Politics, USA

As the opposition, libertarians are a breath of fresh air

I don’t subscribe to political labels, but on most issues my beliefs lie pretty far to the proverbial left. I’m highly supportive of the overarching campaign of Bernie Sanders and his fight to make the word “socialism” palatable to the American public for the first time since the Progressive Era. He’s a flawed candidate, as they all are, but his talk of a political revolution is pretty appealing to radical leftists such as myself, much more appealing than any of the watered-down progressive ideology offered up by most candidates whose name are followed by (D). But as invested as I am in the prospects of a realignment of the political left, I’m also quite intrigued with the possibility of reform on the other side of the political spectrum.

That reform suffered a serious setback on Tuesday, when libertarian-minded candidate Rand Paul, after a less-than-stellar Iowa performance, suspended his presidential campaign, consequently confirming that the Republican nomination will ultimately be won by an establishment blowhard, a Tea Party tool chest, an apoplectic orangutan, or a middle school student who just received a B- at best on his 6th grade social studies project:

Regardless of his new ineligibility, I would never have voted for Rand Paul, and I’m glad he won’t be our president. As a socialistic sympathizer, there is perhaps no presidential candidate in either party with whom I more fundamentally disagree over the role that government should or should not play in our economy and in our lives. Nevertheless, when Rand dropped out, I was disappointed, not because I wanted him to win, but because as an expression of the opposition viewpoint in a two-party system, some of his language was so goddamn refreshing.

Comparing the presidential debates of the Democrats and the Republicans thus far has been like comparing the conversation at the adults’ table with that of the kids’. As opposed as I am to many of the things that the Democratic Party stands for, their conversations are intellectually stimulating and based on the social realities of the 21st century. That’s more than can be said for the racist, insensitive, ignorant, and ethnocentric rhetoric regularly regurgitated by every other Republican—every other Republican except for Rand Paul.

Despite being perhaps the most definitively “conservative” candidate on the Republican roster, Rand Paul has oftentimes delivered a surprisingly progressive message, especially when juxtaposed next to many of the primary talking points of his conservative counterparts. His acknowledgement of the systemic racism inherent in our criminal justice system makes him at times sound more like a Black Lives Matter activist than the candidate for any Republican nomination. On the Senate floor, pieces of his 2013 13-hour filibuster against Obama’s drone policy sounded like something I would read in the Socialist Worker. Some of his ideas, such as term limits on Congressional representatives and senators, are unparalleled positions in either of the two dominant parties today, but are sound ideas nonetheless that I think most Americans could get behind.

Not all of his views are quite so refreshing. Despite his ostensible opposition to government infringements on personal privacy and his claims of being a civil liberties crusader, Paul does not support a woman’s right to choose, nor has he been supportive of the right of same-sex couples to marry. Despite his supposed stances as a fiscal conservative and a non-interventionist abroad, Paul has largely expressed support for the costly military policies and reiterated the hawkish rhetoric of many of his Congressional colleagues in regards to defense related issues in Russia, Israel, and Iraq. Despite his critiques of the criminal justice system, Paul still stops short of advocating for the legalization of marijuana, and some of his beliefs about Civil Rights-era legislation are downright backwards. In some areas, Paul is different, but in others, he is way too same.

And I think that at the end of the day that is why Rand Paul is already out of this race. Paul did not behave like a true libertarian, but instead like just another politician with a calculated political strategy, trying to cast a net that would capture the passionate libertarian base of his father while simultaneously satisfying enough traditional conservatives to make him competitive for the nomination. Unfortunately for him, that net came back largely empty. Instead of capturing both bases, he alienated them, a result that makes sense considering the less than overwhelming overlap demonstrated below:

But the fact that some of Rand’s message resonated with someone like me shows that perhaps it is more of a political circle rather than a spectrum—that perhaps there are areas in which the new left and the new right will be able to work together when the guard eventually changes. It shows that what we really need is a multi-party system, a system where candidates outside of the political establishment can more fairly compete with the two dominant parties without needing to cater to them.

But as long as we are stuck with a two-party system, I hope the right goes the way of Rand rather than the way of Ted or Trump or Marco. I hope it goes the way of civil liberties and states’ rights rather than praise Jesus and bomb Muslims. Because while I would probably never vote for a libertarian candidate, I have a certain intellectual respect for them, and that’s a lot more than I can say for how I feel about the vast majority of Republican thinkers.

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