After having a good cry over their preferred candidates' epic losses yesterday, MSNBC's Election Night hosts decided to cheer each other up by turning to a favorite activity: bashing Republicans. There's nothing wrong with that—lots of Republicans deserve a good bashing—but when the conversation strayed from "McCarthy-esque" (Chris Mathews' word) Sen. Ted Cruz to "know-nothing" (Rachel Maddow's word) Sen. Rand Paul, things got ugly.
First, the hosts noted that Paul actually experienced something of a setback last night in his likely quest for the presidency. Kentucky law bars candidates from running in two different elections at the same time, which means that Paul would not be able to run for both the Republican presidential nomination and his Senate seat in 2016. A Republican state legislature could have changed the law to make things easier for Paul, but the Democrats retained control.
Matthews insisted that Paul would run for president no matter what. He defended the libertarian-leaning Congressman as a person of vision and ideas. Paul offers a completely unique perspective, and his libertarian brand has earned him the title of Most Interesting Man in Politics, according to Matthews. The host lamented that no one on the left possessed Paul's flare for bold ideas relating to foreign policy and civil liberties.
Maddow, on the other hand, derided Paul as nothing more than an opportunist who took advantage of his father's acclaim. More odiously, she insisted that Paul had no good ideas and was actually clueless on foreign policy, civil liberties, and monetary policy. Here is a transcript of her simpering remarks, which seem specifically designed to inflame libertarians:
"I don't believe that Rand Paul has ideas. Did you listen to his filibuster when he was talking about drones? He's talking about how much he cares about this drone policy? He has no idea what the drone policy is. He says he cares about the Fed? He has no idea what monetary policy is. He says he cares about criminal justice reform? He has no idea what he's talking about.
Matthews disagreed vehemently, but nobody else on the panel came to Paul's defense.
If Maddow truly thinks Paul has "no ideas," I would like her to name someone she does consider to be informed about these matters. I would also like to see her square her tirade with Paul's undeniably productive efforts to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing, lawsuit against the NSA, support for demilitarizing the police in the wake of Ferguson, legislation to restore voting rights to felons, insistence that Congress should vote on war authorization, and moderate position on drug legalization.
I find it more plausible that Maddow is perfectly aware of Paul's relatively progressive positions on these issues. But since admitting that would shatter the left-right prism in which she lives, she must pretend that everyone with an R next to his name represents everything she despises. And she has to keep her audience from learning more about libertarian-leaning Republicans and discovering that they aren't so bad after all.
Read more about why libertarianism is having a moment here.