Rand Paul, the Civil Rights Act & the Tea Party Double-Shuffle

Posted on May 21, 2010

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Tea Party icon, and Republican Senatorial candidate for Kentucky, Rand Paul has come under fire for his remarks regarding the US Civil Rights Act of 1964.  He thought it was all right for government to outlaw discrimination on the basis of race in government offices and government-funded operations, but private businesses, as far as he was concerned, should have been excluded from the Act.  He remarked in an interview that if he had been around to vote in 1964, he would have supported Barry Goldwater and voted against the Civil Rights Act on principle.

We shouldn’t be surprised that this is something Rand Paul would say, because he’s a Libertarian and that’s how Libertarians think.  And the Tea Party is filled with Libertarians and other true believers.  You go a Tea Party, and you get a Rand Paul.  Rugged individualist.

Of course, Rand Paul is now changing his tune on the Civil Rights Act.  He now says the Act was necessary—and had to be applied to businesses—because of 120 years of entrenched discrimination.

This argument has a loophole, of course.  Rand Paul could argue to himself, Yes, I can publicly say I’m in favour of the Civil Rights Act, 1964, because that was 1964 and the historical argument applied then.  But (he says to himself, crossing his fingers behind his back) we’re not in 1964 anymore, are we?

And that little loophole would explain Rand Paul’s letter to the Bowling Green Daily News on 30 May 2002.

(I found this posted at the following site:  http://pageonekentucky.com/2010/05/20/rand-paul-made-same-racial-comments-in-2002/ I have no reason to doubt it’s authenticity since this letter has been widely referred to in the media and its existence is easily verifiable.)

Rand Paul wrote:

A recent Daily News editorial supported the Federal Fair Housing Act.  At first glance, who could object to preventing discrimination in housing?  Most citizens would agree that it is wrong to deny taxpayer-financed, “public” housing to anyone based on the color of their skin or the number of children in the household.

But the Daily News ignores, as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property.  Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual’s beliefs or attributes?  Most certainly.  Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn’t want noisy children?  Absolutely not.

Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered.  As a consequence, some associations will discriminate.

A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination – even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin.

There it is.  But can we reconcile what Rand Paul is furiously back-pedalling on—the US Civil Rights Act, 1964—and his obvious and continuing support for the right of free enterprise to discriminate on the basis of race?  (Or sexual orientation.  Or religion.  Or gender.)

Why, of course we can.

His little loophole.  That 120 years of unaddressed racism which Rand Paul gave as his reason for—reluctantly—supporting the Act.  He applies that 120 years to 1964.  That 120 years (maybe, if you insist) changed the equation then.  That doesn’t mean—oh no—that he still thinks its relevant in 2010.

A classic Tea Party-style double-shuffle.

Question:  How can you be both for and against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the same time?

Ask Rand Paul.  He knows.  Just find a reason, then pretend in your mind that it no longer applies.  And don’t forget to cross your fingers behind your back.

I mean, racism is over now, right?  The Tea Party tells us so.  That means (how can you fight the inexorable logic of it all) it’s all right to make racism legal in the private sphere again, right?  That means the discreet return of lunch counters for Whites only, night clubs that don’t allow people of undesirable colour, circumstances which Rand Paul weeps nine or eleven tears about, but philosophically defends.

Rand Paul is really sorry to point out that we’re no longer in 1964.

To repeat Rand Paul’s own statement:

A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination – even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin.

And the Tea Party is all for building a “free” society.

Posted in: politics