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Is the GOP’s Rand Paul America’s leading liberal?

by Ted Rall

There once was a time (before the 1980s) when liberals were a powerful force against executive overreach. Democrats like Sen. George McGovern opposed wars of choice. Democrats like Sen. Frank Church exposed the CIA, which led to an executive order (by President Ronald Reagan!) that banned political assassinations.

A Democratic Congress held impeachment hearings against President Richard Nixon, in part because he violated the privacy rights of a few hundred Americans by tapping their phones. Millions of lefties marched against the Vietnam War — it didn’t matter that the president was a Democrat.

Things have changed. A “liberal” president and his Democratic congressional and media allies aren’t fighting the good fight. They’re committing the worst crimes.

So, following what Chris Hedges called “the death of the liberal class,” where the Hellfire missiles fly and in streets that ought to be full of protesters, naught but crickets, here’s what’s left:

The most liberal politician in America is a right-winger.

Rand Paul, who in May led a 13-hour filibuster in the Senate over Obama’s drone war, is the mainstream’s point man against dystopian killer air robots.

This is the kind of thing that, in Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s day, also would have had Democrats and the liberal media up in arms.

Even though an out-of-control White House is leaving open the option of using drones to blow up Americans on American soil (not that it’s OK in Pakistan), Democrats are nowhere to be found. At least 4,000 people — by law, all innocent since none were charged by a court — have been assassinated under Obama’s orders.

Meanwhile, liberal politicians sit on their hands. Progressive media outlets scarcely mention these horrors, and when they do it’s in tepid tones that rarely call out Obama as the blood-soaked mass murderer he is.

Is Rand Paul so far right that, like Pat Buchanan back when, he comes all the way around the back to the left? Are Paul’s maverick stances just a marketing program to draw attention to himself, in preparation for 2016? Or is his brand of libertarianism genuine? Whatever the motivation, Paul has become the most, perhaps the only, establishment political figure expressing a progressive vision on a host of incredibly important issues — issues that have been abandoned by the state-sanctioned Left.

Paul, a right-wing Republican who believes Israel can do no wrong, is nevertheless the establishment’s most passionate defender of privacy rights.

The libertarian scion has sponsored a bill that would prohibit the NSA from intercepting and storing Americans’ phone records. (Because the NSA charter limits its activities to foreign intelligence gathering, the phone tapping and other Orwellian programs revealed by Edward Snowden are illegal. The bill would ban the phone intercepts explicitly.)

Only four senators are backing this progressive legislation. Paul is the only Republican; most Democrats continue to defend Obama and his NSA, whose totalitarian approach to stealing our information — they take it all — makes East Germany’s “Lives of Others” Stasi look like nosy neighbors. Paul, a free-market purist, wants to overturn the vile Patriot Act, get rid of the useless TSA (“The American people shouldn’t be subjected to harassment, groping, and other public humiliation simply to board an airplane”), and states openly that proposals for Congressional oversight of the NSA — typical, lame sops to public disgust, and Congress was supposed to be doing that all along, weren’t they? — won’t be enough.

“The Constitution doesn’t allow for a single warrant to get a billion phone records,” says the senator from Kentucky. “They basically, I believe, are looking at all of the cell phone calls in America every day.”

The most liberal Democrats in the Senate? They’re collaborators with Obama’s Gestapo. Dick Durbin sporadically issues some pretty, progressive-esque, pro-privacy noises about reining in the NSA, yet voted to renew the Patriot Act, which captures Americans but not terrorists. Al Franken is pro-fascist security state.

“I can assure you that this isn’t about spying on the American people,” Franken said. Actually that’s exactly what it’s about.

When George W. Bush was in power, “liberal” California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein railed against NSA spying on Americans, calling it an impeachable offense. Now that the president is a member of their party, Boxer is silent and Feinstein is the NSA’s PR flack.

On a lot of issues, Rand Paul’s stances are contemptible. Exhibit A: He opposed the Civil Rights Act as a violation of “state’s rights,” the clarion call of the segregationist Old South. Yet on many of the existential questions of our time, radical policies that have transformed the United States from a democratic republic to a terrifying authoritarian state that uses brute force to subjugate a vast global empire, Rand is on the side of the angels — far more so than the self-defined progressives who claim to value civil liberties while running interference for the insular, violent and repressive Obama administration.

Rand stood tall against Obama’s fascist National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the federal government to kidnap U.S. citizens and throw them into prison forever without charging them with any crime. “His signature [on the NDAA] means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended,” said Anthony Romero of the ACLU of Obama.

Naturally, the Republican establishment is pissed off at Paul.

