Rand Paul’s code switching

Why the libertarian senator likes gay marriage one minute and hates it the next

Topics: Rand Paul, Kentucky, Gay Marriage, Marriage equality, Supreme Court, DoMA, Libertarianism, Editor's Picks, Conservatives,

Rand Paul's code switchingRand Paul, Rand Paul (Credit: AP/Ed Reinke/Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

Republican Sen. Rand Paul got himself in a spot of trouble this week after speaking out of both sides of his mouth on gay marriage. When speaking to a national audience, via ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny, the Republican senator seemed unconcerned: He praised Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion striking down the Defense of Marriage Act for avoiding “a cultural war” and letting the states “agree to disagree.”

But when speaking to a more conservative audience in an interview with Glenn Beck, Paul warned that changing marriage laws could lead to bestiality: “It is difficult, because if we have no laws on this, people will take it to one extension further — does it have to be humans?”

Paul is known for being a Republican who respects gay people’s personal freedoms, so his office moved quickly to walk back his comments once they got some attention, explaining that he was just joking. “Sarcasm sometimes doesn’t translate adequately from radio conversation,” a spokesperson said. Later, Paul himself went on Fox News to say, “I don’t think we’re going on towards polygamy or things beyond that.”

Sure he was joking. That must be why he told Beck, “I’m kind of with you. I see the thousands of year tradition of the nucleus of the family unit … The stability of the marriage unit is enormous and we should not just say that, ‘Oh we’re punting on it and marriage can be anything.’”

So what’s going on here? Rand Paul is code switching. The term has been used to describe how one might speak to an audience of one race versus an audience of another, and much has been made of President Obama’s smooth code switching. But Paul is doing his own version here.

Politicians alter what they say in Washington and in their district or state to some degree, but for Paul, the gap is wider than most. He has two bases, and there’s a lot they don’t agree on. Nationally, Paul is a libertarian hero who stages dramatic filibusters on drone policy, stands up for civil liberties, and most of all carries the mantle of his father’s laissez-faire political movement. But back home in Kentucky, Paul needs to appeal to a predominantly social conservative Republican base.

“Support for gay marriage is on the rise nationally but it’s going to be a long time before Kentucky voters get behind it,” a PPP poll from April found. Just 27 percent of voters support it and that number plummets to 8 percent among registered Republicans. Nationally, a narrow majority of voters support marriage equality, including about a third of Republicans.

Take, even, civil liberties, Paul’s signature issue for his national base. At CPAC, he concentrates his fire on the Obama administration’s violations. But when he was running for the Senate in 2010, he said things like: “Foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution” and “I do not support a mosque being built two blocks from ground zero.” Meanwhile, his pet project in the Senate is to defund foreign aid to Muslim countries that are sometimes mean to the U.S. It’s hard not to see that as populist red meat for the voters back home.

This will be Paul’s challenge in 2016, when he has to decide between running for the presidency or reelection. One campaign would be built on his national libertarian base, while the other would rely on his local social conservative one. It will be up to Paul to decide which version of himself he likes more.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...