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That’s Enough, Rand

May 22, 2010

May hiatus over.  In case you’ve been in a cave for the past week, Rand Paul won a big primary in Kentucky and then proceeded to jump into the political shark tank shootin’ his mouth off like he doesn’t care if it gets shot off.  Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch given the lengths to which he’s gone to convince everybody that he ain’t no racist, but asserting that you might not have voted for what most people believe is one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history and kind of defending an oil company that just caused potentially the greatest environmental disaster in the same week is quite a feat for a guy who hasn’t even been elected to Congress yet (and people certainly like to talk about it—maybe that’s why I feel like I orta give my two cents).

Rand says he believes that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 exemplifies a classic overreach on the part of the feds.  Instead of forcing businesses not to discriminate on the basis of race, the social stigma which accompanies corporate discrimination—and the subsequent loss of business as a result—should be enough to discourage said business from doing just that.  Predictably, some have defended him, some think he’s a racist (or that’s what it boils down to), some say he’s an extremist, and some think he’s just an idiot.  Upon sifting through all the discussion, I find (once again) that Bruce Bartlett has the best take on the issue wherein he proves that the social stigma of the 1960s was in fact the opposite of Rand’s belief and, therefore, the feds had to get involved.  His conclusion:

I don’t believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only–freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists. To defend the rights of racists to discriminate is reprehensible and especially so when it is done by a major party nominee for the U.S. Senate. I believe that Rand should admit that he was wrong as quickly as possible.

Rand didn’t really make a racist political gaffe, but he did make a rather juvenile statement about libertarianism and civil rights.  Personally, I don’t think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is really necessary for 2010’s America.  Nowadays, a business probably—strike that, definitely—would lose customers if it discriminated on the basis of race (would the place even last a week?).  Unfortunately, 2010 is not 1964, and regardless of the era, politicians still have to deal with political realities rather than hopes and dreams.  And the truth is that in 1964, federal intervention was the only mechanism available to combat institutional racism—social stigma didn’t cut it then, and it probably wouldn’t cut it now were it not for the CRA.  On this issue, Rand Paul isn’t some kind of bigot, he’s just naïve.

It’s certainly refreshing to see a politician operating somewhat outside of the tired TP-driven conversation that I get so sick of hearing.   Sadly, Rand didn’t really think this one through too good.  Let’s hope he does in the future.

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