The number of actual Libertarians in Congress is the same as the number of actual Arcturans in Congress, as far as we know; if there are any of either, they’re not open about it. Most congressional Libertarians espouse a philosophy of government under which everyone — corporations, powerful reactionary white guys, women, liberals, people of color, whoever — will be free to do whatever the corporations and powerful reactionary white guys want.
Rand Paul, a sometime Libertarian who is so blindingly white that he splits into a rainbow when you hold a prism up to him, decided to take the new Republican outreach plan seriously and hied himself off to Howard University to reach out to some tinted folk and suggest reasons why they might want to vote Republican in the future. Predictably, he pancaked the landing. Giving full rein to his inner nitwit, he wondered if his audience knew that Republicans were among the founders of the NAACP; or, to put it another way, he wondered aloud if the students populating an elite academic institution steeped in African-American history might not be some ignorants. (Probably through an oversight, he didn’t remark that W.E.B. DuBois, among the most prominent founders of the NAACP, was a Socialist, or suggest that this might be a reason for Howard students to consider voting Socialist in the future.) He couldn’t remember the name of the first popularly elected African-American senator. And he couldn’t remember that he opposed a seminal feature of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s safe to say that nobody who wasn’t already a Republican — a number probably including only Paul and his entourage — left the hall inclined to give the GOP a shot.
Also predictable, and representative of Rand Paul’s genius, was the enormous amount of publicity the speech garnered in the incestuous circles of the Washington press and the liberal press, which, no, are not the same although they attend many of the same parties. Some people, Paul among them, lauded the Senator for having the courage to go all the way to Washington, D.C. and expose himself as a white man to a large gathering of people of color. (Bill Clinton will be taking the same risk next month when he delivers a commencement speech there but so far he’s not getting the same credit for his courage.) Other people condemned the people who lauded Paul’s courage because the only reason Republicans talking to persons not of a blinding whiteness might require courage is that the Republican carry-on bag has 50 years of calculatedly malign attitudes toward people of color in it, which is a fair point.
(Andrew Sullivan is among the people crediting Paul and bemoaning the gracelessness of Paul’s liberal critics. I mention this only because if Justice were an actual thing, Andrew Sullivan would be condemned for his sins to life driving Tom Friedman around and around the world in a gypsy cab, forever receiving anecdotal advice in lieu of the tip, forbidden from picking up any passengers other than David Brooks and Joe Klein, who would themselves be forbidden from catching any other cab. This is not happening; ergo, Justice is not an actual thing.)
I should note that even though praising Rand Paul is kapu for liberals, whether for this escapade or the Brennan filibuster or any other — because unlike any Democrats he holds many reprehensible positions — he’s following the playbook of conservative apostate Bruce Bartlett, who does get love from liberals and has written a book detailing how Republicans can recapture the Negro vote by, among other things, explaining how once Republicans were the party of tolerance and Democrats were racists. I thought this was a joke when somebody mentioned it in passing, but it isn’t and Bartlett is proud of his work. (I once asked the usually communicative Bartlett if he had happened to run his thesis past any black folk when he was writing the book but he never answered me.)
Which is to say that when he went to Howard, Rand Paul was going by the book. Here’s my question, though: how many Democrats, when faced with the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately question that tripped up Rand Paul along with his assumption that black students at a historically black university would be ignorant of black history, would fare a lot better? What, for instance, would Steny Hoyer, the one-time Democratic majority leader in the House and a reliable corporate toady, say to lure black voters to the Democratic party if they had anywhere else to go?