The latest in the continuing saga of Rand on the Skywire, trying to inch along the tightrope between libertarians and conservatives towards the GOP nomination on the other side.
Love him or hate him, the 2016 debates will be roughly 8,000 percent more interesting with him onstage than they would be otherwise.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told ABC News he believes the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act was appropriate, and that the issue should be left to the states. He praised Justice Anthony Kennedy for avoiding “a cultural war.”
“As a country we can agree to disagree,” Paul said today, stopping for a moment to talk as he walked through the Capitol. “As a Republican Party, that’s kind of where we are as well. The party is going to have to agree to disagree on some of these issues.”…
Paul said he agreed with Kennedy, whom he called “someone who doesn’t just want to be in front of opinion but wants government to keep up with opinion.” He said Kennedy “tried to strike a balance.”
Many social conservatives won’t be happy to hear him talking about leaving things to the states, and they really won’t be happy with him waving off the culture war, but they were never Paul’s target constituency in the first place. If you’re a young, bridge-building, aspiring GOP nominee, the politic answer here is obvious: Support traditional marriage at the state level and oppose any lawmaking on the subject at the federal level. Be a socially conservative small-government federalist and hope that both social cons and moderate/libertarians each cut you enough of a break on your middle-ground position that the Skywire doesn’t sway too much. That’s the smart play for someone in Rand’s position (at least until he makes it to the general, when any misgivings about gay marriage at the state level will begin magically to melt away). Just one question: Does he support state traditional marriage laws at the state level? I honestly can’t tell. This morning he told Glenn Beck this:
“I think traditional marriage laws are now affirmed in 34 states,” the Kentucky Republican said on Glenn Beck’s radio show Wednesday morning, calling it the “good side of the ruling.”
So he does support them. But wait — a few months ago, he said this:
Social issues are another area where he thinks Republicans can make a better argument to independents and centrists without departing from their principles. Gay marriage, for instance, is one issue on which Paul would like to shake up the Republican position. “I’m an old-fashioned traditionalist. I believe in the historic and religious definition of marriage,” he says. “That being said, I’m not for eliminating contracts between adults. I think there are ways to make the tax code more neutral, so it doesn’t mention marriage. Then we don’t have to redefine what marriage is; we just don’t have marriage in the tax code.”
As I said at the time, that’s the sort of thing you often hear from libertarians who want the government, and not just the federal government, out of the marriage business altogether. I don’t think Rand could get away with that position in a GOP primary, which is why I assume he’s still nominally in favor of state marriage laws. Whether he’d have an Obama-esque “evolution” in support of liberalizing those laws to include gays once safely elected, though, I leave to you to decide.
Via Noah Rothman, here he is with Beck having a not-especially-libertarian exchange about whether legalizing gay marriage necessarily means legalizing polygamy. Beck’s more concerned about that than Paul is — Rand clarified what he said here about non-humans later in the day, in fact — but he does seem to see some hazy role for government in legislating morality. Some of his dad’s fans won’t like that, but plenty of mainstream conservatives will.
Update: A “wacko bird” divergence:
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) today released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8:
Today’s Supreme Court decisions on marriage are a regrettable overreach against the will of the people as expressed through large, bipartisan majorities in Congress and directly through referendum in California – a markedly blue state.
Nothing in the Constitution compelled this result, and, once again, the Court has chosen to substitute its own views of public policy for the democratically expressed will of the voters.
The family is the fundamental building block of society, and I strongly support traditional marriage between one man and one woman. The voters of California made that same choice, until the courts improperly substituted their preferences for those of the people.
Our Federalism allows different states to make different policy judgments based on the values and mores of their citizens. Federal courts should respect that diversity and uphold that popular sovereignty, not impose their own policy agenda.