Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rand Paul Says He's Not A Racist. Ok, Well Here's A Way To Prove It

There's been plenty of talk about Rand Paul and his indecision about whether he supports the ban on private discrimination that was part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Let's back up to Tuesday night, shall we?

The younger Mr. Paul made clear on Tuesday that the celebration at the Bowling Green Country Club was a Tea Party party. He declared himself a proud member, credited the movement for his success and dismissed speculation that he would abandon its message to appeal to more moderate voters in the general election.
“People are already saying, now you need to weave and dodge,” he said. “Now you need to switch. Now you need to give up your conservative message. You need to become a moderate. You need to give up the Tea Party. You need to distance yourself.” The crowd yelled “No!”

Rand Paul followed that speech up by going on Rachel Maddow's show the next night and weaving and dodging, as he simply refused to give an answer when Maddow asked him whether he thought businesses should be able to refuse to serve blacks. Watch this embarrassing exchange:

Of course, Paul has been saying for quite some time that he thinks the government should not get involved, but all of sudden he is faced with the prospect of having to defend the reality of such a position in front of people who think it's abhorrent. By the next night he was proclaiming his support for a ban on this kind of discrimination.

So much for consistency and being above politics. I guess getting elected is more important.

But I want to follow up on Paul's argument a little more. I've been asking around on libertarian message boards, and, at least among these people, the answer to Maddow's question seems to be a resounding no. Libertarians, quite frankly, believe that Congress does not have the constitutional power to forbid discrimination in private business.

Let's take that argument at face value, for it seems to be the argument that Rand Paul is making. Paul keeps protesting that he is not a racist, but rather someone who just believes in following the Constitution. He talks about how discrimination is terrible, and how he wishes it would all go away, but throws his hands up in the air and says it can't be helped-the Constitution just doesn't allow Congress to interfere. 

Well, I have a suggestion for Mr. Paul. If he really believes that discrimination is terrible, and an affront to humanity, and that he would love to ban it but for the Constitution, then he should promise that his first act as a U.S. Senator will be to sponsor an amendment to the Constitution banning discrimination. This should take care of all of his concerns.

In fact, I think he has a duty. He has now claimed that he is not a racist, that he is opposed to discrimination, and that he supports the Civil Rights Act in its entirety although he thinks that it is unconstitutional. What choice left is there for an honorable man in this situation but to rectify the situation through a Constitutional amendment?

Needless to say, I won't hold my breath waiting for this to happen.


  1. Libertarians (of which I was one, between my anarchist and current all-American pragmatist phases) provide useful brain exercises. So I was looking forward to Rand Paul's entrance on the national political stage.

    But he face-planted. Pete, did you catch that thread a couple weeks back about "epistemic closure"? About the right wing's vast, expensive and sturdy firewall that blocks all facts that might make them uncomfortable? Rand's a perfect example. His meltdown revealed a guy who has never had to defend his principles from a serious challenge.

    He's a lousy libertarian, anyway, a kookie hybrid of theocrat and corporatist.

  2. I was a libertarian myself, back when I thought I knew everything. And no, that wasn't yesterday. It's been quite some time since I've been that vain.

    The face plant was fairly spectacular. And while I don't think he's an intentional racist, I've come to the belief that when you promote an ideology with discriminatory results, the difference is more or less academic.

    The epistemic closure on the right is fairly extreme, but I think there are two groups to which it applies. The first is the conservative, authoritarian right; the closure there is one of choice. It's not that the right doesn't understand reality, it's that they choose not to, as belonging to a tribe of like-minded fools is more important that finding the truth.

    The libertarian right, on the other hand, values truth more than anything, and yet it is precisely that valuation which hamstrings it. Having found what it believes to be the truth in simplistic explanations of complex reality, it is loath to let go, and is intelligent enough to construct an elegant, if fantastical, unified theory of human existence. And leaving such beauty behind is painful.

    However, I hold out hope for the libertarian. You and I are living proof of that, as are a great many leftists who have left their vanities behind. I share many points of view with them, and most importantly, I think that libertarians who see the light make the best leftists.

    Rand Paul, however, has a long way to go.

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  4. I'm going to use the next election cycle to win over a fairly hefty Western group, the Tea Party Hedonist. They're overworked, cranky, and don't have time to pay attention. Noisy teabaggers and freak-show loving cable news outlets gave Tea Party Hedonists something to vent with, especially the pox-on-both-houses angle.

    But the Tea Party Hedonist is in it for the libertarian angle and had no use for the tired right-wing drama-queen morality police outbreaks which is also the Tea Party. TPHers will have to grudgingly admit that liberal democracy has come closest to the achieving the (fantastical) libertarian ideal.