Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul: Conservative, Libertarian, Segregationist

Yesterday, NPR was sniffing around the question of whether Rand Paul would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if he had been in the Senate.

That's a significant and uncomfortable question for any libertarian-inspired, small government conservative. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made every lunch at the local diner and every trip to Woolworths into a federal matter because it banned racial discrimination in relation to serving customers, hiring workers and management, promoting people to new positions, and just about every matter connected to the conduct of private business.

If you like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you see the federal government acting with real heroism to overturn a monstrous system of segregation that made the American South an evil place of racial hate, intimidation, violence, and deprivation. I read about the fight over the Civil Rights Act every day for months when I was a 9 and 10 year old kid. I'm proud to say that I've always supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even though I'm embarrassed to say that the legislation was so desperately needed in my country and I'm doubly embarrassed to say that because I'm white and people like my relatives were enforcing segregation in the South and more silently discriminating in the North.

But if you're a libertarian conservative, you would be more likely to see the federal government acting in a completely illegitimate and unconstitutional manner to force private businesses to serve African-American customers, hire African-American employees, and promote African-American employees when hired. If you're a libertarian conservative, you value the freedom of white employers to serve, hire, promote, and fire who they want over the freedom of African-Americans to shop, work, and receive recognition for their efforts.

Moreover, the Civil Rights Act violated libertarian/conservative principles of federalism because it represented a massive expansion of the power of the federal government in relation to the states. In many ways, the Civil Rights Act was even worse the New Deal from a "federalist" point of view. Where the New Deal offended federalist sensabilities by establishing a number of new federal programs and regulations, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 overturned a vast web of state laws pertaining to race in the South. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only vastly increased the power of the federal government, it curtailed the power of Southern state governments in the area of their highest priority--race relations.

These were the reasons why Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and these are the reasons that Rand Paul would vote against the Civil Rights Act if it were brought back up for a vote today.
Paul explained [to the Louisville Courier-Journal] that he backed the portion of the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination in public places and institutions, but that he thinks private businesses should be permitted to discriminate by race.
In an ideal world, Rand Paul would take the country back to the period before 1964 when private businesses were free to discriminate against African-Americans in any way they wanted.
To be fair, Paul should get credit for his honesty on the issue. Even though the Republican Party has been the party of conservative white racial backlash against Civil Rights ever since Goldwater's candidacy in 1964, few if any Republicans have acknowledged their opposition to what they have to view as one of the "original sins" of big government in Civil Rights legislation.

But that honesty doesn't make him qualified to be a U. S. Senator from Kentucky.

Or anywhere else.

1 comment:

Todd Mayo said...

"...that honesty doesn't make him qualified to be a U. S. Senator from Kentucky...Or anywhere else."
That's the bottom-line here. I am cursed to have in my family tree, ancestors who not only would have opposed The Civil Rights Act, The Voting Rights Act, The Fair Housing Act, and Affirmative Action, they would have and did commit treason against the legitimate government of The United States of America from 1861-1865 by supporting and participating in the secession of the southern states. These ancestors owned other human beings as property. These ancestors have stained the name of the Mayo family with blood we can never wash away! I am ashamed of them and of my familiy participation in the perpetuation of a society in which businesses would even CONSIDER denying certain people access based upon differences of race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Yet I cannot escape the sins of my progenitors anymore than the victims of those sins can.
Now along comes some libertarian nut-case from Texas to try and convince people of families like mine that we were never the problem! He comes here to tell us that segregation must be acceptable in a free society!?! That's rather like telling us that in order to "save" our freedom, we must abandon it. (Argument for the Patriot Act boiled down to its essential nonsence.) I agree Ric, I too like a bit of ideological honesty from the far-right. It is far easier to show voters who and what people like Rand Paul truly are. As a Conway supporter, I suppose I should thank Dr. Paul for his honesty. Jack Conway's job has just been made far easier.