Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator, was not my first choice when he ran for his seat in 2010. The Tea Party scared the hell out of me and I wanted a more moderate candidate. Since he has been in office I have come to believe the Tea Party alliance was somewhat a marriage of convenience and I’ve warmed to Senator Paul a bit. Lately he is starting to sound like someone I can get behind. From Politico
In an interview with POLITICO, Paul said he’ll return to Congress this week pushing measures long avoided by his party. He wants to work with liberal Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Republicans to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for pot possession. He wants to carve a compromise immigration plan with an “eventual path” to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a proposal he believes could be palatable to conservatives.
Senator Paul is also working with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer to push for legalizing industrial hemp within the state. Both the immigration reform push and the hemp legalization have the potential to appeal to farmers who have an economic stake in both. They also represent an interesting demographic as dependably conservative voters who take a more liberal position on immigration because it is so vital to their current business model. Additionally, immigration reform could be a solid outreach towards Hispanic voters, but it needs some work. A major feature of Paul’s current plan would be a halt to all legal immigration during an ‘assimilation period’ where current immigrants become legal citizens. That seems too aggressive, too draconian to be a net positive. I’d like to see him drop this point.
“I want to show what conservatives would or can accept,” he said in describing his plan. “If we assimilate those who are here, however they got here — don’t make it an easy path for citizenship. There would be an eventual path, but we don’t make anybody tomorrow a citizen who came here illegally. But if they’re willing to work, willing to pay taxes, I think we need to normalize those who are here.”
Paul said the “trade-off” would be “not to accept any new legal immigrants while we’re assimilating the ones who are here.” Asked if he is concerned about the ripple effect that could cause around the world, Paul said the details over which countries would be affected are still in the works.
Paul also sees potential to court the youth vote by softening the nation’s mandatory minimum sentencing for drug possession.
After Colorado and Washington state each approved recreational use of marijuana in ballot initiatives last week, Paul said it “wouldn’t hurt” for his party to take a softer stand on the issue, saying it would show that the GOP is a “little bit rational” and “reasonable” if penalties for pot possession were weakened. “I don’t think we should put people in jail for mandatory sentences of nonviolent drug crimes, particularly 20-year sentences,” Paul said. “I’d just hate to see somebody’s kid get put in jail for 20 years for making a mistake.”
The key for the GOP to move forward is not a national mea culpa where they beg forgiveness for being too rigid in the past. The point is to begin to move forward on the issues conservatives can support and on others, same-sex marriage being the most obvious, conservatives need to quietly begin to withdraw their opposition. As I have noted recently in comments around the League, a real benefit to society is served by conservatives slowing down the pace of cultural change. Sometimes society needs a counter-balance to liberal exuberance. What we must be able to do though is to recognize when our opposition no longer serves a purpose other than to inflict harm. On same-sex marriage I think conservatives slowed down implementation to a speed at which the country could adjust naturally to the idea. Now that a majority of the public supports legalization, it is time to step aside. We need to do this with other issues.
Senator Paul seems to understand that.