TAMPA, June 18 2012 – 218 years ago, George Washington signed the Jay Treaty, reestablishing economic relations with Great Britain. Claiming that John Jay and the Federalist Party had sold America out to the British and betrayed France, Jefferson’s Republicans denounced Jay as a monarchist and a traitor.
His effigy was burned and one newspaper went so far as to print, “John Jay, ah! the arch traitor - seize him, drown him, burn him, flay him alive.”
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky might know how Jay felt. Since endorsing Mitt Romney for president on June 7, Paul has endured a barrage of criticism from his father’s supporters and those who consider themselves part of the larger “liberty movement.”
There have even been a few death threats.
I spoke to Senator Paul last Thursday. He was understandably concerned by the more outlandish reactions, but put them in perspective.
“The people that are over the top and even making death threats on the internet, I hope they are not serious, but they are a small number of people making a disproportionate number of the comments. A lot of those people may not even vote or may not have voted for my father. They don’t represent the majority of the people that support what we’re fighting for.”
Overlooked during the controversy is Paul’s promise to his constituents to endorse the Republican nominee. Paul won a decisive victory in Kentucky with far more than Ron Paul supporters behind him. Without promising to endorse the nominee, Paul may have never even won the Republican nomination, much less become a U.S. Senator.
“I’ve said all along that I would endorse the Republican nominee. I made that promise during my own campaign, because it was a concern for many Republicans that my dad hadn’t endorsed the Republican nominee in the past. People should understand that it doesn’t mean that I’ve changed my philosophy or adopted anyone else’s.”
Even for the average, more reasonable Ron Paul supporter, the endorsement has raised doubts. Does Rand Paul stand for the same things as his father? Even Paul’s book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington, raises this question.
“It really shouldn’t surprise people that part of being Ron Paul’s son means being your own man, independent and unique-minded. If I blindly followed Dad with no questions or differences of opinion I would be less my father’s son, not more. Dad and I have always understood this even when others have not.”
As to substantive philosophical differences between the two Pauls, Senator Paul says they are minimal.
“In all of the thousands of votes over the years, maybe 3 or 4 would have been different. There are a few differences of opinion, but for the most part we agree.”
However, one of those differences hasn’t escaped Ron Paul supporters. Senator Paul voted for sanctions on Iran.
Ron Paul argues that sanctions are acts of war, equating them to naval blockades. Senator Paul acknowledges that this is one issue upon which father and son disagree, but he is open to being persuaded.
“I know that my father has made that argument and it is a disagreement, but people should understand that on issues like that, we talk. We’ll sit down over dinner when my father is in town and discuss issues like that.”
Still, Paul doesn’t believe he is getting enough credit for the work he’s doing on issues that Ron Paul supporters do agree with him on. John Jay’s controversial treaty resulted in the British finally removing their troops from American soil. Paul believes his endorsement will buy him the political capital to advance Ron Paul’s agenda.
“I’ve introduced a bill to legalize industrial hemp, a bill requiring the 4th amendment to be obeyed if drones are used within the United States, a bill to end mandatory minimums for non-violent crime, and a bill to abolish the TSA. These are all bills that no other senator would introduce and I wouldn’t have a chance to get those through if I weren’t a Republican in good standing.”
Being a Republican in good standing means endorsing the party’s nominee for president, even if you disagree with him on quite a bit.
Some Ron Paul supporters accept the endorsement, but question its timing. Why not wait until after Romney’s nomination is official, giving Ron Paul’s delegates a chance to fight to the last? Would Paul have lost any political capital if he had waited?
“An endorsement has different value at different times,” answered Paul. “An endorsement is meaningless after the nomination. We actually have a chance to get Governor Romney to endorse auditing the Fed. We have other bills that I’ve introduced that I would not be able to get support on from my fellow Republicans if I didn’t support the party and its nominee.”
Clearly, Rand Paul plays the political game differently than his father, who has refused to compromise for thirty years, even when he’s had to vote alone. The younger Paul may have more success than his father doing it his way.
One can’t help but wonder, though, if the endorsement controversy has damaged the liberty movement, at least temporarily, and what can be done to get it back on track.
“We have to get more people elected who agree with our ideas,” says Paul. “If you believe in electoral politics, then that is the way to have success. I don’t consider myself the leader of any movement. I am fighting here for the ideas I believe in and will continue to do so.”
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
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