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to regulate people's private business, how can Rachel Maddow, a proud lesbian, beg for laws about gay marriage to be repealed?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.