Rand Paul Could Shake Up An Election Against Hillary Clinton

Senators Gather To Caucus Over Hagel Nomination

While Ron Paul had a small devoted group of supporters, everyone knew he had no real chance of seriously competing for the Republican nomination. There’s something about being a new face, and being from the Senate instead of the House. People are looking far more seriously at the possibility of Rand Paul becoming the Republican nominee.

Not that long ago, most Republican leaders saw Rand Paul as the head of an important faction who, like his father, ultimately had no shot at becoming the party’s presidential nominee.

Now the question is no longer whether Paul can win the nomination, but whether he can win a general election.

The shift follows a year in which the Kentucky senator has barnstormed the country, trying to expand the party’s base beyond older, white voters and attract a following beyond than the libertarian devotees of his father, Ron Paul. Although the job is far from complete, Paul has made undeniable progress, judging from interviews with more than 30 Republican National Committee members meeting here this week.

That he has struck a chord with this crowd is all the more telling because it is heavy with GOP establishment-types who tend to prefer mainstream candidates.

“I don’t see how anyone could say it’s not possible he’d win the nomination,” Texas GOP chairman Steve Munisteri said. “His mission is to convince people of what his coalition would be in November” 2016…

At the moment it doesn’t really look likely that Rand Paul could win, but they said the same about Ronald Reagan.

Many of Paul’s views remain at odds with the Republican mainstream, but he now seems less of a pariah among Republicans than Mitt Romney was in many circles. It is possible Paul could win a primary battle with the vote divided between more conventional Republican candidates. He would also benefit from the first contests being a caucus in Iowa and a primary in New Hampshire. He could conceivable wind up in first place in both and quickly turn into the front runner.

If Paul does win the nomination, Democrats might need to rethink handing the nomination to Hillary Clinton. What happens when the Republican candidate starts attacking Hillary Clinton over her support for the Iraq war, drone strikes, NSA surveillance, the Patriot Act, and the drug war? Paul might also turn Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street into a serious liability. Many potential Democratic voters might find that they agree with Paul and disagree with Clinton on several issues.

Of course Rand Paul is also on the wrong side of many issues, but can we count on Clinton to take advantage of this? Republicans already have managed to put Democrats on the defensive on issues such as Medicare and health care–two issues where they have facts and principle firmly on their side.

Paul would face many obstacles. His opposition to abortion rights could limit his ability to win over female voters from the Democrats, perpetuating the gender gap between the parties. His anti-war views would be a negative in many red states, possibly even leading to upsets in some red states by a hawkish Democrat such as Clinton.

Looking at the electoral college, I don’t think Paul could win, a race between Clinton and Paul would shake up many of the current party-line divisions. I could see Paul taking some states such as New Hampshire from the Democrats, but not many with large amounts of electoral votes, with the possible exception of California. Still, with their current disadvantages in the electoral college this might be the best chance for Republicans, and a potential threat for Democrats, especially if looking at shaking up the current Democratic advantage among younger voters. I could see many young males being far more interested in Paul on the issues where he is more libertarian, while not being as concerned about issues such as preserving Medicare. This could destroy what now appears to be a long-term Democratic advantage, considering that people tend to stick with the party they chose when young. Democrats might still win the 2016 battle by running Clinton against Paul, but could suffer long term from such a match up.

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Conservative Victims And Science Fiction Fandom

robert heinlein

In principle I agree with the general argument made by Glenn Reynolds that politics doesn’t belong in science fiction, but knowing how conservative love to claim to be victims, I am skeptical as to the circumstances he described. He wrote:

That’s certainly been the experience of Larry Correia, who was nominated for a Hugo this year. Correia, the author of numerous highly successful science fiction books like Monster Hunter Internationaland Hard Magic, is getting a lot of flak because he’s a right-leaning libertarian. Makes you wonder if Robert Heinlein could get a Hugo Award today. (Answer: Probably not.)

