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Opening Arguments

So long, Rand Paul

Guess it's pile-on-Rand-Paul day. First, this:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had what will probably be the defining moment of his presidential campaign on Sunday night. It could conceivably help him, but at a high political cost. It could also end his presidential hopes.

[. . .]

Shutting down American espionage and surveillance capabilities, even for a few days, is too off-brand for the GOP — especially at the moment.

[. . .]

"People here in town think I'm making a huge mistake," Rand Paul said Sunday evening. "Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me."

In other words, Rand Paul sounds like a lot of Democrats after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That wasn't a good place to be, politically.

And this, too:

I used to identify as a libertarian. There are many reasons why I no longer do so. One is the libertarians’ often obsessive attempt to figure out every question in life as if it were a matter of simple algebra: plug in The Perfect Libertarian Axioms and get The One True Answer.

Another reason is a style of debate, common among the younger, orthodox libertarians, that allows for no disagreement without denunciation. Reflecting on Rand Paul’s theatrics, Ace at Ace of Spades HQ writes:

We define ourselves not just by our heroes and devotions, but even more by our enemies and our anathemas. I believe that it is foundational to the capital-L Libertarian creed, whether they realize it or not, that conservatives are enemies on an emotional level and to be treated with contempt and jeering. A large part of capital-L Libertarianism, many have noted, seems to be a sort of performance art of ritualized disdain for the Squares and Stiffs of the right.

Every political ideology has proponents that are obnoxious, crude, and intolerant. Every faction has its awful tendencies. But the propensity to denounce and castigate will always be stronger among those groups that define themselves in opposition to some traditional mainstream.

The nature of our technology only makes it worse. In the age of social media, when one’s political views are increasingly linked to one’s social status and employability, there is an overwhelming need for people to prove themselves worthy of sitting at the cool kids’ table.

We might look back on this presidential campaign and identify "secretly want an attack" as the moment his run started to unravel. Man, that was over the top. Many commentators have said Paul is just pushing this privacy thing as part of his presidential campaign, which seems too harsh to me. I think it's more ideological than opportunistic. It's something I've thought about libertarians for a long time -- they value purity of ideas more than anything. They'd rather be right than win campaigns.  He'll keep the loyalty of true-blue libertarians. But people like me, who are partly libertarian and partly something else, I think he just lost most of us.