There’s something about being a willfully marginal player in the political sphere that induces whininess. Or at least that’s the conclusion I can’t help but come to after reading the libertarian-ish Conor Friedersdorf’s epic lament over the media’s treatment of Rand Paul.
I’m tempted to take it apart, piece-by-piece; but I’m also aware of that whole Nietzsche thing about staring into the abyss. So rather than picking out the many, many places where Friedersdorf makes claims that are either highly questionable or laughably wrong, I’ll try to zoom out and focus on what he seems so incapable or unwilling to address.
Friedersdorf’s upset because: folks are acting as if Rand Paul said he didn’t believe in democracy, when all Rand Paul said was “I’m not a firm believer in democracy.” (How dare people, right?) So, in Paul’s defense, Friedersdorf writes:
If a scholar of political thought said of ancient Athens, “I’m not a firm believer in democracy — it required slavery, war, or both, to subsidize the lower classes while they carried out their civic duties,” no one would think that a strange formulation — it is perfectly coherent to talk about democracy in places that didn’t extend the franchise universally, given how the term has been used and understood for two thousand years of political history.
Even in the article, we have no idea what sentences Paul spoke immediately before or after that. Suffice it to say that if anyone else in the United States said, of federal intervention in the Jim Crow South, “They did the right thing overruling decisions made locally in Alabama and Mississippi, even though it was anti-democratic,” no one would blink, let alone criticize the speaker.
Well, here’s the thing: Rand Paul is many things, but he is not “a scholar of political thought.” And he’s certainly not the senator from Athens. What he is, though, is a man who still can’t give a straight answer as to whether or not he finds the Civil Rights Acts constitutional, though he’s proved happy to brandish Jim Crow as a kind of shield against further inquiry.
Even on its own terms, the Jim Crow example falters. If you listen to Friedersdorf or Paul, you’d almost think that majoritarian democracy is what led to Jim Crow. One imagines it as if, after the Civil War, there was a big meeting in every city, town, and holler of the South, and there was a show of hands. Jim Crow: yea or nay?
But, of course, that’s far from the truth. Jim Crow wasn’t a product of a democratic process — of the kinds of democratic processes we think of as our own in the United States. Those institutional channels were the ones that passed the laws that broke Jim Crow. The American apartheid, on the other hand, was the product of terroristic violence, white supremacy, and Northern indifference; of the kind of evil Rand Paul’s father’s newsletters trafficked in.
There are other cringeworthy moments — like when Friedersdorf refers to Paul’s self-immolation on Maddow as an example of the “nuances” of the senator’s thinking — but the superficial and ideologically convenient understanding of what the Civil Rights Act meant, that’s the real problem with Paul and Friedersdorf’s thinking.
And as to Friedersdorf’s suggestion that Ayn Rand has nothing to do with Paul’s anti-democratic streak? You know the one, “don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining?” That.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
Rand Paul is a politician, part of that game is know better than to mouth with rubbish like this.
Picked an easy one with which to start your return, huh? Good plan.
Stated simply, Jim Crow was the use of the government to enforce majoritarian social oppression of people on an ethnic basis.
You know who else doesnt believe in democracy? God. Suck on that libtards
Gin & Tonic
Is there a bigger waste of time and effort than writing a piece taking apart Conor Friedersdorf?
Jim Crow was the antithesis of democracy.
Does democracy require limits? of course it does, and in our republic we have plenty of them. Has anyone bothered to explain to Conor and/or Rand that blacks outnumbered whites in a number of southern states and could have outvoted them had they been able to vote?
@Eric: You know who else doesnt believe in democracy? God. Suck on that libtards
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Suck on that, asswipe.
It does not really matter whether Rand Paul believes the Civil Rights Act is constitutional. The Supreme Court thinks it is and the Executive Branch has the responsibility to enforce it. Some Legislative pinhead can play armchair judiciary all he wants as long as he shows up to vote and breaks a minimal number of ethics laws.
Rand Paul’s major problem is that he does a shitty job representing Kentucky. He makes zero contributions to any bill likely to become law, be brings nothing back to his home state and gives nothing but grief to the other half of his state’s Senate delegation.
No sweat. Republican primary voters are all about nuance.
For fucks sake I hate anything remotely associated with randianism, libertarianism and free market ideology. Its a scourge.