I don’t know enough about the politics in science fiction fandom to know if this is the case, and wonder if “getting a lot of flak” is simply a daily occurrence in fandom for many regardless of their political views. His books are selling. He was nominated for a Hugo, which hardly makes it appear like he is truly ostracized for his beliefs. Reynold’s view in this op-ed also looks suspicious to me because of his claim that Robert Heinlein could not get a Hugo Award today. I am a huge fan of Robert Heinlein, and know many liberals who share this view.

There are aspects of Heinlein’s work which attracted liberals, conservatives, and libertarians, and most liberal science fiction fans I know do not have an ideological litmus test for enjoying the work of an author. Heinlein died in 1988 which also makes it impossible to categorize him by today’s political battles. His support for individual (and sexual) liberty and opposition to religious dogma and racism would align him with liberals over conservatives on many current issues. Whether he would be categorized as a libertarian today would depend on which of the many strands of libertarianism you are speaking of. I suspect he would only have contempt for people such as the Koch brothers who use government to make money while only being consistently libertarian in opposing regulation of their businesses. Heinlein was even further away from Ron Paul ideologically. While he displayed considerable support for the military in Starship Troopers, published in 1959, I wonder if his support for the Viet Nam war would have changed if he lived longer, and if he would have approved of the misuse of military power to invade Iraq.

Reynolds also cited the ouster of Mozilla CEO Brandon Eich, but again conservatives who desire to portray themselves as the victim generally gave a simplistic and incorrect description of this event. Mozilla is not a traditional company, and those in the Mozilla community who saw Mozilla as more of a cause than a business were responsible for forcing Eich out. Some liberals weighed in with concern over whether it was fair for Eich to be forced out over his political beliefs.

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Are Many Conservatives Really Liberals?

Liberal or conservative, opposite signs

Polls have generally showed self-identified conservatives outnumbering liberals, with a recent slight increase in the number of liberals. I have often speculated that this is largely due to the success the right wing noise machine has had in demonizing the word liberal. Americans come out more liberal than would be expected by these poll findings when we look at individual issues.

While the pendulum swings both ways, the trend has been toward more liberal policies over the years. Most people wouldn’t think of returning to the days of child labor. Medicare and Social Security are deeply entrenched, to the point that even when Republicans vote for ending Medicare as we know it they realize they have to hide what they are doing. Recent polls show increases in the number of people who support legalization of same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana. A majority even supports the individual components of Obamacare when asked without identifying the policy as Obamacare.

John Sides reviewed a recent book to argue that many conservatives are really liberals:

In Ideology in America, Christopher Ellis and James Stimson describe a striking disjuncture. When identifying themselves in a word, Americans choose “conservative” far more than “liberal.” In fact they have done so for 70 years, and increasingly so since the early 1960s.

But when it comes to saying what the government should actually do, the public appears more liberal than conservative. Ellis and Stimson gathered 7,000 survey questions dating back to 1956 that asked some variant of whether the government should do more, less, or the same in lots of different policy areas.  On average, liberal responses were more common than conservative responses. This has been true in nearly every year since 1956, even as the relative liberalism of the public has trended up and down.  For decades now there has been a consistent discrepancy between what Ellis and Stimson call symbolic ideology (how we label ourselves) and operational ideology (what we really think about the size of government).

Looked at this way, almost 30 percent of Americans are “consistent liberals” — people who call themselves liberals and have liberal politics.  Only 15 percent are “consistent conservatives” — people who call themselves conservative and have conservative politics.  Nearly 30 percent are people who identify as conservative but actually express liberal views.  The United States appears to be a center-right nation in name only.

This raises the question: why are so many people identifying as conservative while simultaneously preferring more government?  For some conservatives, it is because they associate the label with religion, culture or lifestyle.  In essence, when they identify as “conservative,” they are thinking about conservatism in terms of family structure, raising children, or interpreting the Bible. Conservatism is about their personal lives, not their politics.

But other self-identified conservatives, though, are conservative in terms of neither religion and culture nor the size of government.  These are the truly “conflicted conservatives,” say Ellis and Stimson, who locate their origins in a different factor: how conservatives and liberals have traditionally talked about politics.  Conservatives, they argue, talk about politics in terms of symbols and the general value of “conservatism” — and news coverage, they find, usually frames the label “conservative” in positive terms.  Liberals talk about policy in terms of the goals it will serve — a cleaner environment, a stronger safety net, and so on — which are also good things for many people.  As a result, some people internalize both messages and end up calling themselves conservative but having liberal views on policy.

