Should Republicans soften on social issues? Rand Paul thinks so.
In an interview with Vocativ.com, Paul was asked if he thinks that Republicans should “stay out of issues like gay marriage.” Here is his response:
I think that the Republican Party, in order to get bigger, will have to agree to disagree on social issues. The Republican Party is not going to give up on having quite a few people who do believe in traditional marriage. But the Republican Party also has to find a place for young people and others who don’t want to be festooned by those issues.
I agree that conservatives should band together and choose to vote for “the lesser of two evils” rather than insisting on voting for the perfect candidate. Voting on rigid principle is essentially handing your vote to the radical liberal. Even still, Paul’s approach deserves a little scrutiny.
The two “social issues” most conservatives hold dear are traditional marriage and the family, and protecting unborn life. Paul simply put the responsibility for marriage on the shoulders of the states, saying the federal government should stay out of it. That’s fine.
Besides, Paul realizes this happens to be a popular theme with me-centric Millennials—his target audience. At CPAC, 42 percent of the straw poll vote was cast by young people and Paul won with ease. Traditional marriage, family, and moral restraint are not popular with American youth. Many of those bright-eyed students plastered with “Stand With Rand” stickers in the Gaylord lobby threw away “conservative morals” during late-night CPAC parties.
However, Paul’s use of the broad term “social issues” calls into question his stance on abortion—the only other “social issue” Republicans cling to. Paul says he staunchly defends unborn life – just read his webpage. While I’d like to give Paul the benefit of the doubt, why did he respond with the more encompassing “social issues” when he was asked directly about “gay marriage”? Is Paul hoping to tow a more moderate line for the sake of votes by being a little more “hush-hush” about his views?
Abortion is the one social issue on which even some of those love- and beer-infused Millennials still lean right. “We Vote Pro-Life” stickers accompanied those Rand Paul and liberty-loving ones. Paul can’t claim we should soften on social issues and then make exceptions. He should take care with his words or he might ostracize conservatives.
For some Republicans, the social issues separate them from liberal looseness. They recognize that “softening” usually means relinquishing. If they give a Democrat an inch, he’ll take a mile.
This all leads to the more difficult and unpalatable question: Is there enough room for both social issues and libertarian values in the Grand Old Party? Or are the two efforts diametrically opposed?
Would Paul make a better president than Hillary? No doubt. But can he throw out gay marriage while keeping the babies and the votes? Stay tuned.