GOP columnist Charles Krauthammer slammed Paul as “politically radical” and “socially liberal.” (No comment on whether spying on every American, or assassinating innocent civilians, is “radical.”) Chris Christie, a top 2016 presidential contender, calls Paul’s suspicion of endless wars against Middle Eastern countries “dangerous.” (Unlike the wars?) John McCain calls him a “wacko bird” (takes one to know one) for opposing drones.

If you want evidence of the crisis of the two-party system, look no further than the strange new bedfellows of the age of Obama. Even before the Snowden leaks, 70 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans believed the NSA was violating their privacy. Both Democrats and Republicans who felt this way thought the NSA wasn’t justified: 51 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

Even in Congress, a “loose alliance of lawmakers” is allied against the leadership of their own parties” on issues like the NSA and Obama’s desire to attack Syria.

Though nascent, the libertarian-left attack against the liberal-conservative establishment is a big deal. This tendency, as Marxists call it, can develop in one of two directions. There might be a dramatic political realignment such as 1932, when FDR’s New Deal began to move African-Americans and white Southerners into the Democratic camp. Or — I think this is more likely — newly exposed fissures will open, showing that the real split is between oppressed and oppressor, not “liberal” Democrat and “conservative” Republican.

Ted Rall is a political cartoonist and writer. (www.rall.com) © 2013 Ted Rall

  • 思德

    This assessment is more or less on point- America is going to divide along the lines it has truly been split on all along- to be free or be controlled. Social conservatives and bleeding heart humanists will have to lay down their statist instruments of religiously framed laws and taking care of everyone with bad luck or worse choices (respectively), to fight the real problem: The outrageously out of control government entities that are ruining our country.

    Rand Paul is not “so conservative he’s liberal”, at least “liberal” in the American sense. The word originally had to do with personal freedom (and still does outside of the US, where they call “progressive” what we call “liberal”). Democrats are not liberal in the true sense, and neither are Republicans; they are both statists and both opportunists. The Republicans want a warfare economy; the liberals want a welfare one. Both want to control the electorate with bribes (welfare). Both (especially nowadays it seems) want to keep the war on terror going because it suits them. Take this Syria thing with Obama, for instance. It is (or was) a wonderful distraction from the mess our economy remains in.

    Libertarianism respects property rights as a key facet of a free society. That would include freedom of association and who is on your property. Some people will choose to use that right to be jerks, just like trolls on the internet do the same regarding freedom of speech. Libertarians hold the civil rights law as wrong because of violations to property rights, not because they love racism. Rand Paul’s willingness to make such a statement shows character. Whether a politician with character can make it in this world remains to be seen.

    The property rights argument is legitimate but gets shouted down (not rationally responded to) by people who are ignorant enough to think racism can be legislated away. Colored folk still complain about racism to this day, so I’d say legislation has opened some doors but not healed anything. People fall victims to racism all the time through free speech, social pressure and actions which are excused by other reasons because often you can’t prove with hard evidence someone is a racist (see raging debates on racism in Japan for evidence of this).

  • Ian

    The underlying core issue in American politics is this: 1. The US has the lowest overall public school educational metrics in the industrialized world. Read UNESCO and other statistics compilers for detailed info. 2. Lower education leads to a more right-wing populist demographic skew. Check google scholar for peer reviewed science journal papers for the facts. People with less education are more prone to right-wing tabloid demagoguery. 3. Liberals have to adapt to the Right skew, or else they become politically irrelevant.

    Only America has such a right-wing skew when compared to north/west Europe, Canada and other post-industrialized nations. Why? When President Johnson escalated the Vietnam “policing action” he paid for it not by going to Congress (thereby avoiding the need to declare war). Instead he diverted White House controlled discretionary funding away from domestic issues such as education, infrastructure and housing. Successive presidents kept such funding diversions as the norm. No other post-industrialized nations took that route. Instead they did the opposite, and increased education and domestic issue funding to the max. Resultantly, the US dropped from being ranked #1 in public education in the 1950s down to #14, even as low as 18th out of 18 post-industrialized nations. Unless America emphasizes funding for liberal arts education, which emphasizes critical thinking skills, the red state/blue divide will widen, similarly to how the US’ deplorable public educational system is divided from the rest of modern post-industrialized nations.

  • Toolonggone

    > “Is the GOP’s Rand Paul America’s leading liberal?”

    Yes in Republican view, but no in ordinary people’s view. He makes himself look like a ‘stand-out’ for doing so–just like many folks backed up by the Tea Party. It doesn’t mean he’s gonna change his entire position from the GOP platform. He has really nasty political campaign strategists who send racists/segregationists views.