Ideology has two faces: the labels people choose and the actual content of their beliefs.  For liberals, these are mostly aligned.  For conservatives, they are not.  American conservatism means different things to different people.  For many, what it doesn’t mean is less government.

This idea that nearly 30 percent of self-identified conservative are really liberals would explain the increased support for liberal positions despite a majority identifying themselves as conservatives.

There are some limitations to this, largely due to problems with these labels. It seems to use a simplistic definition of liberals as being for more government and conservatives being for less, but that does not really explain the differences. There are many areas where I am for less government. There is nowhere that I support more government for the sake of more government.

I supported the Affordable Care Act because financing of health care is an area where the market has failed, as insurance companies found it more profitable to find ways to collect increased premiums while finding ways to avoid paying out claims. Conservatives opposed the Affordable Care Act based upon greatly-exaggerated arguments that it is more government (ignoring its similarities to health plans previously advocated by conservatives). Republicans widely supported an individual mandate to buy health insurance until this became part of the plan supported by Barack Obama (who ran against Hillary Clinton opposing the individual mandate). Similarly, conservatives previously supported ideas comparable to the health care exchanges.

On the other hand, conservatives support more big government when it comes to military spending, mandatory vaginal probes, and other intrusions into the private lives of individuals. Even Ron Paul, who voted no on virtually any spending by the federal government, would allow for far greater government restrictions on individual liberties if it came from the state or local level.

Republicans in office generally perform different than their rhetoric would, with big increases in the size of government under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. This has been described as being “ideologically conservative, but operationally liberal.” If we just go by their effects on the size of government, Reagan and Bush were the liberals while Barack Obama has been the most conservative president since Dwight Eisenhower. Part of this is because Republican rhetoric is incompatible with actually governing, leading Reagan and Bush to promote far more government spending than would be expected by their rhetoric. Many conservatives realize they didn’t get what they wanted from Bush, but continue to buy the myth of Ronald Reagan as a supporter of small government.

Another problem is a concentration on economic issues and the size of government, as misleading as those issues can be in assigning labels. How would they classify someone who wants to ban abortion, limit access to contraception, opposes same-sex marriage, and supports everyone carrying a concealed weapon, but doesn’t follow the entire Republican line on economic policy? I bet a lot of self-identified conservatives would have no real opposition to a modest tax increase on the wealthy and increasing some government economic regulations (especially if they don’t affect them personally) while holding a number of other conservative positions.

Today many are self-identified conservatives based upon social issues. This didn’t always identify conservatism. Barry Goldwater was a strong opponent of the religious right. He sure called it right in 1994:

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

Or maybe they just like being members of the club.  They like to listen to people like Glenn Beck and agree with what they say. However Beck has previously described himself as “a rodeo clown” and conceded, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.”

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Liberals Like Cats And Messy Desks

cats

Tests to tell if someone is liberal or conservative are of uncertain significance but often amusing enough to take a look at. From a survey, Time has found, among other things, that liberals are more likely to like cats than conservatives.

Cats are less likely to follow authority. It does make sense that liberals would have a greater affinity for these freedom-loving animals, while conservatives, who are more into authority and imposing their rules upon others (regardless of their rhetoric) might not like them as much. Other questions show a similar distinction with liberals being more supportive of liberty while conservatives being more interested in authority. For example, conservative authoritarianism leads to a preference for more neat and tidy desks.

If we were to follow the logic that liberals prefer cats more than conservatives due to their preference for liberty, then we might think that libertarians would be ever bigger lovers of this anarchic animal. It turns out that libertarians fall between liberals and conservatives on each question. With a little thought about the state of the libertarian movement, this actually makes sense. Libertarians include those who are true opponents of restrictions on liberty, but many other libertarians are basically conservatives who have smoked marijuana. They have hung out with Republicans for so long that it has become difficult to tell them apart. Some libertarians, such as Ron Paul, share many views with the religious right. Plus, as I have noted in the past, Ron Paul’s views would lead to a less free society. Anyone know his opinion of cats? In researching the question I did find a Cats and Kitties for Dr. Ron Paul Facebook Page, but that doesn’t tell me if the attraction is mutual. I wonder what additional information I can find over at FriendFace.