What is it about a political philosophy that’s about deep personal selfishness that implies they’d be for Civil Rights? Of course it appeals to heavily white male demographic with a tendency to believe in their own superiority, which helps. I just don’t know why anyone bothers with these people. Oh, yeah, appeal to the ego.
“Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Jesus Christ.”
Perhaps you meant a different god?
@Todd: stated both simply and wrongly!
is exactly backwards.
What you meant to say was:
The whininess is the essence, after all. The rest is just indulgence of it.
Yes, but how is this Obama’s fault? If you don’t throw that in the other FPers are gonna get all Heathers on you.
@priscianusjr: @Eric: Eric’s snark has come a long way. Well done Eric
You say that like it’s a bad thing.
There’s a reason young Connor started as a summer break replacement for McMegan and eventually took over her gig there, and it ain’t cuz he has a better calculator. At his very “best” he manages to rise to the level of concern troll, that so many little big media lefties on blogs link to him is the same reason they linked to McMegan; social mandates. I retain hope more will recognize him for what he really is, but bros tend to stick together, and he’s in the club.
Marco Rubio being booed and called a RINO by the teatards because of immigration while Biden is addressing a hispanic prayer breakfast telling them how the country is better because of immigration is awesome. Keep it up, teanuts!
Rand Paul isn’t a Ari-Fleischer let alone a Ari-Stotle.
I recently realized that, while I still read Fallows and Coates, the Atlantic long ago ceased to be a news outlet that I gave a shit about. Week on week, they slowly converted themselves to an outlet for a more ponderous form of Slate-style contrarianism and, like a frog in water coming to slow boil. I had somehow been fooled into not noticing by the departure of McMegan and Sullivan. But as was reading the profoundly wrong-headed take on Civil War revisionism that equated creepy neo-confederate filth with the rising recognition that its time to move beyond the soothing syrup we poured over white Southern loser butthurt in the following generations, I realized that the article was typical, not abnormal for it these days, and Young Conor’s tripe was the norm, now, not an exception.
And since that moment, not a shit has been given by me what anyone at the Atlantic says about anything. It’s been very freeing.
I’m just hoping that someone injects the blood of Kahn Noonien Singh into the dead tribble that lives on Rand Paul’s head so that it might scurry it’s way to freedom.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@priscianusjr: I don’t see Democracy in there anywhere, and then there’s the history of the vague word “Creator”.
A teanut a day keeps the voters away.
Paul in KY
@Gin & Tonic: Low hanging fruit there.
Paul in KY
@Tim F.: The ‘giving grief to the other half of the Senate delegation (mutant turtleman)’ is the only thing I like about him.
You are correct about him being a preening showhorse, who’ll never get anything concrete for KY.
Yeah, yeah, beware of Greeks bearing grifts. But what Roman does Rand not remind us of?
Yea, Saxby is our Senator!
Conner doesn’t post here anymore. For that I can be thankful.
Paul in KY
@Hunter Gathers: Well played, sir. Well played.
SomeOne of us won’t.
Seconded. I wish Coates and Fallows had wider audiences, though, really I do – Coates in particular is always educational, in the best way. I learn a tremendous amount from reading him.
and gives nothing but grief to the other half of his state’s Senate delegation.
Given who the other half of that delegation is, I’d say that’s the feature about him that I find most endearing. This is based simply on what I know of him via his public persona. I’m sure that he has some tolerable, even admirable qualities in his personal dealings with those close to him. If he has a dog, I expect that he’s kind to it, which is something that I thought would go without saying before Mitt Romney ran for President…
Higgs Boson's Mate
Libertarians; still waiting for everyone to realize how totally cool they are. They’re the AV club of politics.
Well, Paul is the best they’ve got, so he has to be defended. The alternative… is just unthinkable.
Young Connor is a cosseted lump of dough who inspires vivid bar-fight fantasies. Sometimes, when a guy like him feels empowered to express theoretical responses to real-life situations and call them “solutions,” while whinging butthurt about how people don’t take his team seriously, a massive public beat-down is the only cure.
Yeah, sure, Jim Crow was the product of true democracy. Tell me again by what percentage Jim Crow won among female and African-American voters.
Oh, they were barred from voting? How very democratic.
Paul in KY
Test Message (can delete)
Off thread – Are there any BJ’ers going to NetRoots Nation this week?
