"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul and Civil Rights

Rand Paul is now the GOP nominee to be the next senator from the state of Kentucky. But since winning his primary on Tuesday night, he has come under heavy criticism for refusing to say whether he would support Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. For those who don't know, that is the title which required the desegregation of private establisments. Basically, it meant white business owners no longer had the right to refuse service to a black person.

Now Rand Paul, on NPR, Rachel Maddow, and in his hometown paper, has vigorously denied any charges of racism. However, every article I've read on this subject has noted that right before saying "but c'mon, how can you not be a racist, or at least harbor sympathy for racists, if you are going to oppose that part of the CVA."

There are some critical distinctions that need to be made here, which most journalists will not make, due to malice or ignorance. First, Paul's position is that what you do with what's private is nobody else's business. As a Christian with Libertarian leanings, this is where the rubber meets the road for me and I sacrifice some political principle because of my faith (not that I am at all complaining). But there are certain things which are done in private which should not be. Is discrimination based on race one of them? Absolutely. But if we are going to regulate people's private business, how can Rachel Maddow, a proud lesbian, beg for laws about gay marriage to be repealed? She certainly cannot do it based on the argument that what people do in private is their own business. The first point is that there are many hypocrites out there who are going to butcher Rand Paul, but are going to turn around on another issue and say, yes, Dr. Paul is correct. The federal government has no right to be interfering in private affairs.

Secondly, is the argument for the role of government. Paul is not a racist, we have to take him at his word. But Paul does not believe that institutional racism should be fought by the government. Truly, all the government can do is cover-up racism. That much is true. Only changed hearts can truly end bigotry. That will not stop people from saying, "well, you might not be a racist, but why won't you do anything to stop it." To which I would say, "you might not sympathize with Saddam Hussein's genocidal activity, but what did you do to stop him." In other words, people who opposed the deposing of Hussein in Iraq (myself included) saw a more limited role for govt. and military in this case. It did not mean in any way that I or anyone else thought he was a swell guy. We just saw a different role for the government.

This issue could hurt Rand Paul considerably in his general election run. But having a different understanding of the role of government, even on a salient issue, does not mean you are a racist or wrong. In fact, Paul's philosophy is very close to main-stream America. It's just that main-stream America is very inconsistent when it comes to this highly charged issue. We'll see how things pan out. I hope he does not lose for holding a consistent philosophy-heaven knows we need principled people in Washington.


  1. I was recently reading an interview with Rand Paul about a completely different topic and I was discouraged by his response. Questions were posed to him regarding the recent mining tragedy in WVA and the oil rig explosion in the Gulf and this was his quoted reply:

    "The problem a lot of times is that many people look at tragedy and accident, and think that there always has to be someone to blame," he told Siegel.

    I think it's not always someone's fault. I think there are things that happen in nature, things that happen that are tragedies. I think the mining explosion was a great tragedy and I have great sympathy for those families out there, I've met a lot these miners, I've met their families and they're hard working people who do work in a risky environment, but I don't think that I see that there is some sort of evil business there that is trying to harm people.

    I think that sometimes we have tragedies and accidents. I think you may find with this oil rig explosion -- I'm not sure if there was someone at fault, or if they broke any rules, but I think we investigate them in a reasonable, non-emotional fashion and try to come up with answers.

    I frankly find these comments to be downright disturbing. I fail to see how any thinking citizen can not see that there are huge company mistakes that led to both of these tragedies and subsequently are leading to lies and cover ups.

    Now, I am willing to admit that it is possible that these comments were taken out of context, but I think we need to be wary of putting more people in Washington that will continue the status quo of total and complete support of big businesses.

  2. It's a good point. I don't now if he is his father on this issue, but one of the things I loved abour Ron is his anti-corporatism, while still supporting business, big or small.

    It does make you wonder if a truly libertarian political philosophy is workable.