Tea Party's Rand Paul Squashes GOP Candidate in KY Primary
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During the 2008 presidential campaign, Howard Phillips' Conservative Caucus acted as something of a messaging clearinghouse for what would become the Tea Party movement, raising questions about Barack Obama's birth certificate, and painting the first black presidential candidate of a major party as a socialist.
Tonight, Paul invoked the latter theme, a bit more subtly, in his victory speech."We now have a president...who apologizes for America's greatness," Paul said. "We have a president who went to Copenhagen (for the climate summit) and appeared with Robert Mugabe, Hugo Chavez and others -- Evo Morales -- to apologize for the industrial revolution.They say -- these petty dictators say -- that to stop climate change, it's about ending capitalism..."
In naming the heads of state of Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Bolivia, Paul lumped Obama in with one black African despot and two brown Latino socialists. Apparently, none of the white heads of state -- not even the socialist ones -- came to mind as proxies for Paul's idea of the president.
But there's more to Howard Phillips' constitutionalism than just virulent anti-socialism and white nativism. Phillips is an acolyte of John Rousas Rushdoony, the father of Christian Reconstructionism, a radical authoritarian theology that seeks to reclaim the law of the Hebrew Bible, laid out in the Book of Leviticus, as the law of the land -- right down to the stoning of adulterers and "practicing homosexuals." Rushdoony also argued for the separation of the races.
While Paul himself shows no sign of embracing Reconstructionism, he did invoke the language of Leviticus during the campaign to explain his stance on reproductive rights. "I believe abortion is an abomination," he told the Associated Press, language used time and again by Howard Phillips, whose U.S. Taxpayers Party (the precursor to the current Constitution Party) was deeply connected to the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue in the 1990s. Paul promised to "cast every vote in favor of protecting life." He also stated his support for a "human life amendment" to the Constitution.
And The Winner Is...Jim DeMint
At this moment, Rand Paul is riding a wave of voter discontent with Washington, and a sense of resentment among a certain segment of the white middle class that they're somehow more screwed than others in today's teetering economy. But it remains to be seen whether or not he can sustain his momentum once his views are better known.
A poll conducted by Research 2000 for the Daily Kos last week showed Paul with just a 3-point advantage in a match-up against Conway. But once it becomes known that he opposes federal agricultural subsidies, the voters of Kentucky -- a rural state -- may find the Democrat more to their liking.
But the Tea Party's Kentucky triumph is not just about this election, or just about Kentucky, or just about the Tea Party. It's about the ascendancy, once again, of a virus that has been in remission, that of a destructive strain of right-wing, authoritarian capitalism. As Nobel laureate Paul Krugman noted in Monday's New York Times, this is not a new movement: it's just the latest expression of a very old one -- one whose leaders have been content to gain their ground inch by inch. For the old men of the far right, even a loss by Rand Paul in the general election for U.S. Senate will be regarded as a victory. In the home state of the Senate minority leader, they vanquished the leader's own candidate, and cast themselves as kingmakers. For now, they will be content to simply take over the Republican Party, knowing that their day will come.