Of course this data is open to other interpretations. Allahpundit at Hot Air wonders if the survey shows that liberals like cats more than conservatives  because women tend to like cats and more women are liberals than conservatives. It is also possible that cats work better as pets among liberals who are more likely to live in urban areas. Similarly,  the tendency for conservatives to be older than liberals might explain why they are more likely to use Internet Explorer, but it appears that Allahpundit might be as quick to write someone out of the conservative movement for using IE as for supporting a tax increase.

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Nick Gillespie’s Five Myths About Libertarians

Nick Gillespie of Reason had an op-ed in The Washington Post yesterday on Five Myths About Libertarians. Here’s my take on these alleged myths, which generally have some degree of truth but are not necessarily completely true:

1. Libertarians are a fringe band of “hippies of the right.”

The classic description that libertarians who have smoked marijuana is true (even if simplistic) about many but certainly not all. There are libertarians on the left and right, but this doesn’t have as much electoral significance as Gillespie suggests when writing:

Libertarians are found across the political spectrum and in both major parties. In September 2012, the Reason-Rupe Poll found that about one-quarter of Americans fall into the roughly libertarian category of wanting to reduce the government’s roles in economic and social affairs. That’s in the same ballpark as what other surveys have found and more than enough to swing an election.

Looking beyond the likelihood that a Reason poll might tilt the questions and definitions towards such a finding, there are vast differences between right-libertarians and left-libertarians. Sure, if there was a Democratic candidate who is terrible (as very many are) on civil liberties and social issues it is conceivable I might vote for a libertarian Republican for the Senate who might provide a strong voice for some issues I support. Of course this would not include someone like Rand Paul. Left-libertarians see the issues which impact individual liberty far differently from right-libertarians, many of whom don’t even support abortion rights. Left-libertarians disagree with right-libertarians as to the importance of some regulation of the economy, realizing that markets are human inventions which require regulation to function. Many of the left-libertarians who are not thrilled with ObamaCare prefer a single payer system which directly conflicts with the core values of right libertarians. There is simply a huge gap between different people who might be lumped together as libertarians in such a poll.

Left-libertarians and right-libertarians are unlikely to join together to swing an election, but there is hope that the two could exert pressure on both Republicans and Democrats to change some of their policies in areas where the two groups agree.

2. Libertarians don’t care about minorities or the poor.

Few outside the libertarian movement really buy their claims that libertarianism helps the poor. Democratic economic policies may not be libertarian (nor are they socialist) but the historical fact remains that the economy does better under Democrats. As opposed to the right wing view of trickle-down economics, a rising tide under Democrats is more likely to raise all ships. Where this doesn’t work, the social safety-net which libertarians oppose remains necessary. On the other hand I do agree with Gillespie to a degree that there are areas where it would be beneficial to reduce regulations on small business. That said, I run a small business and do manage to survive with all the regulations in place.

Gillespie is right about the drug war, which is largely a war on poor minorities. What other result is possible after you imprison minorities for drug possession, and then release them from prison with a criminal record which makes it very difficult to ever get a  job?

3. Libertarianism is a boys’ club.

He is right here. There have been prominent libertarians among libertarian intellectual leaders. I have known female libertarians. They do exist.

4. Libertarians are pro-drug, pro-abortion and anti-religion.

As I mentioned above, it is a favorable characteristic that libertarians oppose the drug war (which is not the same as supporting drug use). Having thirty percent of libertarians opposing abortion rights is a negative.

Saying any political group is anti-religion is likely to be fallacious. Republicans have often claimed Democrats are anti-religion but the percentage of atheists among Democrats is fairly low (even if  higher than among Republicans). The difference is that liberals who are religious see religion far differently than conservatives, and do not have the desire to use government to impose their religious views upon others.

