This morning, Rand Paul will speak before the Values Voters Summit, the annual social conservative confab put on by the Family Research Council.
It’s an odd venue for a politician who harbors “more libertarian views on social issues,” as the Wall Street Journal has described Paul. Except despite the baffling media narrative that Paul represents a shift away from the GOP’s hardline social conservatism, he’s perfectly simpatico with the Tony Perkinses and Pat Robertsons of his party.
But in his Values Voters speech, Paul will try to square the circle of being the candidate of both LIBERTY! and of anti-choice, anti-gay scolds. The Daily Caller got its hands on a copy of his prepared remarks, in which the Kentucky senator will state that “liberty and virtue” aren’t mutually exclusive.
“Some seem to believe you must choose either liberty or virtue,” Paul will tell the crowd, “that to be virtuous you can’t have too much liberty. That is exactly wrong. Liberty is absolutely essential to virtue. It is our freedom to make individual choices that allows us to be virtuous.”
The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis calls this a “fusionism” of both libertarianism and social conservatism. In theory, it’s possible to synthesize the two. Applying Paul’s thoughts on liberty and virtue to a real-world example, it’s possible to personally oppose same-sex marriage and think that gay people are destined for damnation while still allowing them to make the choice to get married. Or to view abortion as the wrong choice, but a choice nonetheless.
But Paul has no interest in affording gay people or women the “freedom to make individual choices.” No, to make them virtuous, he’s going to restrict the menu of choices they have before them. Paul has been on both sides of the debate over a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage, but he’s been consistent in his view that, at the very least, gay marriage should be banned at the state level. After all, Paul has mused, let the gays get married and the next thing you know there'll be a push for legalized bestiality.
Likewise, Paul resolutely opposes the freedom of women to make their own reproductive health choices. He has expressed opposition to abortion rights even in the cases of rape and incest.
It’s reflective of a warped conception of liberty that Paul has framed legislation against anti-LGBT employment discrimination and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as unacceptable infringements on freedom, while supporting policies that deny LGBT people and women the right to make choices. And anyone who says Paul’s views represent anything other than standard-fare social conservatism is either disingenuous or hopelessly naïve.