This ain’t no foolin’ around

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, May 20, 2010 22:06 EDT
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Title from “Life During Wartime” by the Talking Heads. And hell, let’s play the video from “Stop Making Sense”, because this song—with lyrics that imagine complete social breakdown in the U.S.—kind of make me think of the shock that libertarians would feel if they actually had to live in the relatively lawless utopia they imagine.

I’m sure Matt thinks he’s being pretty hard on Rand Paul by invoking the term “white supremacy” in his post, but he makes the same mistake that Dave Weigel does in rushing to reassure people that Rand Paul isn’t a racist so much as a hard core ideologue, and that surely his support of segregation is offered more in sorrow than in glee. This view ignores some pretty damning evidence about Paul’s history and associations, but it also ignores the fact that “principled” libertarians who woefully say that they unfortunately have to promote racist policies against their own moral compass will abandon that principled libertarianism when it breaks in favor of reproductive rights. “Principled” libertarianism only seems up to making those “hard” choices if oppressed people have to suffer the consequences. Which is why I object to this line of thinking:

The point to make about Paul, however, is that what he suffers from here is an excess of honesty and ideological rigor not an unusual degree of racism.

The abortion question alone makes it clear that Paul doesn’t have an excess of ideological rigor, or even a bounty of it.

But I’m bothered more by the way that some liberal pundits approach libertarian arguments as if we’re all in some debate club or in a court of law at worst, and this is a matter of everyone presenting arguments to be judged on their supposed rigor and the implications of which don’t fall on the person making the arguments. Conservatives particularly benefit from this mindset, which is why all of them come fully equipped with a willingness to scream “ad hominem” the second you suggest that making asshole arguments is evidence that the person making them is an asshole.

Paul isn’t arguing for a debate team or even in the court of law. He’s a politician who is seeking national office that would allow him to write and vote on legislature. The standards by which we evaluate his arguments must be very different indeed. That he supports racist policies is something that we the opposition should highlight without caveats about ideological rigor that is frankly lacking. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s a principled man is counterproductive and missing the point. From the perspective of a voter, Paul’s associations with racists and the anti-social, racist results of arguments matter way more when assessing whether he’s a racist than his claims of ideological rigor. And we should address our arguments to that.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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