Some libertarians are quite hostile to religion. Ayn Rand (who didn’t actually consider herself part of the libertarian movement) has writings as  hostile towards religion as to socialism (which in her mind would include the views of Democrats). On the other hand, there are some called libertarians such as Ron Paul and Rand Paul who support many of the views of the religious right, and whose  philosophy is not one I would consider to be pro-freedom. I have discussed Ron Paul’s anti-freedom views at length here. People of the old right such as Ron Paul also carry much of their baggage including racism, creating further problems when considering libertarians and minorities.

5. Libertarians are destroying the Republican Party.

On the one hand Republicans do need a reboot in their ideas. It is a good sign when some Republicans join some Democrats on issues such as opposing violations of privacy rights from NSA surveillance programs. On the other hand, opposing all government activity regardless of importance just pulls Republicans further from mainstream views.

 

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Rand Paul Standing By His Controversial Aide

Rand Paul is standing by his aide who went by the name Southern Avenger in an interview with Howard Fineman:

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Sen. Rand Paul stoutly defended an aide who, as a radio shock jock in South Carolina, praised John Wilkes Booth, heaped scorn on Abraham Lincoln and wore a ski mask emblazoned with the stars and bars of the Confederate Battle Flag.

Paul (R-Ky.) stressed that he opposed such views, many of which have been recanted by the Senate aide, Jack Hunter, who co-wrote Paul’s first book in 2010 and who is now his social media adviser in Washington.

“I’m not a fan of secession,” Paul said. “I think the things he said about John Wilkes Booth are absolutely stupid. I think Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents. Do I think Lincoln was wrong is taking away the freedom of the press and the right of habeas corpus? Yeah.

“There were great people who were for emancipation. Lincoln came to his greatness. One Republican congressman described it as ‘on borrowed plumage.’ I love the description, because there were some great fighters [for emancipation] and Lincoln had to be pushed. But I’m not an enemy of Lincoln, like some who think he was an awful person.”

Paul said that Hunter had never acted in a discriminatory way, and that his earlier work in South Carolina was a form of youthful political showmanship.

“People are calling him a white supremacist,” Paul told me in his Senate office. “If I thought he was a white supremacist, he would be fired immediately. If I thought he would treat anybody on the color of their skin different than others, I’d fire him immediately.

“All I can say is, we have a zero tolerance policy for anybody who displays discriminatory behavior or belief in discriminating against people based on the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation, anything like that,” Paul told me. “We won’t tolerate any of that, and I’ve seen no evidence of that.

The Hill summarized the controversy:

Paul’s comments follow a report from the conservative Washington Free Beacon about Hunter, who joined Paul’s office as social media director in 2012. Hunter worked with Paul on the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.

In his 20s, Hunter was the chairman of the League of the South, a group that “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern State from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic,” according to the Free Beacon report.

Anti-Defamation League Investigative Research Director Mark Pitcavage called the group “implicitly racist.”

During his radio career, Hunter also discussed “racial pride” and expressed his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, according to the Free Beacon. In 2004, Hunter wrote that the Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s heart was “in the right place.”

During his time as a radio host, Hunter would also make public appearances wearing a mask with the Confederate flag printed on it. Paul brushed off the mask when asked about it.

White supremacists have always been a major part of Ron Paul’s support. Rand Paul has attempted to position himself as a more mainstream Republican while still capitalizing on his father’s supporters. Failing to distance himself from someone such as Hunter will make it more difficult for Paul to maintain mainstream support beyond the south.

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Rand Paul Staffer Has History Of Racist Views Reminiscent Of Ron Paul’s Views

Ron and Rand Paul both have a tremendous number of supporters who agree with them on one or a small number of issues but typically have little knowledge of the full spectrum of their beliefs. This commonly stems from their views on foreign policy or drugs. Their opposition to the drug war as well as the Iraq War did make them stand out, but their extreme states’ rights view should not be confused with libertarianism. Their supporters range from libertarians to neo-Nazi groups, and in many ways it is the neo-Nazis who understand their views the best. Their opposition to government action is generally restricted to the federal government. This, along with opposition to the checks and balances in our system, sets up a situation which would make tyranny on a state or local level far easier to achieve.

