Untimely Observations

Rand, the Tea Parties, and Unintended Consequences

Tom Fleming has written a excellent article on the Rand Paul controversy, and since he brings up many valid points that haven't yet been mentioned at AltRight, I'll reproduce it here.

(Über-moderate, Sam's Club socialist, and beloved conservative commentator for the New York Times Ross Douthat has warned Times subscribers about reading "extremist," "ideological" material such as this, and thus I must advise that thoughtful, sensitive souls proceed with caution.)

Rand Paul is the epitome of the Tea Party movement.  By all accounts he is a good man who believes what he is saying.  Unfortunately, he does not know what he is saying.  His knee-jerk repetition of libertarian platitudes, while it does not constitute anything like a coherent or principled political philosophy or ideology, will get him into trouble repeatedly.  The Civil Rights Act was wrong, he opined the other day, because it interfered with property rights.  Later he assured the press he would have voted it for it, nonethless, had he been in the Senate.  He is not a racist, blah, blah, blah.

That should be it for Rand.  I know he grew up hearing his father blast the Civil Rights Act at the breakfast table.  So did my children.  But my children, at least, learned that there were more fundamental problems with the legislation.  Among the least of them is the violation of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.  More seriously, the CRA set one race against another, cemented into stone the ludicrous theory that all the problems and pathologies experienced by black people in America are the result of slavery and discrimination.  It inshrined our national hypocrisy that people are pretty much the same and should expect roughly the same success in life.  If we are libertarians, we say that people suffer under the burden of the state; if we are liberals, we say that minorities have to be liberated from oppressive whites.  Underneath, it is the same stupid lie.

The CRA was evil in intention and in results.  We live with the consequences.  No one, it appears, can say what any normal person must know already, because there are so few normal people left in our society.

The Rand Paul scandal broke as I was finishing up a piece on the Tea Party movement.  I like the people involved and wish them well.  They have excellent intentions, and who can fail to like anyone running for office who promises to cut the size of government?  But, as I am going to argue, their incoherence and lack of firm principles mean they will be instrumentalized by the evil forces that control both parties and fade away far faster than the Wallace movement or Bryan's populists.  Don't believe me?  If these people had any sense, they would run away from the unstable Mrs. Palin as fast as they can.  Palin, true to form, could not help commenting that Rand now knew what it was like to be her.

Does that mean she thinks Mr. Paul is buying designer dresses or that he has had a lobotomy?

Like Rand Paul, I'm not a bigot, and if I lived  in Kentucky, I would probably vote for him.  But unlike Rand, who claims he would have supported the CRA, I am under no illusions and under no constraint to lie in public.

I agree with most everything said here, though I would mention that Fleming is expecting too much from the Tea Parties in worrying that they might not rigorously stick to their principles (and that they likely don't understand them in the first place.) Mass movements have always been confused philosophically and have always operated on the basis of emotion and a sense of belonging. In this way, Keith Olbermann is right that the Tea Parties are exclusively a party of the white, Christian (mostly Protestant) reactionary middle class. 

It's, alas, quite likely that the Tea Parties will be led astray, following Daisy Crocket, who, in turn, is led by the Kristols and Podhoretzs and worse. (And if America gets involved in another military campaign, I can all but guarantee that the Tea Parties will reinvent the spirit of 2003.)

But mass movements have a tendency towards "unintended consequences"... The peaceful street protests against the German Democratic Republic in Leipzig and elsewhere in 1989 started out as calls for humanistic, democratic reforms of the East German state -- "socialism with a human face." The original leaders of the movement eventually ended up staffing the Green Party. At some point these protests mutated into demands to get rid of the Commie dictatorship, reunite with Germans across the border, and re-establish Germany as a nation-state. "Wir sind das Volk" ("We are the people") became "Wir sind ein Volk" ("We are a people").

Let's hope that the Tea Parties undergo an equally unforeseen and extraordinary metamorphosis.