Last week, I spent some time traveling through a state that in recent years has become too much of a foreign territory for Republicans: California.
The last Republican presidential nominee to win California was George H.W. Bush in 1988, and statewide gubernatorial and Senate candidates haven’t done as well.
I think Republicans will not be a successful national party again until we can compete everywhere, every time, for every vote — coast to coast.
I began my trip to California by speaking to technology companies and executives in Silicon Valley. I met with Facebook, eBay, Google and smaller companies. What I heard was very encouraging. They are concerned with our fiscal mess and job-killing tax policies. They are worried their industry will soon be overregulated as most others are, and they think their customers’ right to privacy is in danger from an overreaching federal security state.
I was impressed to learn that both Facebook and Google are going a step above the letter of the law in protecting their customers. The trend in law enforcement in recent years has been to seek information from third parties and circumvent the Fourth Amendment rights of the consumers. I think that is wrong. I think your credit card bills, emails and other information that you share only with your provider should remain private and that your rights remain protected. I was pleased to learn that some of these tech companies quietly agree, and they now refuse to turn over email content without a warrant.
This is a big step by some of the tech industry’s biggest players, and I encourage others to follow suit in this important protection of constitutional rights.
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Later in the week, I traveled down to Simi Valley to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, where I gave a speech on the future of our party and our country. Central themes of the speech included some of the lessons that I learned and shared in Silicon Valley about respecting privacy and the entire Constitution. In addition, I discussed my continued observation that we need to be a party of inclusion — a party that looks more like America.
Being inclusive and tolerant does not mean giving up conservative principles, particularly on the fiscal front. But it does mean sounding the right tone and finding common ground. It also means becoming a party that incorporates more of the ideas of a libertarian-leaning conservatism.
What do I mean by that? National defense is the primary job of the federal government. We should do it and do it well. We should defend America and spend what we need to do so. But, we also should consider carefully our involvement in regions that do not affect our security. We should re-examine or apply cost-benefit analyses to aspects of our foreign policy that don’t make sense. We should also restore constitutional order to our foreign policy. We need more bridges built here in America and fewer built in Pakistan. It makes no sense to borrow money from China to send to Pakistan.
This brand of conservatism would also recognize the importance of local control and federalism. From education to drug policies, from health care to marriage, many issues now pushed to the federal level should be returned to the states, where they belong.
This brand of conservatism would include populist elements like opposing bailouts that move money from Main Street to Wall Street and would be deeply skeptical of the role of the Federal Reserve. The practice of big government colluding with big business to enact unnecessary regulations — the cost of which make many small businesses unable to compete — should not be tolerated by anyone who truly believes in free markets.
Republicans reaching out to new audiences doesn’t mean being less conservative, but applying libertarian and constitutional principles where they are sorely needed on multiple issues.
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I learned a lot in California last week and will no doubt learn more in the coming months in my continuing efforts to broaden and sharpen Republicans’ message, everywhere across America and in every state — red, blue and Golden.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.