Rand Paul has officially thrown his hat into the Presidential ring, unveiling his agenda and opening up a website. I don’t think Paul has much of a chance of the nomination or the Presidency, given some of his unorthodox views. And, for obvious reasons, I’m a little dubious of half-term senators running for President. But I do like having him out there. He’s another voice outside the GOP establishment. He brings to the fore a number of issues — mass incarceration, the War on Drugs, NSA surveillance, aggressive foreign policy — that the GOP needs to confront.
And … he drive the Left Wing absolutely berserk. Today’s stories have alternated headlines of “Paul’s no different from other Republicans” to “Paul is a crazy far out Republican”. They’ve been putting up factually challenged rants about how he wants to return us to the 19th century. They’ve been accusing him of being sexist based on a testy interview with Savannah Guthrie. The Left Wing has a lot invested in the idea that all Republicans are sociopathic, racist, sexist shitlords who only care about rich people. Paul is one of the biggest challenges to that.
But there’s something else I’m picking up on. One of my favorite responses to Paul’s candidacy has been from whichever semi-literate intern wrote Paul Krugman’s column today. He puts up an idiot’s version of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and then claims, based on no data whatsoever, that there are no libertarians1. Everyone in America is either economically and socially liberal or economically and socially conservative. Because apparently the polls showing a large libertarian center don’t exist.
Why is American politics essentially one-dimensional, so that supporters of gay marriage are also supporters of guaranteed health insurance and vice versa? (And positions on foreign affairs — bomb or talk? — are pretty much perfectly aligned too).
Well, the best story I have is Corey Robin’s: It’s fundamentally about challenging or sustaining traditional hierarchy. The actual lineup of positions on social and economic issues doesn’t make sense if you assume that conservatives are, as they claim, defenders of personal liberty on all fronts. But it makes perfect sense if you suppose that conservatism is instead about preserving traditional forms of authority: employers over workers, patriarchs over families. A strong social safety net undermines the first, because it empowers workers to demand more or quit; permissive social policy undermines the second in obvious ways.
And I suppose that you have to say that modern liberalism is in some sense the obverse — it is about creating a society that is more fluid as well as fairer.
This is mind-bogglingly stupid. 40% of self-described Republicans now support legal same-sex marriage, including 60% of young Republicans. 60-70% of independents support same sex marriage. And despite claims by liberals, actual polls show that a clear majority of independents and the vast majority of Republicans oppose single-payer healthcare. So this “actually very few” people who support same sex marriage and oppose single-payer health is approximately half the electorate.
Similar to Krugman, I would define a libertarian voter as one who leans left on social issues (such as same-sex marriage) and right on economic issues (such as taxes and regulation). I certainly put myself in that camp, and I don’t think I am as lonely as Krugman suggests. I meet lots of students with similar views (though, admittedly, Harvard students are hardly a representative sample of voters).
I also meet a lot of students with similar views at my big state university. Mankiw also reminds us that far “challenging traditional hierarchies”, the Democrats supported them up until about last week:
Many libertarian voters I know (including those students) often vote for Democratic candidates because they weight the social issues more than the economic ones. I usually vote for Republican candidates because I weight the economic issues more than the social ones.
One reason is that I don’t view the Democratic Party as a leader on social issues. Remember that Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Barack Obama was against same-sex marriage when he ran for President, and then he “evolved” (aka flip-flopped) on the issue. On this social issue and many others, our elected leaders are really followers. The leaders are the American people.
Why are so many liberals freaking out about Rand Paul? Why are so many reduced to sheer hysteria by the prospect of a “libertarian moment”? Because libertarianism and libertarian-conservatism put the lie to the liberal conceit, espoused above by Krugman, that Democrats are mavericks who challenge traditional hierarchies. I couldn’t imagine anything further from the truth. Democrats were the party of slavery. Democrats were the party of segregation and Jim Crowe (especially progressive hero Woodrow Wilson). Democrats support massive government power, including the surveillance state and Obama’s wars. They have only supported social change when forced. They bomb countries, they violate civil liberties, they jail people by the millions and they always, always seek to expand the scope and power of our government. That’s not being a maverick and challenging social hierarchy. That’s being a conformist. It was, in fact, progressive hero Woodrow Wilson who said, “Conformity will be the only virtue. And every man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.”
Rand Paul isn’t a dangerous loon. And he’s not the antichrist. What he is is a heretic, challenging the religion that is Progressivism. We should be grateful they’re not calling for him to be burned at the stake.
Paul says he is not a libertarian and his views would be best described as conservative. But he draw enormous support from libertarians and libertarian-conservatives.↩