Ron Paul has always been a creature of the extreme end of the old right, supporting their views ranging from isolationism to racism. Some libertarians still accept Paul’s denials of involvement in his own racist publications, while many other libertarians did distance themselves from Paul when his denials were debunked. Whether Rand Paul can avoid being tainted by his father’s racism might have a major influence on the trajectory of his political career. The Washington Free-Beacon raises questions as to whether Rand Paul has a similar background to his father’s:

A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) who co-wrote the senator’s 2011 book spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.

Paul hired Jack Hunter, 39, to help write his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington during his 2010 Senate run. Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.

From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.

Prior to his radio career, while in his 20s, Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.”

“The League of the South is an implicitly racist group in that the idealized version of the South that they promote is one which, to use their ideology, is dominated by ‘Anglo-Celtic’ culture, which is their code word for ‘white’,” said Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research at the ADL. The ADL said it does not necessarily classify it as a hate group.

There is far more about Hunter in the linked article. Rand Paul’s office released a statement saying “Sen. Paul holds his staff to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception.”

I doubt that the views of a single staffer will seriously taint Rand Paul, but being the son of a prominent racist politician does place his career at risk, at least on a national level,  if further reasons to question Rand Paul regarding racism should be uncovered.

Update: It appears this isn’t the first time a staffer has been tied to racist views:

And the worst part for Paul-land is that it’s hardly the first time something like this has come up. In late 2009, Rand Paul’s campaign spokesperson was forced to resign after Kentucky blogger Joe Sonka discovered the MySpace page for Chris Hightower’s heavy metal band, which was a fan of KKK gear and wishing people a “HAPPY N***ER DAY!!!” on Martin Luther King Day (that post was accompanied by a photo of a lynching). There was also, of course, Paul’s momentary opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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Rand Paul Making Sense On Civil Liberties–But Where Libertarians Go Wrong

Sometimes Rand Paul makes a lot of sense, such as when saying that the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing should be tried in civilian as opposed to military courts (which many other Republicans have been advocating):

“You know, I want to congratulate law enforcement for getting and capturing these terrorists, first of all, but what we do with them, I think we can still preserve the Bill of Rights, I see no reason why our Constitution is not strong enough to convict this young man with a jury trial, with the Bill of Rights,” Paul (R-Ky.) said on “Cavuto” on Fox Business Network. “We do it to horrible people all of the time: Rapists and murderers, they get lawyers, they get trials with juries. We seem to do a pretty good job of justice. So I think we can do it with our court system.”

If only Rand Paul and other libertarians would stick more to civil liberties issues. Then they would sound much more rational and we would have more in common with them.

I think that one reason Rand Paul and many other libertarians come across as crackpots is the company they keep. The close affiliation between libertarianism and the conservative movement has been disastrous for libertarianism. You can’t mix a pro-freedom philosophy with the views of the authoritarian right and remain consistently pro-freedom (or make much sense).

The Rand (and Ron) Paul form of libertarianism has many of the negative attributes of the far right. In the case of Ron Paul this has included racism, but this isn’t universal to all libertarians who became influenced by conservative views. This also includes support for states’ rights, which opposes excessive government power at the national level but often allows for far more restrictions on liberty at the state level (frequently at the expense of minorities.)

Many libertarians ignore religious liberty while promoting what they would describe as economic liberty. In some cases they are right to oppose unfair restrictions on business and counter-productive regulations. Far too often this really translates into opposing the types of regulation which are necessary for a free economy to work. They believe that markets are something arising from nature which must be left without restrictions, failing to realize that markets are creations of man which only work with a certain amount of regulation. This must come from government, not always Adam Smith’s invisible hand. In the worst cases, libertarianism is used to justify lack of activity against powerful business interests who exploit the pubic or harm the environment. They universally support business over government. While government is not always right in such disputes, when the system is working government provides a means for the public to work in unison against special interests which are too powerful for individuals to take on.

