United States Senator Rand Paul may not have gotten as far as many libertarians had hoped in the Republican presidential primary, but he still remains an influential political figure in the liberty movement. Controversies about past endorsements aside, the son of former Texas Congressman Ron Paul has been a strong advocate for liberty in the United States Senate and firm opponent of the left.
With all of this said, Senator Paul has remained a controversial figure. Past endorsements of individuals like Senator Susan Collins, former Governor Mitt Romney for President, and supporting Mitch McConnell have all resulted in his libertarian credentials being called into question.
Libertarians have also largely spent 2016 debating the Donald Trump issue. There are a number of policy positions that are clearly contrary to the message of liberty and are of great concern to any supporter of the Constitution. He believes Edward Snowden is a traitor, has embraced greater executive power, and can be arguably unstable in his temperament. For these reasons, many libertarians have refused to issue support for him, instead looking to third party options like former Governor Gary Johnson.
Other libertarians have jumped on the Trump Train regardless of these valid concerns purely because of the disruption his candidacy is causing. There is no denying the awkward position he is placing Republican leaders in as he shakes up the party. In general election politics, his lack of respect for political correctness is changing the national conversation.
Given that there are arguments for both approaches, which is correct? Where does Senator Rand Paul stand?
Senator Paul was strongly opposed to Trump during the primary, but also pledged to support the Republican nominee. Given that Trump is now the nominee, the two apparently contradictory positions could leave the Kentucky Senator going in either direction.
At FreedomFest, the topic of third party voting came up in a question to Senator Paul. His answer may be surprising to some.
Instead of making a case for Trump, against Johnson, or some other pragmatic approach, he simply opted to support the conscience of voters. His answer noted that each individual has a decision to make and the decision is their own. Some may believe the election comes down to two candidates and from there, they take a pragmatic approach. Others may stand more firm on their principles and find themselves unable to support either major party candidate, thus going third party.
In terms of his own vote, Senator Paul noted he signed an agreement to support the Republican nominee. Debates as to whether such a document should have been signed in the first place aside, he is at least honoring his word.
It’s a position that Senator Ted Cruz embraced when speaking at the Republican National Convention. While opposing Trump himself, his suggestion to voters wasn’t specifically for or against Trump. Instead, the argument was that the vote one makes must be in line with their conscience. If an individual feels that their conscience supports Donald Trump, then vote for Donald Trump. If an individual feels that their conscience cannot support Donald Trump, then don’t.
But at the end of the day, the decision on who to cast a vote for should be based on principles and not party. Senator Paul took this position recently, as Senator Cruz also did not too long ago and countless other conservative and libertarian activists have as well.