Rand Paul was on “Meet the Press” this morning. I understand that politician-speak is always fashioned for public manipulation at the cost of consistency and non-contradiction but Rand Paul has always struck me as contradictory to the point of absurdity. His rhetoric is fundamentally Republican with a few twists which is fashioned to give him the “working-man” appeal. Republicans understand the need to appeal to grass roots folks as if they are working in the common man’s best interest. This is not to suggest the contrary, that Democrats do not do this in their own way. Neither is this to be reductionary as if all Republicans fall under this rubric. However, for Paul, this need for facade is fueled by the nagging associations of Republicans with the economically elite. In Paul’s case he has openly acknowledged, as his father did, his philosophical mentor Ayn Rand.
Ayn Rand was the queen of elitism and very proud of it. These folks are what I call chest beating elitists. It is ironic that this elitism has taken the modern form of a Jeffersonian styled libertarianism. Jefferson advocated individual rights for citizens and local government as opposed to federalism. Ayn Rand elitism is not elitism of the “working-man” but requires a political and economic power structure to secure the elite from the ignorant masses. Thomas Jefferson would have nothing to do with such nobilities. This contradiction has persisted from the federalism of John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams who was also a federalist for part of his political life (until joining his father’s nemesis’ party, the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson). John Quincy Adams is credited with the early beginnings of the modern Republican Party. The split of Jefferson’s party is also credited with the early beginnings of the Democratic Party with Andrew Jackson.
Today on “Meet the Press” Paul suggested that the “war on women” was being perpetrated by the Democratic Party not the Republican Party. He defended his point by reminding us of Bill Clinton’s illicit affair with Monaca Lewinski. He thinks this was clearly a case of the Democratic Party’s disdain for women. Of course, we all know Paul’s anti-abortion stance. One question that falls out of Paul’s libertarian confusion is, don’t libertarians defend the right for consenting, legally emancipated adults to have the sexual partner of their choice? Paul seemed to think that Bill Clinton’s ‘war on women’ was shown by ‘taking advantage’ of Monaca Lewinski. Wasn’t Monaca Lewinski an adult and legally entitled to make her own choice about a sexual partner? Wouldn’t a true libertarian defend Monaca Lewinski’s right, the right of the individual, to choose a sexual partner and not try to turn it into a moral universal such as a ‘war on women’? Wouldn’t a libertarian side on abortion choice rather than religious authoritarianism? This contrary play of universals versus individualism has always been the problem of libertarianism.
Elitism is not some kind of absolute individualism. Elitism has always sided with consolidation of its interests by power structures. It must shield and protect itself from the ignorant masses economically, militarily and politically with power, with what Jefferson would have thought as federalism. For Jefferson his problem with federalism was fundamentally with mercantilism, the concentration of elitist power in monarchies. How could libertarianism sanction any form of elitism? Well, the only way would be to make the common-man the true ‘elitist’. In this case, the true elitists would rise from the unprotected masses as the social, Darwinian adaptation of the fittest. The truly liberated elitist needs no protections other than their own individual ability to overcome, to say of their past “I willed it thus”. Sadly, this metaphysic of the exceptional individual has not historically been the case for elitism. For the most part, elitists as monarchs have always existed and persisted not from their own individual genius but from progeny, from birth, from entrenched power structures. The rhetoric that Paul espouses is the illusion of the ‘true’ elitist. It sides with the common man to protect the uncommon man. It calls the common-man the source of elite accomplishment while ensuring that the accomplished elites reap the benefit of the common-man’s vote. The modern garbs of libertarianism cloak an insidious and devious intention, the right of the individual to preserve what is “good for him”, the elite that he could be but statistically never will be. Underneath this cloak, Paul slips in anti-abortion, religious moral authority, elitist big business, ‘free market’ protectionism all of which when push comes to shove, push the individual aside to protect a very anti-libertarian agenda, the tyranny of the few over the many.
My position has always been that the individual thrives when the elites are perpetually at war without clear victors. When government and big business check each other against abuse, the common-man has the best chance for falling through the unconsolidated cracks in embedded power structures. If big business is given carte blanches privilege by the laissez-faire cloak of the ‘free market’ the common-man does not win over time except in the rhetoric of crafty politicians. Likewise, when government becomes a monarchy, a tyranny, the individual loses. This is why Plato tells us in his Republic that the philosopher king is the best form of government. However, what he did not tell us is that if the best form of government is defined by what he termed ‘liberalism’ which benefits the most people instead of the least, each person needs to be a philosopher king. If the common-man cannot see through the rhetoric of a Rand Paul we are all in trouble and history will once again repeat itself in rhetorical amnesia.
Oh, one more thing, if we want to cite Paul’s historical ‘war on women’ by Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party, perhaps we should also cite the very real war on Iraq and Afghanistan that Paul’s Republican, neocon buddies started in the Bush administration. I would think body bags would count more than illicit affairs in the real world. In the manipulative, rhetorical world of Paul, the preservation of the elite will always trump reality.