Ralph Emerson said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. He meant that it’s silly to stick to one’s guns in the face of overwhelming evidence that the guns are wrongly aimed. He said it over drinks in a tavern at a table full of the finest minds of his generation. The first question from among his companions was “Are you talking to me?” The second was, more or less, “Who says who’s a fool?” It was the beginning of deconstruction as a critical discipline.
Rand Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky, the one of the two who doesn’t look like a turtle. He is the son of Ron Paul, retired Republican Representative from Texas and permanent candidate for president of the US. He is named after a South African gold coin*; when he was born, his father bit him and declared him genuine; he bears the scar proudly. Like his father, he sometimes flies the Libertarian flag. Like his father, it is a flag of convenience. Like his father, he will never be president of the US. He will one day become the senior Senatuh from Kentuckeh, wearing white suits and declaiming from a veranduh for fun when the Senate is out of session. When imagining him as a Marx brother, it is best to think of Harpo**.
Also like his father, Rand Paul collects adherents from across the linear political spectrum. He won election by running to the right of his conventionally far-right Republican primary opponent, but his grammar school libertarian stances on some issues also attract people who think of themselves as liberals or leftists, or left-ish anyway.
This drives more traditional liberals crazy. We saw this recently when he filibustered Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan. If you wanted to invent a symbol for torture and kidnapping and drones and stuff, you could do worse than a photo of John Brennan, at least if anybody knew who he was. He is not a civil libertarian’s dream. Neither is Rand Paul, but he decided to filibuster Brennan because something about drones. Nobody else in the Senate has said or done anything splashy about drones, so people who are concerned about them — and let’s be clear, drones are really shorthand for the sense that the Obama administration have evidently decided they can kill anybody, anywhere, because whatever, whether or not drones are the instrument — got really excited and said kind things about Rand Paul, like “Hurray! Rand Paul is filibustering drones!”
Had any Democrat done something similar, and earlier, the liberals worried about drones would have reacted just the same or possibly with even more enthusiasm. But Democrats didn’t do anything. An appropriate response from liberals who don’t like Rand Paul and don’t like the administration’s killing practices, of which Brennan seems to have been an architect, would have been to say “Why do we have to wait for fucking Rand Paul to bring this up in the Senate?” And then maybe berate some Democratic Senators and urge them to filibuster Brennan as well, or at least vote against him.
Instead, they went berserk about people supporting Rand Paul who had no business supporting Rand Paul because he’s something of a nitwit and something of a reactionary. “Rand Paul is a reactionary,” they said. “He is a nitwit. He is inconsistent. Only imbeciles would support him.” And the supporters, many of whom probably didn’t know that Rand Paul is a nitwit or a reactionary, said “Well maybe, but drones, and John Brennan, and civil liberties!” And then Democrats voted en masse to confirm Brennan and the excitement over drones faded but for whatever reason, the excitement over Rand Paul has endured.
But why? As has been scientifically proved above, Rand Paul will never be president. So why must liberals who support him be excoriated and condescended to by people who routinely support Obama, he of John Brennan (using Brennan as a symbol there, see how that works?) and Social Security cuts and backdoor tax increases on the working poor? Obviously they — the excoriaters and condescenders — see Rand Paul, in the flesh or as a type, as a threat, but to what?
No, really. I don’t know why Rand Paul threatens institutional liberals. Ted Cruz, that I could understand; Ted Cruz is a scary son of a mother. While liberals who support Obama are yelling at liberals who support Rand Paul, Ted Cruz (shown at left in his previous and current incarnations) will sneak up behind them all and slit their throats and collect their Social Security checks and cash them to fund his presidential campaigns. But Rand Paul? I don’t get it.
*Some people say he is named after an adulterous, pro-abortion atheist who wrote turgid political novels and loathed Ronald Reagan, but that’s an obvious attempt to smear either Ayn Rand or Rand Paul.
**All respect to Harpo, man, sorry I had to drag you into this.