Another Halocene Human
The American apartheid, on the other hand, was the product of terroristic violence, white supremacy, and Northern indifference; of the kind of evil Rand Paul’s father’s newsletters trafficked in.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Elias. I hope your bullhorn reaches some people before this dipshit meme gains traction. The terrorism was a reactionary response to universal male suffrage putting African Americans in office. Hurr durr.
Simple Conor and his glibertarian buddies don’t know history, don’t know politics, and don’t know their own privilege.
This, this, you nailed it. Or should I say “them” as it applies to Republicans in general. I dpon’t bother to say Libertarians because they are just Republicans anyway, ones who don’t want to take any responsibility for the bad acts of the party.
It was amazing to me that Republicans even acted like whining victims when they were in charge of all 3 branches.
Another Halocene Human
@Todd: Stated simply, Jim Crow was the use of the government to enforce majoritarian social oppression of people on an ethnic basis.
But they didn’t have a consistent majority till the Great Migration. They were never a majority in the US and not on the local level and often not on the state level. That’s what the terrorism campaign and violent coups were for.
It’s much more like Apartheid than you seem to think.
@kindness: There should be a meetup of some sort thrown together with hasty, shoddy, cavalier attitude that is our Balloon Juice wont.
Another Halocene Human
@dedc79: Has anyone bothered to explain to Conor and/or Rand that blacks outnumbered whites in a number of southern states and could have outvoted them had they been able to vote?
Could and did. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African-American_officeholders_during_the_Reconstruction
Check out this dude from Gatorville, Gainesville, Florida, pre Jim Crow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah_Walls
This is Gainesville today, post Jim Crow: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20130425/articles/130429731
@raven: Speaking of rectal passages how did your test go? Or didn’t it?
Another Halocene Human
Elias, please put my post out of moderation. I linked to some wiki pages, and apparently FYWP is jealous.
Another Halocene Human
@Tim F.: Rand Paul’s major problem is that he does a shitty job representing Kentucky. He makes zero contributions to any bill likely to become law, be brings nothing back to his home state and gives nothing but grief to the other half of his state’s Senate delegation.
Like those rubes are gonna catch on any time soon.
@Another Halocene Human:
But it was a majority of people who were allowed to vote and whose votes were counted. Sort of how Bush “won” Florida in 2000.
And not just kind of sort of outnumbered whites, but accounted for 2/3 to 3/4 of the population of some counties / portions of states.
@muddy: Exactly. It’s who they are, at bottom.
Republicans, teabaggers, libertarains, glibertarians, it’s all the same: just a bunch of spoiled whiny brats hiding in their bubble of manufactured butthurt, and there’s not enough Baby Magic in the world to alleviate their artificially-induced redness.
My own dear man-turtle hybrid senator certainly deserves all the pain that can be delivered to his ass, but giving McConnell grief is bad for Rand’s political future. McConnell is the epitome of the old guard Republican. He is arrogant, clever, scheming, and more than anything else spiteful. He is a powerful man, and L’il Randy had better fall in line if he expects to be reelected.
G subscribes to the Atlantic (though his issues seem to sit unread on the kitchen counter for a very long time after they arrive) and apparently the new contrarian position on women’s health is that turning 40 does not actually mean instant infertility. That’s about all I read.
@SatanicPanic: thanks. Though it actually speaks to a larger issue that is embodied by Vatican II. Can an Institution (the Church) make rules and rulings from the ground up that maintains order and consistency, both moral goods, while applying Just principles. It is the larger debate here as to how the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution. Scalia is the archetype (consistent with his brand of catholicism) for Order over Substantive Justice. That is to say that he picks an interpretive schema that, he believes, assures little change over time in the how the Constitution can be read. In contrast is his nemesis Brennan who understood that order without justice can be immoral and took a balancing approach to interpretation, giving different variables different weights. This was anethma to Scalia’s jurisprudence and his catholicism.
Perhaps if i have time, i will write this out in more detail here and as an article. It is something I have worked on for years.
Tone in DC
@Higgs Boson’s Mate:
There’s absolutely no need to insult geeky teenage techies like that.
Compare these libertarians to that principal who had the six year old arrested (by the local police and taken from the school to the station) for throwing a tantrum.
@Tyro: Give this a look: how whites became white.
