I’ve been watching this Rand Paul story unfold for the past few days, and combined with the Mark Souder news, it mostly serves to remind me of my time as a Hoosier. The Wall Street Journal broke the news gently to its readership, whom you’d think would already be familiar with the type:
Republican candidate Rand Paul’s controversial remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act unsettled GOP leaders this week, but they reflect deeply held iconoclastic beliefs held by some in his party, and many in the tea-party movement, that the U.S. government shook its constitutional moorings more than 70 years ago.
Seventy years ago? Visit Indiana, gents! I once heard someone there say, with an expression of delicate pain on his fair brow, that it might have been better for the nation to shake off slavery “naturally,” rather than fight a war over it. In his explanation, the Confederacy would gradually come to its senses, while the invisible hand worked its magic, and little by little, state by state, the south would shed the peculiar institution, and we wouldn’t have had to spill a drop of blood over it. Except for that of the slaves who would have had to stay in bondage, that is.
“So if Mississippi, say, hung on until 1950 or so, that would have been OK?” I asked, wondering for the millionth time what happened to the nice, reasonable Republicans of my youth. Yes, it would be OK. In the long run.
I don’t mean to pick on Indiana. It’s just where I was at the time. I’m sure there are Randites everywhere in this great country. But now they’ve been dragged into the spotlight, and it’s a little unsettling for them.
Libertarians — or constitutional conservatives, or whatever Paul and his ilk are calling themselves these days — aren’t accustomed to this much attention. Generally, they confine their pontificating to blog comment sections, the dinner table and maybe the men’s grille at the country club, where they’re not going to face much opposition. Libertarianism isn’t so much a party as it is a philosophy, and being one means never having to say “so help me God” on swearing-in day, so you’re free to have any old crazy opinion you want. Let’s legalize all drugs! Let’s open the national parks to logging and mining! Let’s do away with zoning! Let’s carry guns everywhere!
Some of these ideas aren’t completely whack. Take the drug thing. I’m certainly in favor of calling off the war on (some) drugs and treating abuse and addiction as a public-health problem, rather than one for law enforcement. But ask a libertarian what we’re going to do with all the junkies, more of which will surely be created when there is no legal sanction whatsoever for using everything from marijuana to heroin, and they wave their hands. Details, details. Not their problem.
I’ve said in the past that being a Libertarian always strikes me as a political version of one of those role-playing games where your capabilities are determined by a dice roll — OK, I’m 10 feet tall, can fly and shoot fireballs out of my fingertips, but I’m allergic to water. Limit the government to police work, military and a few other functions, and nothing bad happens (to them), only good, wonderful, free-market things.
The NYT, Sunday, lays out the problem in a nutshell:
But Mr. Paul’s position is complicated. He has emerged as the politician most closely identified with the Tea Party movement. Its adherents are drawn to him because he has come forward as a kind of libertarian originalist, unbending in his anti-government stance. The farther he retreats from ideological purity, the more he resembles other, less attractive politicians.
In this sense, Mr. Paul’s quandary reflects the position of the Tea Partiers, whose antipathy to government, rooted in populist impatience with the major parties, implies a repudiation of politics and its capacity to effect meaningful change.
Sooner or later, everyone with strongly held opinions about public policy comes up on the hard, unbending truth about how we make it in this country, i.e., politics: It’s always a matter of compromise, of negotiation. The clear, pure air of theory belongs in universities, editorial-board meetings and the men’s grille at the country club, where you can mourn Lester Maddox to your heart’s content.
That NYT story is pretty good. Recommended.
Meanwhile, back in Indiana, Souder the Goober gave his exclusive farewell interview, to the Journal Gazette. It’s an instructive look at the way some people interact with their personal God:
“Subconsciously, was I wanting to get caught? Or was God so frustrated with me he said, ‘I’ve had it. You’re so stupid here I’m going to, in effect, out you.’
“It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. Because ultimately maybe I was getting – and she was getting – so reckless that it was a way for God to say, ‘You need to get your marriages back together. You need to get your lives straightened out.’ Maybe it was also guilt.
“Or maybe it was just an accident because we were really stupid, and God used it. But at the end of the day, if we get through all this, we’ll be better for having gotten caught.”
This is one reason I found it pretty easy to leave God behind. The Almighty just talks to these folks differently than he ever talked to me. (Or to Jesus, for that matter. As I recall my Scripture, the response to “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was silence.) Such a micromanager, this God, messing with people’s car batteries and sending DNR officers to interrupt makeout sessions in state parks.
Ah. Well, it’s all over now, baby blue. Back to civilian life with him, and off to my Monday chore-a-whirl for me. Have a good one y’selves, all.