At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture


Rand Paul, Michael Gerson and Logic 101

posted by Jack Kerwick

In his July 18 article, “Rand Paul can never be a mainstream Republican,” former George W. Bush speechwriter and Washington Post writer Michael Gerson can barely contain his glee over what he perceives to be the Kentucky Senator’s fall from grace.  “For a while,” Gerson writes, Paul “succeeded in a difficult maneuver: accepting the inheritance of his father’s movement while distancing himself from the loonier aspects of his father’s ideology.”  But given recent revelations regarding the “neo-confederate” background of one his senior staff members, Paul “has fallen spectacularly off the tightrope.”

Yet his staffer’s “disdain for Lincoln is not a quirk or coincidence,” Gerson is quick to note. What he calls “Paulism” demands “more than the repeal of Obamacare.  It is a form of libertarianism that categorically objects to 150 years of expanding federal power,” the “main domestic justification” of which “has been opposition to slavery and segregation.” From this perspective, “Lincoln…exercised tyrannical powers to pursue an unnecessary war,” and the 1964 Civil Rights Act “violates both states’ rights and individual property rights [.]”

None of this means that the “Paulites” are “racists,” Gerson assures us.  However, it does mean that they are “opponents of the legal methods that ended state-sanctioned racism.”

Gerson is not yet finished. Paul and his supporters “tend to hate war and federal coercion in any form, even in causes generally regarded as good. They opposed the Cold War and nearly every post-World War II American exercise of power. They equate the war on terror with militarism, imperialism and empire. And they remain unhappy with the War of Northern Aggression.”

Gerson’s verdict is unambiguous: It is “impossible for Rand Paul to join the Republican mainstream.”

Let’s simplify Gerson’s argument.  It goes like this:

  1. Rand Paul’s supporters “tend to hate war and federal coercion in any form [.]”
  2. They also tend toward “neo-confederacy” inasmuch as they are “opponents of the legal methods that ended state-sanctioned racism.”
  3. Therefore, Rand Paul can never “join the Republican mainstream.”

Considered individually, the inaccuracy of Gerson’s claims can easily be exposed.  The largest problem with his argument, though, isn’t the substance of its parts, but its incoherence.

If Paul’s supporters were the “neo-confederate” quasi-racists who Gerson says they are, defenders of “a regime founded on slavery” and de facto defenders of “state-sanctioned racism,” then we would surely have to consider carefully Gerson’s admonishment regarding Paul.

And if Paul’s supporters really did “hate war and federal coercion” under and any and all circumstances, then, again, the wise would have to take to heart Gerson’s counsel against backing Paul.

But Gerson would have us think that these libertarians are at once consumed by an inordinate passion for liberty as well as an equally inordinate passion for “a regime founded on slavery,” a burning hatred for war, the penultimate emblem of coercion, and a comparably intense affection for the coercion required by “state-sanctioned” racism.

Paul and his supporters love liberty and they hate liberty. They love coercion and they hate coercion.  They are statists and anti-statists.

Gerson’s position is what we may call an “argument from the Kitchen Sink,” an argument in which the arguer tries to throw everything and the proverbial kitchen sink against his target in the hopes that, eventually, something will stick.

It is also what logicians have long recognized as an argument against the person, the old ad hominem attack.

Whatever name we choose to give to it, Gerson’s argument is bad, even pathetic.  We should, unfortunately, get used to it, for Rand Paul’s rivals—the Gersonians of the Republican Party—promise to haunt us with it in one form or another until Paul has been discredited.

 

 

 

 



Previous Posts

Losing the Language: How the GOP Undermines Itself--and Liberty
As the mid-term elections approach, it’s high time for Republican commentators to walk the walk. Just the other morning, Mark Steyn, busily promoting his new book, made an appearance on Bill Bennett’s radio program. The latter agreed enthusiastically with the former that in order for conserva

posted 10:16:04pm Oct. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Political Correctness and Ebola
That there is a sensationalistic dimension to the Ebola coverage is something of which I have no doubt. Sensationalizing events is what the media does best. There may even be a sense in which it can be said that sensationalism is intrinsic to mass media.  Sensationalism serves the interests of t

posted 10:26:30pm Oct. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Capital Punishment Revisited
For a discussion of capital punishment, with no thinker is there a better place to begin than Ernest van den Haag. It is with justice that the latter’s seminal analysis of this topic is a staple of textbooks in college ethics courses nationwide: the author addresses the thicket of issues that are

posted 9:11:40am Oct. 14, 2014 | read full post »

Abortion Reconsidered III
Dan Marquis contends that except in “rare cases,” abortion is immoral, and it is immoral, he further argues, because the fetus has a “FLO”—a “future like ours.” Before arguing that abortion is wrong, Marquis first attempts to show what makes killing in general wrong. Killing is wron

posted 6:30:13pm Oct. 12, 2014 | read full post »

The Left, Columbus, and Why This Day is Still Worth Celebrating
Few holidays are as “politically incorrect” as is the day that Americans reserve to commemorate the birthday of Christopher Columbus. Such is the ferocity of the smear campaign to which Columbus has been subjected for decades that he has been made into a villain among villains in the rogues’ g

posted 6:11:01pm Oct. 12, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.