Saturday, May 22, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

I've never been a Ron Paul fan. For that matter I stumble a bit when faced with any hard-core Libertarian. I'm a great believer in free enterprise, minimalist government, individual rights and the limitation to enumerated powers in our Constitution. But, I'm also realistic enough to recall that Rosseau's "Social Contract" told us quite clearly that to reap the benefits of society and civilization we need to compromise our personal latitude for action. Anybody who has ever lived with a roommate or spouse knows that you will have to modify your behavior. The jungle law gets left at the door.

Well, Ron has a son named Rand. Rand has just achieved a huge victory by wresting the Kentucky Republican nomination for the US Senate from the anointed party regular in last week's primary. He is exactly what so many have been looking for, an attractive, intelligent, outsider who can speak truth to power (whatever that implies today,) and who can start the arduous process of cleaning up the mess in Washington. The Tea Party folks love him and so do most moderates and anti-progressives.

But, it appears that young Dr. Paul has not read the basic play book of American politics. One of the earliest lessons a politician must learn is that in order to govern you must first get elected. Having the highest of principles and the noblest of ideals won't mean squat without gaining the legislative seat.

To get elected in our two party system it has become necessary to win the primary by throwing a lot of red meat to the party base. Appeal to the ideological core and stress the things that primary voters support and believe in. Then when you've got the nomination, you have to appeal to that third of the electorate that takes such great pride in their lack of affiliation; the moderates or independents. They have no ideological anchor and they can shift, often capriciously, from liberal to conservative and back again.

You can't win a state-wide election such as a Senate seat by simply getting all of your party to vote for you. You wind up with a third of the votes in that instance.

The second lesson that a son of a controversial congress-critter should have learned is that the main-stream media was going to come gunning for him. There weren't going to be any soft-ball questions and feel-good patty-cake interviews. His every word was going to be dissected for negative nuances. It didn't take long to set the trap.

Would He Repeal the Civil Rights Acts? Would Robert Byrd?

His statement to Rachel Maddow was not particularly controversial if viewed in the light of reason. But, we know that isn't the way any mention of race in America is viewed. Paul took the Libertarian view. Government should not discriminate. Individuals, however, should not have their First Amendment freedom of association rights compromised in the process of opening doors to racial equality.

It isn't a black or white (no pun intended) issue of either-or. It is a question of acknowledging what you are doing and why. A rational person can debate that proposition. It doesn't mean you are racist if you come up with a view that forcing a business to accept an unwanted clientele is beyond the reasonable reach of government.

Regardless, of the correctness or prejudice of Paul's statement, the important issue is that there is a Senate race to win and a majority to seize if we are to recover from the current mess. If we take a look at that goal then we can quickly recognize that Rand Paul needs to get prudent for the next couple of months. Once he has been elected he can dust off the mantle of his Libertarian flamboyance and force folks to think through some of the garbage of political correctness. Until then, however, I would counsel him to button it!

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