The news that Kentucky libertarians might consider running a third-party spoiler candidate has been greeted with much mirth and derision (Jonathan Chait compares them to the People’s Front of Judea). And it is kind of funny—the way doctrinaire people are unable to accept small deviations from their creed for long-range goals can be pretty amusing. But Rand Paul isn’t a libertarian: at least, it seems difficult to me to be a libertarian who also supports coal subsidies, supports marijuana being illegal, and supports restrictions on abortion.
This makes his previous insistence that portions of the Civil Rights Act are unconstitutional and he wouldn’t have voted for all the more curious: if you’re comfortable with coal subsidies and the drug war, how the heck do you stand on principle for the Civil Rights Act? I don’t know Rand Paul’s psychology so I can’t speculate—other than noting that it takes a strange one to justify all of these positions simultaneously in our day and age (while insisting on protecting “the tough parts of freedom”). But the fact that this constellation of positions has found a fairly comfortable home in the Kentucky GOP and perhaps Kentucky itself is not exactly a cheering concept, now is it? Rand Paul, candidate is disturbing enough; Senator Rand Paul is enough for serious self-examination by many parties, not merely aggrieved libertarians.