I’ll be honest with you – I like Rand Paul.
I like him a lot.
I think he’s got some great ideas. I think it’s even possible God has placed him in a unique position in our nation’s history to help redirect its course.
But I will never shy away from offering correction to those in politics, whether I like them or not. It’s what journalists are called to do. We’re supposed to be “watchdogs” on government and governors.
So today I am directing my attention to some recent disturbing comments about marriage by Sen. Paul in the New York Times.
“The [Republican] party can’t become the opposite of what it is,” he said. “If you tell people from Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia, ‘You know what, guys, we’ve been wrong, and we’re gonna be the pro-gay-marriage party,’ they’re either gonna stay home or – I mean, many of these people joined the Republican Party because of these social issues. So I don’t think we can completely flip. But can we become, to use the overused term, a bigger tent? I think we can and can agree to disagree on a lot of these issues. I think the party will evolve. It’ll either continue to lose, or it’ll become a bigger place where there’s a mixture of opinions.”
Why do I find this remark disturbing?
Not so much because of what it says about the debate over same-sex marriage as what it fails to say.
Right now, it doesn’t much matter what the American people think about same-sex marriage. When clear majorities of citizens in most state turned out in elections to support marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, their votes were often overturned by activist federal judges.
Think about that. What business does a federal judge have overturning the will of the citizenry of a sovereign state – especially when that citizenry is upholding something as close to a universal moral position as one could imagine?
That’s what I would expect Rand Paul, presidential candidate, to say about same-sex marriage.
I wouldn’t expect him to pander to a New York Times writer by suggesting his party should be tolerant of those who seek to overturn one of the institutional building blocks of a self-governing society – the kind of society, by the way, libertarians are supposed to covet.
Maybe that’s not what Rand Paul intended to do. Maybe he just answered a question awkwardly. Maybe his words were even taken out of context.
That’s why I raised the issue with him before writing this column.
I’m writing it now because I’m still waiting for that clarification.
There’s more discomfiting in that one paragraph quote: I found the reference to “Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia” somewhat condescending. The way those states are used, it suggests these states are populated by unsophisticated rednecks who need to be placated in their semi-literate status.
I don’t share that view. It concerns me.
I don’t live in any of those states – never have. But if you told me the Republican Party would become the pro-gay-marriage party, I would stay home, too. So what’s up with the stereotyping of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia? Is Rand Paul planning on speaking differently to folks in those states than he does when interviewed by the New York Times? That’s the message I took away from this quote.
Then came the biggest stumbling block for me: “So I don’t think we can completely flip.”
Oh, I see. Just how much are we going to need to flip on the definition of a divine institution ordained in the Garden of Eden by the Creator of the universe?
Next up: “But can we become, to use the overused term, a bigger tent?”
Yes, that is an exceptionally overused term. It’s one that has driven many right out of what formerly was a Republican big tent. Ronald Reagan had no problem expanding the size of the Republican tent. He didn’t do it by mincing words. He didn’t do it by compromising his principles. He did it by articulating his convictions. And that’s what we need to do today.
Finally, Paul concludes: “I think we can and can agree to disagree on a lot of these issues. I think the party will evolve. It’ll either continue to lose, or it’ll become a bigger place where there’s a mixture of opinions.”
Does Rand Paul think the Republican Party has lost ground politically because it has stood so strongly for marriage? Didn’t the Republican Party choose as its presidential nominee in 2012 a former governor of Massachusetts who first enthusiastically ushered in same-sex marriage there after a court ordered the legislature to rewrite the commonwealth’s laws on marriage? Does Rand Paul want to see his party evolve into one that no longer has a position on something as sacred as the definition of marriage? And, if not a position on an issue as controversial as “marriage,” what can Republicans agree on?
As I said, I like Rand Paul. But he needs to stop trying to be everything to everybody and figure out exactly who he is.
Here’s a question for him to ponder: “Do you think America will prosper and flourish in a culture in which everyman does what’s right in his own eyes?”
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