Civil Liberties: More important than marriage in courting young voters

Recently, Sen. Hedlund and Rep. Fattman introduced a bill to regulate domestic drones here in Massachusetts. Coming on the heels of Rand Paul’s filibuster on the Senate floor, it seems the momentum has shifted on civil liberties issues, and more and more Americans favor Constitutional restraints on executive power and covert government action. This is an interesting development, and a sharp contrast to the policies of the last two administrations. It is also interesting to see Republicans taking the lead on a “Democratic” set of issues (Russ Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001).

We always hear about how marriage is the issue that fires up young voters, but I think that is a red herring. Without a doubt, there are very few young voters who are opposed to gay marriage – in my opinion, the Republican Party would be best served taking a leave-government-out-of-the-picture position on marriage, a middle ground that would leave (almost) everyone happy. But if one were to survey college students, it would become apparent that the ones for whom gay marriage is a top issue are also the ones who are the least politically engaged. To them it is a simple issue (gay marriage is “banned” and we need to “legalize” it) and while their view of the issue may be hopelessly skewed, they frankly don’t care enough to look beneath the surface. When we talk about reaching out to young voters, these are not the ones we should be talking about. What we need is young activists, young people who are engaged in the process. And from my experience, the issues that animate these type of people the most are civil liberties issues.

The Republican Party needs to move past the Bush years and become solidly pro-civil liberties. Patriot Act, out the window. No more NDAA. Stop giving the NSA virtually unlimited access to private information. There may be parts of the libertarian message that are difficult for traditional Republicans to come around to, but this one should be easy. If we are the party of small government, then let’s actually be the party of small government, not the party of the police state. Republican rhetoric has been solid of late, apart from the usual McCain-Graham suspects, but will it continue if a Republican takes over the White House? If Rand Paul is his name, then yes. If not, then who knows.

P.S. As this pertains to the Senate race, Dan Winslow is the only candidate so far who has taken a strong stand on these issues. I am interested to hear Sullivan and Gomez speak up, and their actions from this point forward may impact my decision on who to vote for.

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