Paul is a neo-Confederate, conspiracy theorist or racist. However, his association and apparent coddling of these types in the end did significantly more harm than good to both him personally and the libertarian movement as a whole.

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Rand Paul, having seen the destruction which can be done when swift action in the form of repudiation is not taken, can do the very opposite of what his father did. Instead of becoming trapped with suspect characters and in ancillary issues which prevented libertarianism from becoming a major force, hopefully the younger Paul can promote an aura of both liberty and inclusiveness which can appeal to mainstream America. If this is the case, there is no doubt that racists, neo-Confederates, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and others who fancy themselves “libertarians” will decry Paul and abandon his campaign, likely claiming that he has “sold out.” However, these losses should actually be seen as major gains, as our philosophy will become more appealing to broader swaths of the populace while still remaining true to our core principles.

Rand Paul has taken steps to expand and elevate the liberty movement in ways which his father never could. It is encouraging to see him help the liberty movement shed the support of those who have been an albatross around its neck for far too long. One can only hope that this trend continues.

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