Friday, October 9, 2015

What Happened To Rand Paul?

If there's one silver lining to the rise of Donald Trump's toxic brand of overtly racist, protectionist populism, it's that it buried Rand Paul's toxic brand of more subtly racist, protectionist glibertarian nonsense and that Paul's aspirations for higher office are quite dead. Salon's Conor Lynch:

Trump has taken advantage of the fears and insecurities of a significant portion of white Americans, who see the influx of non-white immigrants — Hispanic, Asian, Muslim — as a threat to their way of life. In their view, Muslims are terrorists (i.e., Syrian refugees are members of ISIS — even though half are children), Mexicans are rapists and job-stealers, foreigners are cheaters, black people are lazy, and so on. They also distrust intellectuals and experts. Consider, for example, the denial of scientific realities like climate change and evolution. Even though the vast majority of scientists agree that human beings are warming the planet with their carbon output, most Republican supporters simply refuse to believe. Overall, the Tea Party movement appears to be a combination of white-identity politics and anti-intellectualism. Even Glenn Beck, the former patron saint of the Tea Party, has called Trump’s Tea Party supporters racists. (I guess he never interacted with supporters at those rallies of his.)

What does all this say about a great percentage of Republican voters? First of all, it reveals that many are ideologically inconsistent (except when it comes to their social views) and politically ignorant. After all, Trump is no small government conservative, and as former congressman Ron Paul said recently, he sounds increasingly authoritarian. It also reveals that most GOP voters are not libertarian like Rand Paul, and that his honesty on certain issues, especially when he speaks out against war, advocates diplomacy, and criticizes the government spying on its own citizens, hurts his standing in the Grand Old Party.

In closing, Jerry Taylor writes about issues that libertarians have been successful with over the past few years: 
Libertarians… can take heart from the fact that political sentiment is moving their way in some areas. Gay rights, drug decriminalization, increasing outrage over heavy-handed police tactics, growing concern over an unjust legal system, disgust over crony capitalism, and opposition to military deployments abroad all suggest that libertarian arguments can have political force.

The thing is, these issues are all areas where libertarians and those on the left agree. Indeed, liberals and libertarians tend to see eye to eye on somewhere around half of the issues (typically relating to civil rights), while they disagree on other things like the free market and income inequality. These issues — war, civil rights, criminal justice reform — are what make Paul an outsider in the Republican Party.

Whether you agreed with him or not during the last two debates, Paul did bring substance to otherwise fruitless events. But it seems that most GOP voters do not care about substance, and prefer entertaining and pompous loudmouths who embrace their irrational fears, insecurities and prejudices. One can disagree with a political opponent and still have great respect for him or her, but only when real substance and debate is involved. How can one have respect for an opponent like Trump, who makes outlandish claims without any evidence and popularizes untrue and dangerous generalizations about entire segments of the population? How can one respect someone who operates in fear-mongering and embraces some of the darkest qualities of human beings, like racism, to get ahead in the polls?

Unfortunately, the GOP is headed in this ugly direction, and the fall of Rand Paul, who is one of the few Republicans with a consistent and discernible philosophy — wrong as it may be — reveals this crude drift towards a political movement that will inevitably leave many victims in its wake.

And when the Trump boil bursts, it's going to be truly ugly, infectious, and sickening.  But at least the guy got rid of Rand Paul's snotty version of "Well, actually" racist libertarianism.  It just replaced it with something far worse.

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