Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is a hot commodity right now in the conservative movement. With his focus on free markets, constitutional foreign policy, and the protection of civil liberty, Paul stands out among potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders. He certainly has a long path to take to the nomination, but the seeds for such an effort have clearly been laid over the past several months.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal noted how Paul, who led a 13-hour filibuster last month against CIA nominee John Brennan, is trying to turn the noterity and conversation he’s started into a national movement. The significant platform that he’s been building is one that could propel him to forefront of the Republican Party, shatter conventional wisdom about conservatives in the mainstream media, and attract new voters.
But not everyone is a fan of the role Paul has played recently. In the same Wall Street Journal article, Rick Santorum, a former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania and a 2012 presidential candidate, lashed out at Paul and his views:
“Rand Paul’s brand doesn’t line up with all of what our party stands for—on national security, social values, the economy and the role of government in society,” said former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum. “His message won’t ultimately lead us to be a more successful party.”
Let’s consider the source for a moment. From an electoral perspective, Santorum has, well, not been so great, at least in recent years. After serving two terms in the United States Senate, Santorum was easily defeated by his Democratic opponent in 2006 and he lost his bid to be the Republican presidential nominee. But Santorum did manage to help Sen. Arlen Specter win re-election in 2004 — this is the same guy who would later switch parties and vote for ObamaCare.
And when it comes to fiscal issues, Santorum isn’t that distinguishable from Democrats. Perhaps the only real difference is that he votes for tax cuts. However, his time in the Senate shows that there was hardly any spending he didn’t like. In their white paper on Santorum during the 2012 Republican primary, the Club for Growth pulled the skeletons out of his closet.
“[Santorum’s] record is plagued by the big-spending habits that Republicans adopted during the Bush years of 2001-2006,” the Club for Growth explained. ”Some of those high profile votes include his support for No Child Left Behind in 2001, which greatly expanded the federal government’s role in education. He supported the massive new Medicare drug entitlement in 2003 that now costs taxpayers over $60 billion a year and has almost $16 trillion in unfunded liabilities.”
“In the 2003-2004 session of Congress, Santorum sponsored or cosponsored 51 bills to increase spending, and failed to sponsor or co-sponsor even one spending cut proposal.” the Club for Growth continued. ”In his last Congress (2005-2006), he had one of the biggest spending agendas of any Republican — sponsoring more spending increases than Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Lincoln Chafee and Thad Cochran or Democrats Herb Kohl, Evan Bayh and Ron Wyden.”
Santorum has even express disdain in view of government expressed by Barry Goldwater, an iconic figure of conservatism. In a 2008 interview, Santorum said, “Republicans, to our credit, have morphed away form the Goldwater idea that government just needs to be small.”
While he may reject Paul’s constitutionally limited government views, Santorum is exactly the wrong person from which conservatives and Republicans should take advice if they want to remain relevant in 2014 and 2016. Even if you don’t believe the answer is Rand Paul, the path Santorum offers is a return the brand of big government conservatism that ruined set the Republican Party back and enabled someone like Barack Obama to become president.