Watching Rand Paul try to wiggle out from his statements about opposition to The Civil rights Act of 1964 was like watching a weasel trying to find an escape route from a chicken pen. For a man who says he is not a politician, it was a study in political obfuscation. (Kudos to Rachel for putting him on the spot.)
What Paul believes is that the government has no right to instruct private business to not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin. What this means is that he believes the progress we have made in desegregation of public accommodations like restaurants and bars and department stores would never have happened, and may be turned back . It also means that private employers would not be required to hire blacks and Hispanics and women, and landlords could exclude any minorities.
Paul says that he is adamantly opposed to discrimination, but he thinks that the rights of property owners are more important. The diversions Rand used to avoid this basic fact were many and curious.
Paul claimed, for example that Boston was integrated in 1840 by the great work of Williiam Lloyd Garrison, and by implication similar efforts would have eventually integrated the South. Nice idea, except that Boston was the most segregated city in the North until recent years, and it’s school busing riots were as violent as those in Birmingham.
Then he tried to shift the discussion to freedom of speech… as in “should we prohibit crazy racists from saying what they think?” Of course, no one has ever suggested that racists do not have a right to say their piece, regardless of how outrageous it is. In fact most liberals go to the wall to defend the rights of nut jobs like Fred Phelps and the American Nazi Party. The ACLU (of which I am a card carrying member) has always come to the defense of these whackos. (My personal view is that the solution to Fred Phelps is a gang of liberals armed with ball bats). Moreover, freedom of speech has nothing to do with ensuring a just and integrated society i.e. restricting your diner to whites only is not “speech.”
Then Paul moved on to the Second Amendment, as in “if you can force people to serve blacks, shouldn’t you force them to serve armed nut jobs?” (Curiously I just had lunch in a rural Kansas saloon that had a sign on the door: “NO GUNS ALLOWED.”) This is, of course, a ridiculous comparison. While the government has a compelling interest in promoting a just society through integration, it has no compelling interest in promoting shoot outs at the OK Saloon.
Rand Paul’s twisted logic is typical of the nonsense that we often hear from the Pee Party, all gas and no facts. It is marked primarily by an inability to read history, to understand context, to get the finer points of reality. Paul is an idealist and in some ways I admire that, but you can’t run a government based on idealism. It takes a thorough appreciation of the gray areas, a willingness to craft policies that address the best solution, not the ideal system. The Constitution itself, about which Paul claims (incorrectly) to be an expert, was a compromise. It would never have been ratified if it had been left to idealists.