The latest–an update from Michael Scherer’s smart post below–is that Rand Paul is now saying that he regrets the appearance with Rachel Maddow, not the ridiculous statements he made in favor of a private business’s ability to discriminate according to race. I suspect that this will be the first of many such disasters for the Tea Party libertarians. They are about to find themselves faced with actual political rivals who will be more than happy to expose the utopian foolishness of their ideology. This will be a rare moment of public education for an electorate that doesn’t pay sufficient attention to even the most important aspects of democracy.
If Democrats play their cards right, by November most Americans will know that Medicare is government health care, that social security is a government pension service, that all the bank bailout money either has been paid back or will be covered by a modest tax on too-big-to-fail banks, that the Obama stimulus package mostly consisted of tax cuts for them and support for necessary local government functions like schools and cops–and that the jobs-creating aspects of the stimulus package have been remarkably free of corruption.
If the Republicans play their cards right, they will step away from the brink and recognize that a certain don’t-tread-on-me libertarian spirit has always been close to the heart of the American dream, but that libertarian extremism has always been a loser–and that even Ronald Reagan found that he couldn’t put a dent in the liberal social safety net because it was too popular.
Most extremist moments in American politics are passing fevers. Glenn Beck’s ratings are down; his paranoid act is wearing thin. Balance will eventually be restored–which, in this case, will probably mean fewer Democrats in Congress (because their 2010 levels were unnaturally high, given past history), but it will also mean that more Republicans will understand the downside of demagogic extremism.