@NCSteve: That was brilliant trollery, NCSteve. Anyone who claims to read Fallows and work in a frog boiling metaphor in the same paragraph deserves a reward. (I’m going to assume that was intentional.)
but giving McConnell grief is bad for Rand’s political future.
Once, again, I consider this something that makes him more appealing to me. It gives me pleasure to know that someone so loathsome is also self-destructive.
So, Paul and McConnell? My condolences, but I live in Texas so I’m stuck with Cruz and Cornyn. I’m not sure but I think I got the bad end of that exchange.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
@raven: OT, how did the procedure go yesterday?
@danimal: Indeed; golf clap to NCSteve for the frog boil Fallows combo!
Villago Delenda Est
Aye, Eric is seeking to demonstrate just how pervasive Poe’s Law is in the 21st century.
@NCSteve: clearly do not read Fallows or would not use that frog analogy. Put a frog in a pot of water and turn on the heat, and the Frog will try to escape.unless you’ve cut parts of its brain first. Fallows wages a lonely battle against this analogy.
Thank you for this.
It’s gotten fashionable among Republicans in the last few years to say “we hate democracy” out loud (for obvious reasons), and then to hide behind arguments like this or the ever-fashionable “we’re a REPUBLIC not a DEMOCRACY.” Which is a sack of bullshit. “Democracy is bad” to them means exactly what it sounds like – “too many people voting and they’re not voting for the right people, someone should really do something about it.”
Sounds like a win-win to me.
@eric: Per your theory, Douglas would be Scalia’s mirror image? Justice over order in all cases?
Can I set the pie filter to get rid of poop-related comments, or does it only work on commenters’ names?
Villago Delenda Est
You do know, of course, who else was kind to his dog…
jake the snake
As a Kentuckian, that is the only value he does bring to the table.
Villago Delenda Est
Probably some mad Cardassian scientist looking for jollies, I’d guess.
@Villago Delenda Est: “You do know, of course, who else was kind to his dog…”
Actually, he poisoned him just to show Eva how it worked.
@Frankensteinbeck: McConnell hiring some of Paul’s head campaign staff indicates that the power dynamic may be shifting. And after all, why not? The teabaggers don’t have patience for politics anymore. They just want bread and circuses. And a grifter like Paul gives them just that.
@Another Halocene Human: Yeah, I read Foener’s book on Reconstruction after Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about it. I had to put it down, it was so freaking depressing reading about the promise of reconstruction and how quickly that promise was betrayed.
If McConnell had had anything to say about it, Sen Aqua Buddha would never have been nominated. He’ll hardly be more vulnerable as an incumbent when reelection time comes. In addition to the characteristics you listed, the GOP Old Guard is rapidly losing control of their party.
Much simpler to think of it this way. Paul did not say that “I think sometimes democracy gets things wrong” he did in fact say “I’m not a firm believer in democracy.”
There is a very big difference. Mr Friedersdorf seems to want us to believe that Paul said the former when he really said the latter.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
@agorabum: I thought it was a clever reference, offered in snark, but I may have misunderstood.
It’s not even original or challenging, which is what RP is going for. It’s “Hitler was elected.” Which conservatives have been saying since, at least, the day that Hitler was elected. :) OMG snooze. Rand certainly is playing hard for the 20-something libertarians who want to BLOW YOUR MIND with ideas they think are subversive (censored! PC culture!) but that most grown ups know about.
One thing that’s strange about the whole situation is that I think Paul said exactly what he meant and might even balk at Conor’s defense. Paulis a libertarian and libertarianism is, by its nature, anti-democratic. Libertarians don’t trust “the masses” and want to severely curtail the masses from empowering the government to do anything. LIbertarianism might be “freedom-enhancing” for those with enough land/wealth/power but everyone else would be out of luck.
Our system already strikes a balance between democratic and libertarian impulses. The Rand Paul’s of the country would like to seriously alter that balance in a dangerous way. And he has the nerve to label Jim Crow a product of democracy when he still won’t say whether he would’ve supported the democratic process (passage of the civil rights act) that helped dismantle Jim Crow.
There’s no essential aspect of democracy which requires that internal governmental regions known as “states” must be Constitutionally favored so that their wealthy, British colonialist slave-production large landholders can be protected in their enterprise in perpetuity — that was an aspect of achieving an agreement on a Constitution.
