As much as I disagree with the political philosophy of libertarianism, I have a kind of grudging respect for some libertarian politicians. Hardcore libertarians stick to their ideological guns, even if it means living on the political fringe. Ron Paul is an example of this. His son is not, nor are many of the modern tea party politicians.
The word “libertarian,” as used by the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, has lost nearly all meaning. When they claim to stand for individual freedom, they’re talking about the right to racial discrimination, or the right to pay less in taxes, or the right to gamble on Wall Street with no oversight. What they consider “rights” (or even “God-given rights”) are pretty arbitrary.
How about freedom of speech and religion? Well, turns out Rand Paul isn’t such a fan of those freedoms, at least in certain situations:
I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.
Rand Paul, the supposed libertarian, supports jailing or deporting people for listening to a speech. I can imagine this going over well in the tea party, but any traditional libertarian would be horrified.
Of course this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The tea party (which itself has largely become an astroturf, pseudo-populist disguise for the Republican party) isn’t actually a libertarian movement, despite what they say. If you look closely, they don’t really have any uniting political philosophy — not beyond the superficial “small government” talking points, anyway.
Matt Taibbi wrote an excellent article on the tea party which is well worth reading in its entirety, but I liked this section in particular:
Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.