This is pretty crazy. Other than federal fiscal and tax policy I don’t think I’ve ever done three posts on the same topic, and here I am doing just that on the nomination of Rand Paul, of all things. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not obsessed. I’m not. I’m not. I’m really not. Really.

So anyway…

Now Dr. Paul is working to clarify that he does not support repeal of the civil rights legislation, or the Fair Housing Act. And I do believe him. I am sure he is thinking, “How the hell did we get to talking about this??? It has nothing to do with what I want to emphasize in my campaign, or as Senator.” But his original comments do provide a glimpse into his mindset. My blog friend Thrasybulus sees Paul as a full-blown libertarian, with all the conceptual and ideological baggage that represents. And as much as Paul wants this topic to simply vanish, it’s pretty hard to put that genie back in the bottle.

Dr. Paul’s original comments on the Rachel Maddow show stated, essentially, that private businesses should not be subject to government mandates to adhere to societal civil rights standards. If he believes that, then it is fair to ask where he does, and does not, think government should intervene in the workings of private business.

  • Should government regulate safety in privately owned coal mines (certainly near and dear to the voters of Kentucky, which accounts for 10% of total U.S. coal extraction)?
  • Should government regulate oil extraction practices by private companies such as BP?
  • Should government regulate fair lending practices by private banks?
  • Should government regulate fair hiring practices by private employers?

If he does believe in such regulation, then what is the difference between those examples and civil rights? If he does not believe in such regulation, well, then I guess we’ll just know that.

We Americans hold two values dear to our hearts that inherently conflict with each other: liberty and equality. Just ask Hamilton and Jefferson. We have struggled for more than two centuries to keep a proper balance between these two. Come November, the people of Kentucky will have a clear choice taken straight out of that historical context.

Rand Paul is a fervently pro-liberty candidate. He thinks liberty is too important for the government to intervene in the affairs of private persons and businesses, to the extent that if they chose to discriminate based on race, religion, etc., he’s okay with that. He himself wouldn’t himself patronize such a business, he makes clear, but government should not force the business owner to end a discriminatory practice. He makes it further clear that he has no interest in actually repealing civil rights legislation; he is simply stating that he thinks the existing legislation strikes the wrong balance between liberty and equality, without proposing to amend the balance.

Jack Conway will position himself as a fervently pro-equality candidate. He will defend the idea that government should step in – i.e., should limit personal liberty – by imposing civil rights obligations on private persons and businesses who would otherwise discriminate against groups we currently consider protected under the law.

Each of these is a perfectly rational and consistent political paradigm. Personally, I think that the Conway’s view, which is the status quo, is more mainstream and will connect with more voters. But I don’t live in Kentucky, so I don’t get a say in this one. Let the campaign begin.

I have been having a very thought-provoking conversation with a blogger named Texas56. It started with a post of hers, raising a number of very legitimate criticisms of Sen Boxer of California. My most recent comment to her blog became the origin of this post.

The exchange got me more focused on an issue that has been bothering me for some time. Who decided that Republicans were the party of conservative America? Despite the occasional “damn all the politicians” sentiment from the likes of Glenn Beck, and despite a very thin veneer of non-partisanship blanketing the tea-party movement, how is it that Democrats are scathingly excoriated by the right, while Republicans are merely admonished from time to time? What exactly is conservative about the modern Republican party?

In my opinion, Republicans these days are every bit as responsible for undermining conservative principles as Democrats. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. If Democrats get a score of 15/100 on the conservative scale, maybe Republicans deserve a 30. But that is scarcely recognized in terms of how the voice of conservative America speaks forth.

I ask my conservative friends:

Is not liberty a fundamental conservative principle? Yet it was Republicans who trampled our liberty into the dust via the Patriot Act. Republicans who have persistently sought to stamp out liberty for gays and pregnant women. Republicans who consistently oppose voter registration drives. Why are conservatives not apoplectic over these egregiously anti-liberty positions of the modern Republican party?

Is not fiscal responsibility not a fundamental conservative principle? Yet, somewhere along the way, Republicans decided that massive federal debt is the answer to funding our government. They keep pushing tax cuts, but never spending cuts. How politically expedient is that? — “Have some more dessert, voters; don’t worry about eating your vegetables!” How can putting this country $11 trillion in debt — the pre-Obama total, mind you — possibly be considered fiscally responsible? In fact, I would argue that cutting taxes is the most fiscally irresponsible act possible — if spending is not cut and a massive accumulation of debt is the result. Just ask Dave Ramsey.

So, here’s the real challenge: Are conservatives willing to throw Republicans under the bus along with the Democrats? Are conservatives willing to denounce Republicans who oppose liberty when that means gay rights, or a woman’s right to choose, or giving every possible person the opportunity to vote? Are conservatives willing to embrace fiscal responsibility when that means higher taxes? If so, I’m there to join with you. I’m ready to vote for candidates like that. If he came from my part of the country and were still active in politics, I would vote for Joe Scarborough in a heartbeat.

But as long as Democrats have to take the hit alone, as long as Republicans are given a free pass by conservatives, as long as conservatives remain blind to the myriad of ways that Republicans violate conservative principles in this country, as long as conservatives howl at Nancy Pelosi but cheer Joe Wilson — or Barack Obama versus Sarah Palin, or any other inexplicable dichotomy — I cannot stand with them.

OMG, I’m starting to sound like Ron Paul. Somebody help me.