Libertarians lead the fight for your second amendment and privacy rights. Here my friend David Boaz, Cato Institute’s executive vice-president explains libertarian fundamentals including the powerful effort Rand Paul continues to make on behalf of all Americans.
Libertarian ideas often cross left-right boundaries. Lots of libertarians were involved in the tea party and the opposition to the bailouts, the car company takeovers, the 2009 stimulus bill and the quasi-nationalization of health care. But libertarians were also involved in the movement for gay marriage. Indeed, John Podesta, a top adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress, noted in 2011 that you probably had to have been a libertarian to have supported gay marriage 15 years earlier. Or take marijuana legalization, which is just now becoming a majority position: Libertarians have been leaders in the opposition to the drug war for many years.
Libertarians have played a key role in the defense of the right to keep and bear arms over the years, notably in the two recent Supreme Court cases that affirmed that the Second Amendment means what it says: Individuals have a right to own guns. Support for stricter gun control has been declining for years.
Much of the libertarian energy in the past few years was generated by the presidential campaigns of former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and then by the leadership of his son Rand Paul representing Kentucky in the Senate. When Ron Paul began his campaign in 2007, he didn’t attract much attention. But then, in a nationally televised debate, he clashed with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani over the causes of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The confrontation became the cable TV moment of the night.
The next day, the conservative magazine National Review declared it a victory for Giuliani. But his campaign never got off the ground, while Ron Paul’s took off. “Ron Paul” briefly even became one of the most popular search terms on Google News. Paul’s support, especially online and among young voters, was intense, but it wasn’t broad enough to win any primaries.
And in 2010, a hitherto unknown ophthalmologist in my home state of Kentucky got elected to the U.S. Senate, helped by being the son of Ron Paul and by the energy of the tea party. Rand Paul upset the Republican establishment candidate in the primary, then comfortably defeated the Democratic attorney general in November.
Rand Paul, like his father, doesn’t agree with libertarians on everything. But in the Senate he’s been a strong voice for freedom on a wide range of issues. He introduced a bill to cut spending and actually balance the federal budget. He spoke out against President Obama’s intervention in Libya. He managed to kill a particularly bad piece of indefinite detainment legislation just by demanding that the Senate vote on it in public view. He fought “government bullies” from the EPA to the TSA, and even managed to get detained by the TSA when he objected to a full-body patdown.
Most memorably, in 2013 he stood like Jimmy Stewart in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” at a desk in the Senate for 13 straight hours to force the country’s attention on the issue of unmanned drone strikes.