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May. 19 2010 - 2:03 pm | 276 views | 0 recommendations | 8 comments

Rand Paul, civil liberties and political pressure

Adam Serwer does a nice job of critiquing Radley Balko’s claim (made on Twitter) that Rand Paul is better than most Democratic senators on civil liberties:

It should be said that Paul appears to have a fairly consistent — if nativist — constitutional philosophy: The Constitution grants certain inalienable rights to Americans but not to foreigners. That shouldn’t be mistaken for Constitutional fidelity, the Constitution distinguishes between “citizens” and “persons” for a reason, and foreigners charged with crimes in the U.S. have always been given the same due process rights as anyone else, precisely because freedom is as much about what government is allowed to do to you as much as it is about what you are allowed to do.

So is Paul better than “most Democratic Senators” or Obama? Outside the PATRIOT Act, he seems to be your average Republican. If he wins his Senate race and teams up with Russ Feingold to reform the PATRIOT Act, I wouldn’t be disappointed — but I’m not hoping for anything more from him.

It’s interesting that Paul criticized the Obama administration’s detainee policy last November, as his campaign was getting off the ground. I don’t know enough about Rand Paul to be sure, but it’s possible that Balko is correct, and Paul is well to the left of most Democratic senators on civil liberties. But Paul is also running an underdog campaign for the Senate that has relied on conservative activists and Tea Party-style libertarians for its momentum. Which means that as Paul positions himself as a viable general election candidate, there’s a strong chance that his views will change in response to grassroots and activist pressure.

Yes, in the absence of pressure, Paul might be better on civil liberties than most Democrats. But if he’s attacked from the right or the left on the issue, there’s a fair chance that his views will adjust accordingly. Which is something that Balko should keep in mind as he throws his support behind the candidate.


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  1. collapse expand

    Yes, lets face it for these libertarians, when push comes to shove, the heavy hand of government that they wish to free us from has everything to do with its powers to tax and regulate and very little to do with civil liberties issues (the second amendment excepted, of course).
    I agree that Rand Paul and his ilk could be swayed very easily to make his views fall in line with more conventional Republicans so that they may retain the political capital to focus on their bread and butter issues: mainly bringing the magic of the marketplace to all spheres of civic life. And, yeah, saving us from those “burdensome” taxes.

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    I am a blogger and occasional freelance writer. Usually, you'll find me here, but I occasionally contribute to PostBourgie.com, as well as Spencer Ackerman's blog (when he's away). At my old Wordpress digs, I blogged about progressive politics, public policy, nerdy things and food, and here at True/Slant, I intend to do the same. I'm all about the social media, so feel free to follow me on Twitter: jbouie, or friend me on Facebook (though I might make you wait awhile). And if you'd rather avoid social media, you can always email me at jamelle DOT bouie AT gmail DOT com.

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