Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rand Paul's libertarianism requires sleight of hand

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul wants to cast himself as the kind of politician who thinks people should be allowed to do what they want to do, that the federal government should stay out of the lives of ordinary Americans.

Paul has long called for the government to stop meddling in private lives and for a ban on NSA spying; he has said that he hopes his presidential campaign appeals to the so-called "leave me alone coalition." Saturday, Paul emphasized the libertarian branch of his conservative "libertarianish" philosophy in a far more robust way than he has on other stops this week. Individual rights and limited government are messages that resonate heavily here in Nevada, [a recent campaign stop, and] a state with a strong libertarian, individualist streak, where Paul's father, Ron, saw a strong well of support.

The problem for Paul is that conservatism has never been about staying out of people lives. It's been about ensuring that those people conservatives disagree with are forced to embrace a specific notion of Americanism. 

Back in the '60 there was a charming little slogan in use among conservatives: "America: Love it or Leave It." That, my friends, is not a libertarian perspective. The meaning is clear: "Do things my way, or get the fuck out," a view shared by many conservatives today. 

Republicans may be confused about the meaning of certain philosophical terms, like libertarianism, but they certainly don't embrace the idea that people, all people, should be allowed to do what they want to do. 

To put a fine point on it, people who want their country back have an very clear notion of how others should live.

When it comes down to specifics, Rand Paul is going to have difficulty with his core message. Of course, when that happens he can just walk out of the interview. 

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