Personal Liberty Issue Update: Freedom, the Constitution and the Candidates

Personal liberty, freedom, and the Constitution are at the core of the Republican presidential candidates’ talking points. With the 2012 primaries in full swing, talk of protecting your liberties and constitutional freedoms are all over the airwaves. So what exactly does freedom and liberty mean to the GOP Presidential candidates? Here’s a quick look…

  • Avowed libertarian Ron Paul breaks with the rest of the field in opposing the Patriot Act, a bill designed to combat terrorism, that some feel goes too far, infringing on privacy and other liberties. Challenging America’s role as “World Policeman”, Paul claims that 75% of Americans are calling for the troops to come home, and since the American people have to pay for war and die for war, they should have a greater say in America’s foreign policy. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, supports the Patriot Act. He is of the opinion that civil liberty means “the right to be kept alive” and therefore it can be left to the President to conduct surveillance for national security purposes. Rick Santorum, who has not wavered in his support for the act since its inception, believes that it protects us and does not violate our civil liberties.
  • Paul has attracted the attention of marijuana activists and young voters across the nation with his passion to end the war on drugs, which he believes has been a real abuse of liberty. Commenting on the prison crowding issue, he is of the opinion that many individuals who have used drugs should be treated as patients and not criminals, because they are non-violent. Paul tells young people to use their personal liberty for “excellence and virtue,” but asks “Why shouldn’t you have free decisions on what you eat, drink, smoke, and put into your own body?” Likewise, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a candidate who is polling at less than 1 percent, believes that opposition to the drug war is perfectly consistent with true Republican Party values. In his opinion, “…2.3 million prisoners in the United States are victims of a public policy that criminalizes behavior that—without condoning the behavior—is a personal choice.” He goes on to say, “as long as people don’t put anyone else in harm’s way, they should be free to make that choice.”
  • Newt Gingrich is displeased with the Supreme Court, which he believes has become a “Constitutional Convention.” According to a website that breaks down the candidates’ views on civil liberty, he thinks judges need to understand that “our rights come from God, not the Constitution.” Taking a position that even drew criticism from conservatives, Gingrich proposed that judges who make controversial rulings should be compelled to justify their decisions before congressional hearings, and arrested if they don’t comply. Romney has been critical of Gingrich’s notion, and states that he would appoint members of the Supreme Court who would overturn extreme rulings, but he would not allow Congress to subpoena judges to explain their rulings or remove judges. Paul is a long-time supporter of the We The People Act that would severely curtail the power of federal judges and U.S. Supreme Court justices in hearing cases challenging state laws on religion, privacy or marriage, thus leaving these decisions to the states. In short, Paul wants to remove federal courts from the business of deciding whether state laws violate the federal constitution.
  • All the Republican candidates are beating the “small government” drum but Paul may be the most fervent supporter of this notion. He thinks that government should just leave us alone. He thinks the American people are more than capable of making their own decisions, and that an individual is more powerful than any group. That’s where the candidates start to differ. Santorum has a totally different view. Here’s what he told NPR back in 1996:“This idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues… Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone.” Santorum’s 19-year-old nephew, a Paul supporter, claimed that his uncle has an “irrational fear of freedom not working.”  How’s that for a clash in family values?

That’s all for now liberty lovers; happy Primaries season!

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