Roger L. Simon

The stupidity of Rand Paul is the stupidity of ideologues

Recent primary winner and son ‘o Ron, Rand Paul has made a fool of himself, and shamed many of his supporters, criticizing the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the The Rachel Madow Show. One is tempted to question Paul Jr’s IQ, but he is a medical doctor and at some point he must have passed physical chemistry.

So what caused this breakdown? Well, on one level it’s a demonstration of an extraordinary lack of media sophistication, in itself dangerous in a political candidate, especially in our instant information times. But I think it is something more. This is a prime example of the danger of extreme ideological beliefs. No matter what they are, they blind us.

Rand Paul perceives the world through a highly-orthodox brand of libertarianism that does not allow him to see the forest for the proverbial trees… make that tree, singular. When people have rigid ideologies, their minds leap first to the promulgation or defense of those ideologies before they even have a chance to judge, let alone examine, what is before their eyes.

Ironically, Paul did this on the Rachel Madow Show, Madow herself being another prime exemplar of ideological rigidity, which makes her boring, repetitive and almost always unable to “contain” even a modicum of complexity. Of course, she only has to appeal to a small group of dwindling fans, so this is of little consequence except to the owners of MSNBC.

Unfortunately, Paul is running for office as a standard-bearer of the Tea Party Movement. Time will tell how much damage he has done, but it should be obvious the mainstream media will not easily forget this. Having already been exposed as ideologues themselves for accepting accusations of racism by members of the Black Caucus that were shown, thanks to Andrew Breitbart, to be completely unsubstantiated, they are undoubtedly looking for self-justification. This is not good, despite the obvious fact that Rand Paul is no racist. He is just, alas, an ideologue.

Now let me be clear. There are plenty of good ideas in libertarianism, many of which I agree with. But these are ideas, not religious decrees. Ideas should be subject to revision as we grow and change and as society changes before us. They are not eternal verities that should be transformed into a kind of religious belief. We live in a world whose greatest danger is a blind ideology that is religious. The previous greatest danger was a secular ideology (socialism) taken to a totalitarian extreme (communism) that devolved into another kind of religion. What they have in common is totalitarianism and mass murder.

Again, this is obviously not to equate them with libertarianism in the slightest. It is to advocate for a free mind. Accept ideas, but keep your eyes open. Question your own thinking. Conservatives and libertarians should be especially aware of this because they have seen liberalism become increasingly sclerotic and knee-jerk. How else could liberals be enacting the legislation they are, when the world economy is free fall? It is the triumph of ideology over intelligence. Conservatives and libertarians, who may have control sooner than they think, should not imitate that.