Straw men, insults, and “libertarian losers”

from Wikipedia
from Wikipedia

Jeff Bezos has no doubt been having a lot of fun hiring columnists with highly divergent views and letting them duke it out on the editorial pages of The Washington Post. It’s a model that’s also been working very well at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. Everyone loves a good Internet fight, and I remember participating in more than my share many years ago when the BlogHive was still a thing.

With this in mind, I have no reservation about taking Harry Caines to task for his poorly-reasoned flamebait from last week, a piece filled with enough straw men to look like a family reunion scene from The Wizard of Oz.

Let’s do this on a point-by-point basis, shall we?

No organized group in the history of history has ever fielded a track record of screwing up imminent victory more profoundly than the Republican party [sic].

Really? I mean, there’s an obvious case for copious [citation needed] tags here. If we want to talk about screwing up imminent victory more times than we can count, even the Chicago Cubs have a, uh, “better” track record on this.

Or maybe we should talk about the three times that the Democratic Party picked William Jennings Bryan as their presidential nominee and cruised to defeat?

And what kind of loser party holds the House through two elections AND has an 82% chance of taking the Senate? If you think the GOP is the losing-est group in history, maybe you need to expand your study of it.

American Libertarians: a skeptical, quasi-intellectual motley crew of unbending weirdos bent on becoming heard…no matter how nutty they might come off to just about everyone else; a group that believes in limited government to the point of quiescence; personal freedom to the point of allowing tyranny; and, a group that scoffs at practical political reality if it goes against the textbook definition of their philosophy.

Quite a bold declaration to make about a rather wide swath of the population.

If you survey people who identify as libertarians, you’re going to find a wide array or divergent opinions. Sure, there’s some Somali-style anarchists in there. Every movement has its weirdos and fringe lunatics. Environmentalists probably don’t want the folks chaining themselves in trees as their public face, nor do folks who want humane treatment of animals want to be associated with PETA’s turkey memorial nonsense. They’re the whackadoos that get camera time but they’re hardly mainstream, though they do make for a lot of fun stereotypes for late-night comedy writers.

Of course, Mr. Caines isn’t all that interested in finding out what actually motivates libertarians.

He can’t even be bothered to distinguish between Libertarian (as in the party that can’t help but run Andrew McCullough for Attorney General every four years) and libertarian (the general philosophy of government taking a hands off approach as often as possible). Missing a pretty obvious nuance only sets the stage for opting to paint in broad strokes rather.

Rand Paul is now their unquestioned leader.

He is? I didn’t vote for him. I’m more of a Justin Amash guy myself. There’s certain a lot of irony in claiming that a group that embraces borderline anarchism has an “unquestioned leader”, isn’t there?

A man who never met a television camera he didn’t like, Paul has openly courted the support of some whacky, daffy extremists that will taint him and the GOP should he succeed with his lustful desire to rule the world via the American presidency.

Uh… what?

Could you maybe list who the “whacky, daffy extremists” are that Senator Paul has “openly courted”?

So far as I can tell, he has some fans that could be considered a little “off”, but so does Justin Bieber. Naturally, stating that they exist without naming them allows for a comfortable space in which you can make an assertion without having anyone able to fact-check it.

And an assertion that a Senator who has repeatedly railed on civil liberties abuses, unchecked drone strikes, and excessive involvement in the internal affairs of foreign countries is actually just putting on a good show so he can play world dictator?

That’s some serious tin foil hattery stuff going on there. Such a theory might fly on Coast to Coast AM, but most of us would consider it the domain of a “whacky, daffy extremist.”

But when looking at the destructive, corrosive force Libertarians will have within the GOP, political extremism and the belief that they are wackadoos takes 2nd place to a much more potent dilemma: racism.

Rand Paul, along with his father, has an unfortunate history of letting racists have a seat at his table. Starting with the elder Paul, who once produced a newsletter with notoriously racists columns, up to recent years when the younger Paul, who had a social media guru as an aide with the disturbing moniker of the “Southern Avenger”, the Family Paul just can’t get enough of racist white guys.

And there it is. When you can’t really come up with an argument that holds water, either factually or rhetorically, why not fall back on something as universally reviled as racism?

It easily makes people recoil in horror and requires little real evidence, perfect for this situation. The evidence for obviously hating anyone who isn’t a lily-white multigenerational American is an instance in the ’90s of someone printing an insensitive article about blacks in a newsletter under Ron Paul’s name and… a vague online screen name?


Apparently real racism is pretty dead and buried if this it the length we have to reach for to prove it still exists.

I could go on in pointing out the remaining fallacies in the article itself, but I’ve wasted enough bits on that as it is. Once your core argument reaches the same intellectual level as “Obama is a muslim”, you’re pretty much done trashing your own credibility.

The mere existence of this piece demonstrates the fallaciousness of its core thesis.

If libertarianism is a loser, why does it claim an increasing number of adherents both in the general populace and among elected officials?

Why does it have so much influence upon the GOP to the point where Ronald Reagan called it “the very heart and soul of conservatism” three decades ago?

Why are we even having the discussion in the first place if libertarianism, the idea of a minimalist government because we can’t trust people with too much power, is wildly unpopular?

If such a philosophy were really a loser, Harry wouldn’t have even bothered to mention it, much in the same way that I won’t waste column-inches (or whatever the digital equivalent is) on refuting a flat earther. Spending your precious time talking about it, though, tells me you’re more afraid of its ascendency than you are convinced of its impotence.


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