Political wannabe Rand Paul, winner of Kentucky's GOP Senate primary last week, seems to be afflicted with some of the same ideological extremism and racist tendencies as his father Ron Paul (R-TX). His comments about the 1964 Civil Rights Act (overviewed here by MSNBC) were quickly followed by his demands for a "comfortable living" from Medicacre payments and remarks that criticizing BP for fouling the Gulf of Mexico is "un-American" (see FDL and ThinkProgress) because "maybe sometimes accidents happen." (Didn't conservatives once believe in personal responsibility?) Paul skipped out on his scheduled appearance on Meet the Press, but had to suffer the consequences:
Salon's Joe Conason looks at "The roots of Rand Paul's civil rights resentment" by tracing it back to the movement animus toward Martin Luther King Jr. (Fellow libertarian crank Murray Rothbard slurred King as "'Doctor' King," as if King's PhD from Boston University had somehow ceased to exist):
King's dream has since drawn closer to fulfillment with the election of Barack Obama. But the profound resentment of the first black president symbolized by Rand Paul and his Tea Party supporters arose from an old political fever swamp that has never been drained.
Julian Sanchez describes why Rand is both right and wrong, mentioning the movement's semi-covert racist appeals: "There's no doubt the libertarian argument, springing from the sanctity of private property, was adopted by bigots looking for respectable cover--and the line between them has not always been as sharp as this libertarian writer would like."
Richard Greener observes Paul's "transparent hypocrisy" at HuffPo, writing that "Rand Paul wouldn't be - in fact couldn't be -a doctor without the liberal generosity of the very social institution he is determined to be rid of altogether in America's health care - government." After naming federal student loans and grants, tax exemptions, Medicare, and Medicaid, Greener continues:
One wonders how much of Dr. Paul's personal income has come from these very same government sources. But, he insists we take him at his word. He's a principled libertarian. So, perhaps, as a matter of principle, Dr. Paul refuses payment from Medicare, Medicaid and Managed Care Government sources. Perhaps also, he rejects any hospital affiliation that receives government funds in any way. Someone might ask him. His answers could be revealing.
They're revealing, all right. Paul elsewhere admitted that 50% of the patients in his ophthalmology practice are on Medicare while saying that "[p]hysicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living" (which averages over $250K/year in his field, including substantial government contributions.) If you scratch a libertarian, it's all too easy to find a self-centered hypocrite.
AlterNet's Devona Walker notes that Paul is "worse than racist, he's libertarian" and suggests that reason "we don't have national libertarian candidates [is that] [w]hile their views may be based on principles, they are not based on reality." Similarly, Ross Douthat discusses "The Principles of Rand Paul" at Newsweek and notes the "self-marginalizing, and self-destructive" aspects of libertarian and other paleoconservative ideologies:
Like many groups that find themselves in intellectually uncharted territory, they have trouble distinguishing between ideas that deserve a wider hearing and ideas that are crankish or worse. (Hence Ron Paul's obsession with the gold standard and his son's weakness for conspiracy theories.)
Like many outside-the-box thinkers, they're good at applying their principles more consistently than your average partisan, but lousy at knowing when to stop. (Hence the tendency to see civil rights legislation as just another unjustified expansion of federal power.) [...] ...it shouldn't come as a shock that his son found himself publicly undone, in what should have been his moment of triumph, because he was too proud to acknowledge the limits of ideology, and to admit that a principle can be pushed too far.
Politics Daily's David Corn writes in "Like Father, Like Son" that, while Ron and Rand Paul "do share libertarian and conspiratorial sensibilities...it was clear that [Rand] was merely doing what he had seen his father do for decades: telling us what he truly believes." The (rotten) apple doesn't appear to have fallen very far from the (stunted) tree.
Addendum: I had this post drafted and ready to publish until I read Katha Pollitt's examination of Paul's anti-choice stance from The Nation. Pollitt notes that although Paul "theoretically wants to limit the government's power to do very much of anything," there is a glaring exception "in which Paul apparently wants the government to play a much bigger role: your womb:"
Women can forget about the "privacy" and "liberty" Paul touts on his website; warnings against government encroachment on freedom do not apply to female citizens of Paul's back-to-basics Republic. As per his website, we get the Human Life Amendment banning all abortion even for rape and incest, "a Sanctity of Life Amendment, establishing the principle that life begins at conception," a funding ban on Planned Parenthood, and a ban on the Supreme Court taking up abortion-related cases. [...]
How, after all, is a ban on abortion to be implemented except by a massive government intrusion into private and personal behavior? To say nothing of monitoring thousands of medical practices, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies--apparently the only businesses Paul would want to put under government oversight.
A pair of Religion Dispatches stories (from Sarah Posner and Julie Ingersoll) helped explicate this authoritarian streak in Paul's libertarian ideology--fundamentalist religion. The standard authoritarian impulses that are fellow-travelers with conservatism only go so far in a purely political realm; to really become corrosive, those retrograde habits often need assistance from religion--in this case, Christianism. Posner suggested that "one might hear an echo of Christian Reconstructionism" in Paul's comments that "Christianity and values is the basis of our society...it helps a society to have that religious underpinning." Ingersoll examines that Gary North/RJ Rushdoony/Howard Phillips axis of Christianism, wondering:
How can they be theocrats and libertarians? This has puzzled those of us who write on Reconstructionists who see evidence of both libertarian and theocratic tendencies. In other words, how can they advocate limited government and, at the same time, application of biblical Law?
update (5/30 @ 2:26pm):
An AlterNet commenter uses abortion rights in another way--as an example of how Paul's libertarianism (a rather inconsistent "consistent philosophy") privileges corporations over citizens:
Rand Paul believes that the government should allow all private business owners to deny food, lodging, clothing, employment, etc. to members of whatever groups they don't like. He claims that this is because it's not fair for the government to force private businesses to do things they don't want to do.
Meanwhile -- Rand Paul also believes that the government has a *responsibility* to force private citizens to feed, house, care for and potentially be placed at great personal risk by a fertilized egg, zygote, embryo, etc.
What if the woman could declare herself to be a private business? Could she then abort based on the fact that she doesn't want to provide services?