What Are Rand Paul's Libertarian Positions — And Where Does He Break With The Philosophy?

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), speaks at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council, on October 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. The summit, which goes for three days, is attended by a number of Republican senators and high profile conservative voices in American politics. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Source: Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Well, it's official: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is officially doing that presidency thing, and he's made the race a whole lot more interesting. He joins Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as the second Republican to officially declare for the 2016 race, but make no mistake, his candidacy is a hell of a lot more interesting, by virtue of some of Paul's less orthodox views — where Cruz is a strident and doctrinaire hyper-conservative, Rand Paul's libertarianism gives liberals and conservatives alike some things to love, and others to hate.

It's not an uncommon position for a member of the Paul family. The elder Ron Paul mounted multiple runs at the White House to no avail, pitching his own brand of cross-ideological, aggressively libertarian ideals to Republican primary voters, to sometimes hostile results. For what it's worth, Rand has achieved a considerably more mainstream appeal, so it's unlikely that he'll endure any jeers quite to the extent his father did, but there are nonetheless areas where he might get more sympathy from left-leaning audiences than conservative ones. 

Here are a few good examples of the coalition-growing building views of Rand Paul, the fascinating fruits of his libertarian philosophical labor.

On The War On Drugs

Are you looking for a candidate who's strongly on the record against the war on drugs? Well, you may not find a candidate as solidly in your camp as Paul is. While he's short of his father's dramatic rhetoric on illegal drugs — Ron wanted to simply legalize them all and let you exercise your freedom of choice, which needless to say didn't jive with a lot of his fellow GOPers — Paul has spoken numerous times on the need to end the drug war, and in particular has blasted overly-aggressive sentencing of marijuana users. 

Even further, and somewhat unthinkably given the modern Republican Party's agony when discussing race, he's acknowledged the role that racism plays in the criminal justice system, as detailed by Politico.

There’s a racial outcome to the war on drugs. Three out of four people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses are black and brown. White kids are using drugs at the same rate black kids are.

On Abortion And Reproductive Health

See, this is the Rand Paul experience. You hear about his candor on race and the drug war, and you think "hey, not so bad!" Then you find out that all his limited government, personal responsibility politics stop firmly at the threshold of reproductive rights, and things start to get weird. Obviously, the distinction is that he views the rights of unborn children as critically superseding the bodily autonomy of pregnant women, and while he's not as much of a firebreather as some on the right, he's made it clear just how seriously he takes it. 

As detailed by Huffington Post, Paul told the American Liberty Association last July that abortion rights are a threat to our very civilization.

I think, and I often say in my speeches, that I don’t think a civilization can long endure that doesn’t respect the rights of the unborn.

Perhaps most disturbing in all this, Paul doesn't even cede to scientific reality in his opposition to abortion — he wants unborn life protected from conception onwards, as he considers a pre-fetal embryo to demand the same, full constitutional protections as a living, breathing person. In fact, he sponsored legislation to codify just that: the Life At Conception Act.

On Edward Snowden

If anything is going to put Paul out on a lonely limb within the GOP, it'll be his calls for leniency and understanding towards NSA leaker and international fugitive Edward Snowden. Paul, who suggested the NSA behavior revealed by Snowden was "illegal" to CBS News in early 2014, went on the record publicly saying Snowden should not receive the harshest punishments that some in Washington, D.C. would seem eager to dish out — he said that the death penalty and life imprisonment should be off-limits.

Do I think that it's OK to leak secrets and give up national secrets and things that could endanger lives? I don't think that's OK. But I think the courts are now saying that what he revealed was something the government was doing was illegal. I don't think Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison. I think that's inappropriate. And I think that's why he fled, because that's what he faced. I think the only way he's coming home is if someone would offer him a fair trial with a reasonable sentence.

On Vaccinations

Well now, here's something that people across the political spectrum can take issue with. The anti-vaccination fervor in the United States nowadays isn't solely a liberal or conservative phenomenon — foolhardy upper-class liberals in my native Marin County are woefully prone to it, as well as small-government conservatives decrying vaccination mandates. And in Rand Paul, you've got somebody who's either willing to pander to this dangerous, anti-empirical business, or worse yet actually believes in it. Here's what he told CNBC back on Feb. 2, as detailed by The Washington Post.

I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing. But I think parents should have some input. The state doesn’t own your children, parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom and public health.

The problem here, obvious as it is: there is no credible evidence that vaccines cause "profound mental illness," and that's the clear implication of his remark's construction. Later, amid the predictable criticism, Paul tried to reverse course — he insisted that he's not anti-vaccine, that his children are vaccinated, and that his views (not supporting mandatory vaccinations) are in line with those of President Obama.

Images: Getty Images (4)

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