@Omnes Omnibus: Yes. The issue as I approach it is the moral claim made by Scalia that his interpretive methodology is superior because it is immune from the infusion of political beliefs and aspirations. But, as there is no mandate as to how one ought or must interpret the Constitution in the Constitution itself, one must look elsewhere and that elsewhere is the political belief that Order is more valuable or necessary the substantive Justice, which can modify itself over time. Thus, Scalia chooses what he believes as an unmovable touchstone for interpretation — the ordinary meanings of the words used at the time of the Constitution or statute — to cook the books in favor of apolitical judging. He “hides” the fact that his reasoning is equally political one meta-level below to mask his own personal, moral, and political preferences. It is this more important way that Scalia’s particular brand of Catholocism impacts his judging.
@Soonergrunt: I know. I’m hoping yesterday was our version of The Purge.
Paul in KY
@Frankensteinbeck: The mutant turtle is certainly clever & scheming.
Rand is assogant & probably thinks he can beat any KY Democrat this side of Wendell Ford.
@Frankensteinbeck: “and L’il Randy had better fall in line if he expects to be reelected.”
Important if true!
Paul in KY
@David Hunt: I think we’re both in a shit sandwich with those 4.
Paul in KY
@shortstop: How the shitten shit would I know?!
Elias, I know you’re trying to fit in with the ol’ gang here, but let me fill you in on a few things:
1. There have been 182,748,927 posts on Balloon Juice in the last couple of years that were primarily or secondarily about Rand Paul.
2. We have been assured by the CW here that he has zero chance, for a variety of reasons, of ever being President.
3. We have been assured by the CW here that he is a big zero legislatively.
4. No conceivable senator from Kentucky elected in the 2010 cycle would be voting to the left of him on legislation.
5. Hence, from #3 & 4 above he is at worst causing no more damage policywise than most GOP legislators and arguably causing less.
6. Hence, for all the things BJers purport to care about, talking about him is an utter waste of time.
Glad I could help.
This isn’t even wrong, but I have no idea what Paul is trying to do.
The problem with democracy is that it it is easily captured by demagogues. Humans do stupid things in groups. It’s really easy to lead a bunch of people to vote away their own freedom. I could go full Godwin here, but I won’t. There are plenty of examples from ancient times, medieval times, and the rennaisance, most notably Oliver Cromwell, whose ghost was said to have been a frequent guest at the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. The guys who wrote the Constitution knew that an ignorant mob could do desperately stupid and violent things. That wasn’t news to them.
And there are recent examples of pure democratic majority rule (and ignorant mobs!) gone horribly wrong in the South, starting with slavery, up through Jim Crow, and to today’s voter suppression efforts.
That is why we have a republic with all these complex checks and balances, staggered terms, heavily weighted towards rural states and rural populations too. And why it’s so hard to push change through it: it’s that way ON PURPOSE.
Democracy is also really easily captured by money, banks, and the rich. Which, those guys sweating in Philadelphia some hundreds of years ago have not turned out to have done very well at protecting against (probably intentionally, because they were the wealthy 1% of their day themselves).
And indeed, as Paul looks like he might have been trying to say, this grand shining democratic city on a hill was built upon the graves of dead Natives and the backs of Africans. We should fucking officially apologize for it. But this is what we’ve got: all this wealth and resources got us where we are today, and it’s up to us to do something responsible with it.
So, it irks me when these libertarians try to make some kind of noble point, and fuck it up so completely.
What is his point? Does he want to get rid of democracy? What would he replace it with? We don’t have one anyway, we have a republic, what’s left of it that hasn’t been privatized or captured by the rich, if we can keep it.
@Gin & Tonic:
Doing the same with a David Brooks column?
@Heliopause: In your judgment, is Rand Paul a significant political player? Is he a real presidential contender? Does he have major accomplishments as a legislator?
Or is he seen as a player because of his dad? On any given issue, isn’t there a Democratic legislator with as good or better a record on the particular issue and a better overall liberal/progressive history? Even on the civil liberties front where Paul is allegedly at his strongest, isn’t he simply opposed to the federal government doing things while not giving two merry fucks if a state would do it?
Or, most likely, do you not really give much of a shit about this but found an opportunity to take a shot at B-J commenters?