Former presidential candidate and Republican Texas Rep. Ron Paul is no stranger to questioning his Party’s commitment to smaller government.
“The test is not in the election,” Paul said Tuesday on FOX Business News. “It’s in how we handle ourselves. I don’t hear enough precise things we would cut. I never hear that the military-industrial complex should be addressed, I never hear that discretionary and non-discretionary funding is all the same thing.”
Paul says he’d like to see those statements coming from Tea Party groups, but hasn’t — yet.
“I’d like to see a consensus that challenges the establishment,” Paul told The Daily Caller. “I want them to challenge foreign policy. I want them to challenge the war on drugs. I want them to challenge non-discretionary spending.”
As of right now, Paul said, there’s no such consensus among the loose federation of Tea Party groups. Paul also warned that while “more of it has to do with what [Tea Parties] stand for than who’s running the show, some people have slipped into the Tea Party who are awfully close to being part of the establishment.”
Paul isn’t the only potential 2012 presidential candidate encouraging the Tea Party to embrace more libertarian principles. Former Republican New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is widely expected to declare a presidential run, spoke at the 9/12 rally in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
“Half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts and the prisons is drug related. We’re arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country on drug-related crime,” Johnson told the crowd. “I suggest that legalizing marijuana will make this country a better place.”
In a February interview with TheDC, Johnson echoed Paul’s frustrations with non-discretionary spending. Republicans “rail against Obama’s health care plan while accusing the Democrats of wanting to cut Medicare,” he said. “You can’t mask the fact that we are bankrupt. Expenditures have to be cut. As unpopular as this idea might be, the people of this country have never been more aware of spending and the unsustainable level of debt we’re accumulating.”
When asked what impact he’d like to have on the Tea Parties, Paul said simply that he was “just going to keep speaking out on the issues.”
Speaking out, while not quite as high-profile as forming PACs and caucuses, or releasing pledges, seems to be working. At a Tea Party event in June, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appeared on stage with Paul, where she said she believed that “if somebody’s gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm,” that person should be left alone.