I was in the restroom today (which is the only place I read magazines anymore), and I was browsing this week’s issue of Time. I don’t usually care much for Joe Klein’s column, but he has some astute observations about the Senate race in Kentucky. I was a big fan of Dr. Ron Paul back in ’08; he seemed to have some traction that I wish the Libertarian Party had been able to harness. But now Congressman Paul’s son, Dr. Rand Paul, is running for the Senate seat vacated by HoF pitcher Jim Bunning.
Regarding the younger Paul, Klein writes:
The campaign has not been a comfortable experience for Paul; he has been forced to eschew the courage of his father Ron Paul’s convictions. Libertarianism is a basic American political impulse, but ideology isn’t. People don’t want the government on their backs, except for when they do. And so Paul on the stump seems a man perpetually in the act of biting his tongue. His Fancy Farm speech limned the more popular libertarian talking points: the tax code is 16,000 pages long; the federal regulatory code is 79,000 pages long. But the real meat of his message consisted of four words: “Barack Obama … Nancy Pelosi.” In fact, he would just say each name, let it hang in the air and then repeat it.
Klein has put his finger on two problems with political discourse. The average American will of course affirm that he likes liberty, freedom and individual responsibility–until he needs welfare, unemployment benefits, or a book banned from the library. We are quick to compromise some ideal of liberty when someone else’s liberty gets in the way of what we want. Second, the span of our collective attention is about that of a fruit fly’s life on this earth. Dr. Paul could deliver an articulate, thoughtful speech, some of which the crowd will like and some of it they won’t. But when they leave the rally, all they will remember is those “four words.”
My son is three weeks old. Sometimes when he’s crying, I’ll just blow gently in his face. He gets flustered, sputters a bit–and then forgets what he was crying about. Too often, our elected stooges are able to divert our attention just as easily: