In my more generous moods, I am apt to excuse Kentucky Republicans for nominating Rand Paul for Senate. To the rank-and-file, he is not a man, but a symbol: he, like his father, comes out swinging with his hard-edged libertarianism and veneration of constitutional originalism. He doesn’t mince words for the media like, say, Mitch McConnell, and he’s never held political office. He’s proudly angry, and he’s not in the good graces of Senate Republicans or the Republican National Committee.
I can sympathize with the discontent of the Tea Party. All that I listed makes for very compelling abstract symbolism. Unfortunately, we are not sending a symbol to the Senate.
Rand Paul has hijacked the Tea Party movement to appropriate it to his family’s radical brand of libertarianism. Led by Lew Rockwell and Thomas Woods, two of Ron Paul’s most prominent boosters, the ‘paleo-libertarian’ movement that the Pauls belong to has done a pretty good job of hiding its fringe elements from the eye of the mainstream media and the broader public.
Rand Paul has not been as active as his father in this movement, but from the available evidence, we know that at the very least, he is a fellow-traveler. Paul is on record as believing in a conspiracy to create a “North American Union,” warning ominously of the imminence of a new currency called the “amero.” He regularly sits down to chat with radio talk show host Alex Jones, a man who believes that the United States government is behind 9/11. Rockwell, infamous for his pro-Confederate views, has been boosting Rand Paul since the start, and has sat down to interview him. (Playing a simple game of connect-the-dots, is it any wonder that a man like this wants to abolish the Federal Reserve? Has anyone asked him about the Bilderberg Group yet?)
No one on the right would — or should — give Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi a free pass if they allowed a 9/11 Truther to casually interview them about tax policy. Alex Jones, in between slamming the U.S. government for knocking down the Twin Towers, calls Rand Paul “real change” in 2010.
We turn, then, to the only viable alternative to Mr. Paul. Jack Conway is not a particularly compelling candidate, but he is not a radical. Although he supports Obamacare, he also supports extending the Bush tax cuts, opposes feckless cap-and-trade measures, and is certainly stronger on national security issues than Rand Paul, who, in the final analysis, believes that the United States is an oppressive global empire which has no business being in Afghanistan — or anywhere else.
Paul, like his father, does not believe in the American exceptionalism of Ronald Reagan’s variety. Indeed, he doesn’t even share the views of Sharron Angle. Paul’s America — one without NAFTA, one in which the Federal Reserve magically disappears overnight, one in which America retains no global military presence — is utterly oblivious to the economic and military realities of the 21st century. It is oblivious to the changes that globalization is demanding of us and it is oblivious to the military and cultural threats of Islamic fanaticism.
More saliently, it is completely oblivious to the practicalities that cultural change demands. One can’t even make the argument that I should hold my nose and support Paul on the basis that he’ll be a vote for most Republican legislation. If he’s truly a Mini-Me clone of his father — which he appears to be — then he’ll oppose most of the party’s legislation, anyway! At least with Conway, who seems to resemble Ben Nelson more than Barbara Boxer, we’d retain a fighting chance of winning his vote on crucial legislation. Ron Paul, with his exhaustive history of making the perfect the enemy of the good, has proven to be totally useless where it counts. At the heart of everything, Rand Paul, like his father, is an ideologue, and the rules of Congress do not cater to ideologues.
Because of Rand Paul’s ideological rigidity, we face this reality: no matter who wins in Kentucky in November, the Republicans have lost a key vote on many major issues. We should at least honor sanity by sending the man to Congress who doesn’t affiliate himself with anti-American conspiracy theorists.