There’s been a lot of talk about Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul in the news recently, and a lot of it is unsavory. Critics and pundits have hounded Paul, the recently hailed Tea Party leader who won the Kentucky Senate primary, after he stated on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” that he might not have supported certain aspects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The backlash against the media coverage and the interview itself has also been substantial. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin fired back at Maddow’s “gotcha” journalist techniques on Fox News Sunday, arguing that the real prejudice was within the interview itself, not Paul’s views on race.
After all, Paul’s point suggested that forcing private businesses to desegregate was inappropriate – a reflection of his own hands-off libertarianism that brought him both the nomination and his own first name (a reference to free market author Ayn Rand, his father’s ideological wet dream). It was not entirely out of reason, and Paul probably isn’t a racist.
But while media coverage on Paul might be excessive, it’s missing the point. Paul’s own brand of libertarianism, while still the lesser evil when compared to big-government neo-conservatism, is the problem itself. Paul and his followers represent an old-fashioned leap into the problems that sent us spiraling downward into a wrecked economy. It’s shocking that someone like Paul ever managed to get media attention in the first place.
Harry Shearer made a great point in a Huffington Post blog last Friday, arguing that the Civil Rights Act controversy was also missing the point. Shearer brought up a bigger issue: a predictable and unsurprising statement by Paul arguing that the BP oil spill shouldn’t be addressed by a blame game. “Sometimes accidents happen,” Paul said, after earlier calling Obama’s criticism of BP “un-American.”
He’s right. Paul is no different than the other frantic tea partiers – the same ones who would rather question the Federal Reserve than challenge anti-regulatory stances that brought us into this economic crisis in the first place. This is the real problem.
His supporters might not agree about the blame thing, though. Conservatives like Palin are playing the blame game themselves by criticizing the Civil Rights comment coverage – further driving the point away from Paul’s real flaws. Paul himself is now scared by the media spotlight – he canceled his appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press and stated that his appearance on Maddow’s show was a “poor political decision.”
It’s also hard to forget the 2008 Internet frenzy over Ron Paul, the elder Paulbertarian who ran in the Republican presidential race. While this web sensation was pretty easy to avoid on campus – especially when conservative rhetoric is virtually nonexistent on campus this year – Ron Paul supporters stopped at nothing to promote the small-government agenda.
Connecting Rand Paul to his father might be a bit of a stretch, but both figures are expectedly similar in their views. Internet supporters on websites like Digg.com are quick to blame Rand Paul for faulty logic and political pandering, but they’re the same loudmouthed zealots that wouldn’t shut up about Paul only two years ago.
This isn’t about gaffes or clarifications. It’s about tea party movements that are actually succeeding. Accidents do happen.
JUSTIN T. HO hopes people get over their Ayn Rand phases soon. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.