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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Tea Party’s Mad Hatters

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Most of the media hype about the Tea Party influence on Republican politics in Wisconsin and across the country paints it as some kind of exciting, new phenomenon.

Actually, many of the Tea Party candidates, including businessman Ron Johnson, the newly anointed Republican unknown running against Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, are strongly libertarian, embracing a political philosophy that has existed since the 1700s.

And there are very good reasons why the Libertarian Party has always been a minority party.

Some people describe libertarians as conservatives who have moved so far to the right they bump into the left.

A much simpler definition that always made sense to me is that libertarians are conservatives who like to smoke dope.

That’s what makes them far more honest and less hypocritical than most of those in the Republican Party who call themselves conservatives. There is absolutely nothing conservative about Republicans who want to control the governments of other countries through warfare and control people in our own country through laws that intrude into their personal lives.

As I’ve written, the truly conservative position on gay marriage should be to insist upon it. Why would conservatives want gay people to go around having sex willy-nilly without being married?

The libertarians’ absolute belief in preserving our civil liberties against unnecessary government control in our personal lives is something folks across the political spectrum can agree upon.

But libertarians are political proof you can advocate too much of a good thing. Many of them make the enormous leap from opposing unnecessary government action in our lives to opposing absolutely any government action at all.

 

Business Trumps All

That is why libertarianism is so attractive to millionaire businessmen such as Johnson. Johnson refers to libertarian Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged, as his “foundational book.” It was pretty thick. You could stack lots of books on top of it.

What businessmen particularly like about libertarianism, though, is the idea that government shouldn’t have any power at all to tell business what to do.

So nice libertarians who worry about protecting individuals from abuse by totalitarian governments end up opposing any government action to protect individuals from abuse by totalitarian corporations.

Anyone living through the recent financial collapse and even more recent epic destruction of jobs and the natural environment in the Gulf of Mexico knows which unchecked source of power—corporate or government—presents a greater threat to our personal lives.

Yet, true libertarians follow their esoteric political philosophy right out the window by opposing all regulation of Wall Street and the oil companies and even such long-accepted curbs on corporate abuse as child labor laws and worker safety regulations.

Rand Paul, the Tea Party Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky, did not say anything unusual for a libertarian when he declared that President Barack Obama’s blasting of British Petroleum for the still unchecked environmental disaster in the Gulf “sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”

The same goes for Paul’s incendiary racial remarks that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went too far when it banned private businesses from turning away African Americans from lunch counters or hotels.

Actually, Paul’s ridiculous statements in television appearances before he was pulled off the air by Republicans and put under wraps are just the tip of a very bizarre iceberg.

Paul also is one of those conspiracy theorists who believe there is a secret Democratic plan to wipe out both the Mexican and Canadian borders and turn North America into a “borderless, mass continent” connected by a 10-lane superhighway running north and south. That’s what he said in 2008.

But you’d never guess what Paul’s most controversial views are among libertarians. The Kentucky Libertarian Party actually is considering running its own candidate against Paul, an ophthalmologist whose Texas congressman father, Ron Paul, was the party’s national presidential candidate in 1988.

Among libertarians, the worse things Rand Paul said were when he started backing away from libertarian principles to repair the political damage and try to become more acceptable to mainstream voters. So they didn’t particularly like it when Paul insisted he wasn’t racist and ultimately would have supported a ban on blacks being chased away from restaurants with ax handles.

Libertarians also object that Paul, in wooing Republican votes, has abandoned some of the party’s bedrock principles that appeal to the left, including support for a woman’s right to choose and marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

The Tea Party rallies greased the way for previously “fringe” libertarians whose views are decidedly not mainstream to win major Republican nominations.

These anti-government candidates in Wisconsin, including Johnson and several congressional candidates, are virtually unknown, having never held public office.

That’s why it’s imperative for the media to thoroughly examine the political views of these candidates on basic American rights and government responsibilities.

Prepare to be shocked.

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