Many libertarians aligned with the conservative movement  have adopted views of the religious right, failing to realize that mixing religion with government is one of the greatest threats to freedom we face.

Libertarians would be much more consistent supporters of individual liberty (as opposed to being opponents of government action on a national level) if they continued their support of civil liberties but also  recognized the importance of separation of church and state, while giving up racism, state’s rights, and a knee-jerk opposition to economic regulation where it is needed. Of course those who hold this viewpoint are better known as liberals.

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Rand Paul vs. Drones and Black Helicopters

In looking at the threats to civil liberties which we face, I cannot disagree with Rand Paul in opposing the use of drones to kill Americans who are not engaged in combat against the United States (criteria which is somewhat vague). It was good to see an someone actually speaking during a filibuster, even if at times it sounded like a paranoid rant about black helicopters and Tea Party fantasy. We saw more grandstanding than actual defense of civil liberties, with Rand Paul (like his father)  having a rather mixed record in this area. There are other more pressing matters of civil liberties which actually impact the lives of Americans, such as the right wing’s use of government to restrict reproductive rights. I will present an example of a victory on civil liberties which is far more significant than Rand Paul’s filibuster in the next post.

The irresponsibility of the Republican leadership in both Houses of Congress, more concerned with opposing Obama than either governing or even providing a responsible opposition, has created a situation where even a clown like Rand Paul provides a mixed moment of hope. Paul’s actual effort was a failure (as discussed in more detail in the several links in the paragraph above) but it at least did include an attempt to discuss an actual issue. A more through discussion of the use of drones, rather than obsessing about the quite rare cases of targeting Americans, would provide a more meaningful example of needed Congressional oversight. Regardless of the degree of support for Barack Obama, it is unrealistic to expect restrictions on the Executive branch to come from the President.

I do not agree with the all-out criticism of drones, seeing advantages to their use as opposed to putting Americans in direct harm. Question as to their use first depend upon whether the military action is justified, regardless if by troops on the ground or by drones. Use against Americans, while definitely something which must be watched, has been a rare event in unusual circumstances. Collateral damage is a consequence of war regardless of technique and criticisms of drones based upon deaths of innocent civilians is not a sufficient argument against their use.

The ability to target individuals with drones does create new concerns, and requires check and balances which are now absent. I have supported oversight analogous to the FISA Court, as others have also proposed, and the Obama administration is considering. This would provide some degree of judicial oversight, ending the idea that any individual (regardless of whether an American citizen) could be targeted for execution by drones with no oversight whatsoever. In addition, this would ensure that there is a record of the justification for the use of drones which could be reviewed by Congressional committees which might uncover any pattern of abuse. Ultimately such information should be declassified so presidents would know that their conduct would be judged by history. Unfortunately Rand Paul’s filibuster on targeted killings of Americans on American soil pandered to the paranoia of the black helicopter crowd as opposed to serious consideration of the issue.

Besides, if Rand Paul really thought that Obama would use drones against American citizens he wouldn’t have stood in one place for thirteen hours while criticizing Obama.

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Libertarians Might Keep Mitt Romney Out Of The White House

Libertarian candidates might create some problems for Mitt Romney. Three Republican electors who support Ron Paul are saying they might not cast their electoral votes for Mitt Romney. If Romney should win by a very narrow margin, this could throw the election to the House. The vote in the House is based upon state delegations and, as GOP support is spread over a larger number of small states, Romney would still win the presidency in such a scenario. However if Democrats retain control of the Senate, they could re-elect Joe Biden as Vice President. If the Paul supporters are mad enough over the way Romney has treated them, perhaps they might even vote for Obama in the electoral collage.

At present it doesn’t look like Romney is likely to wind up close enough to Obama for this to matter. On top of all the problems leading to Romney falling behind Obama in the polls, another Libertarian might make it even difficult for Romney to win in some of the swing states. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who was formerly a Republican, is now on the ballot in 47 states. Currently Johnson is polling at 4 percent nationally, but his support is significantly higher in swing states such as Colorado and Nevada. In a close race, he could take enough votes from Romney to keep him from winning some swing states.

 

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