Rand Paul: GOP must evolve or die.

This article by Rand Paul is another of the “the GOP has got to change” articles that have proliferated since last November. I have issues with some of Senator Pau’s stances on things, so while I may applaud his words or deeds in general, don’t take that as unmitigated support. Still, the article is different than the others in the genre and deserves some discussion and thought. I think Senator Paul strikes an excellent starting tone:

Many are saying that the Republican Party must change if we want to remain a viable national party. The advice from some is to become less conservative. These critics believe that the GOP will somehow do better if we become more like the Democratic Party. But why would anyone vote for a lesser version of the Democrats when you can vote for the real thing? It doesn’t make sense and defeats the entire purpose of having two parties.

Quite so. Too many of the articles I’ve read in the past several months have come off precisely as the Senator suggests and I could not agree more: the suggestion that the Republican Party should basically become Democrats in order to win elections is senseless. Also unhelpful is the focus these other articles bring on some of the very core subjects of conservatism and their pronouncement that the GOP is “on the wrong side of history” in their thinking and that, if they want to ever win elections again, they just need to… reverse their stance. Forget border security, ditch support for the 2nd Amendment, keep raising taxes until they’ve taken enough money to start up another few dozen entitlement programs, etc.

Paul’s take on the matter is that the GOP may want to lose the focus on certain topics but it’s not necessarily that we need to become less conservative, but perhaps more conservative. This bit is pitch-perfect:

The GOP is supposed to be the party of limited government but it has not done a very good job of proving it. If Republicans can become the party of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, we can appeal to millions from all walks of life who genuinely fear for the burden we’re placing on our children.

“Limited government” doesn’t mean no government. It means $2.6 trillion worth of government—the amount of revenue we currently bring in. Over the past number of years, Americans have had to learn to live within their means. Government must do the same and Republicans should be the party that shows how it can be done.

The Democrats and the liberal/left have succeeded in getting the argument framed as a false dilemma; that you can’t vote for those GOP/Tea Party types because they don’t want any government. They want to drop all of the government’s assistance programs. They want to push Grandma off a cliff in her wheelchair! All completely untrue. That line, “’Limited government’ doesn’t mean no government” should be woven into the lexicon of conservatives everywhere. What it means is the minimum amount of government needed to perform the functions we, the People, agree the government should be performing. It means no more government than we can afford to pay for.

Paul goes on to point out that we need a strong national defense and military but that, maybe, this doesn’t mean having American troops engaged around the world all the time. I’m not opposed to discussing that and I believe there are certainly places where we can and should pull back. I’d like to hear more about what he thinks would be a good balance.

After that, he suggests that younger Americans have no desire to see people jailed for non-violent offenses, and he specifically talks about minor drug offenses.

We need to recognize that the rising generation does not want people put in jail for unduly long sentences for non-violent offenses. No one supports the use of drugs or encourages that kind of behavior, but too many lives have been ruined due to our unfair and unjust mandatory minimum laws. It doesn’t make sense to put someone who has made one mistake in prison with rapists and murderers—sometimes for sentences longer than rapists and murderers. Under our current laws, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama could have been served jail time due to their youthful drug use, and once released from jail, these two men wouldn’t have been employable, much less capable of winning the presidency.

I think the Senator might be overreaching, there, with the suggestion that “[n]o one supports the use of drugs or encourages that kind of behavior.” I personally know people who have done just that and to suggest that it’s not happening is either a teeny bit of Senatorial whitewash or an indication that the Senator is being naïve on the matter. In my view, the current tough-on-drugs stance of our legal system comes from a couple of generations of parents who have grown tired of people getting kids involved in drugs and then getting what amounts to wrist slaps over it. I know my eyes would start shooting flames at some jackass who got my kid hooked on drugs and I’d love to see such a person rot in jail. But I can also see the distinction between someone who’s trolling the playgrounds looking to cultivate new customers and someone who’s acquired a small amount of marijuana for their own use. I am perfectly fine with locking the former up with murderers but, perhaps, the laws requiring the latter to go along for the ride are being too harsh or not discriminating enough. For the record, until the laws are changed, I support imposing the penalties as they are currently set. What I’m saying is that I’m open to discussing changing those laws.

Finally, the Senator hits on the matter of immigration:

The GOP needs to be the party that embraces immigration while also demanding strong border security. Nobody wants a party that is perceived as wanting to round-up people. We can move the ball forward by offering an immigration policy that humanely deals with the 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, but puts the proper security measures in place so that we don’t have to keep revisiting this issue every few decades.

The GOP is the party that embraces immigration and any damned fool out there who buys or spreads the idea that Republicans are against immigrants or immigrations is either being thoughtless on the matter or is a Democratic operative deliberately spreading more lies. Absolutely no Republicans I’ve ever spoken with – and I do mean zero percent – have suggested that they don’t like immigration and want to shut off the flow of immigrants. What we’re against and will not embrace are people who come here or stay here illegally. I don’t like the term “illegal immigration” because those people that are being referred to with this term aren’t immigrants. You have to have actually engaged in the immigration process to be an immigrant and people sneaking over the border haven’t done that. The real term is “illegal alien” but the media has managed to shift the national vocabulary. The point is, we do embrace immigration, we just need to be more vocal about that. As for demanding strong border security, with all due respect what does the Senator think we’ve been doing? The problem is that laws get passed offering amnesty and promising border security but don’t deliver on the security. What is the Senator’s plan for making sure it’s different this time?

We in the GOP do need to keep ourselves relevant while maintaining our values. Senator Paul’s article is a good segue to discussion and we should take advantage of that.