"WHEN FASCISM COMES TO AMERICA IT WILL BE WRAPPED IN THE FLAG
AND CARRYING A CROSS." -SINCLAIR LEWIS

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul Isn't A Racist, He's Just A Dumbass

How can someone be this clueless about politics whilst running for the Senate?

Tea Party hero Rand Paul scrambled Thursday to tamp down the growing firestorm over his criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The new Republican Senate nominee from Kentucky released a rambling statement amid calls to explain comments that he would have opposed a central tenet of the landmark law: forcing private businesses to integrate.

"I support the Civil Rights Act because I overwhelmingly agree with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination," Paul said Thursday.

In interviews Wednesday, Paul said that while he opposed discrimination, he thought "a lot of things could be handled locally."

The remark was at odds with history: Before the 1960s civil rights laws, white segregationists had an iron grip on local and state governments throughout the South.
It seems to me that Paul is trying to have an intellectual and philosophical argument as he's running for office in the real world and that intellectual honesty, while surprisingly refreshing, is biting him in the ass as a result. His main point is that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was obviously a good thing and ensured equal rights for all Americans but that it also impinged on the individual rights of business owners and others by forcing them to accommodate black people and other minorities as well as whites. And this is all true. His problem is that he's arguing historically unpopular points and he's being extraordinarily tone deaf about the impact of those points at the same time.

Yes, the Civil Rights Act did limit personal freedom in certain ways but those limits were made necessary by a national history of slavery and a time of extreme racial tensions. It's all well and good to argue that Libertarian principles and personal freedom should be the goal of a truly equal society and if this were a purely academic argument set outside of history and culture it might sound pretty convincing but we've already tried that philosophy out in the crucible of the real world and it failed miserably. The freedom to discriminate against anyone as it applies to one's place of business led not to more equality but rather to more racism and more oppression of minorities and as time went on it became obvious that only the federal government had the ability to adequately right these historical inequities.

We see the same denial of historic evidence as it pertains to the war on illegal drugs: even though we have a perfect historical corollary in the failure of Prohibition to show that this attempt at social engineering categorically does not work there are still millions of short-sighted individuals who simply refuse to examine history and make this logical deduction. The difference here is that while supporting the failed drug war is still a popular political stance to take in many circles speaking out against the Civil Rights Act, even if just in theory, is an extremely unpopular thing to do in practically every venue and it's almost unthinkable if one wishes to be elected to national office. Regardless of the intellectual point that Paul is trying to illustrate (and I understand and agree with that point, if only on principle), to try and make it during a national Senate bid is naive at best and politically suicidal at worst. In the end I doubt that Paul will lose this race because people perceive him as a racist as a result of this controversy; whether he loses it because he's proven himself a clueless dumbass remains yet to be seen.

[Update: Ezra Klein has a few questions concerning Paul's strict Libertarian views:
...unfortunately for Paul, this isn't over. Not by a long shot. There is a category of scandal that I call "area politician believes kooky but harmless thing." A candidate who thinks he was abducted by UFOs would fit here. It's weird, but it doesn't have many implications for public policy. What's gotten Paul in trouble, however, is that he's so skeptical of government power that he's not even comfortable with the public sector telling private businesses that they can't discriminate based on race. That, I fear, does have public policy implications.

For instance: Can the federal government set the private sector's minimum wage? Can it tell private businesses not to hire illegal immigrants? Can it tell oil companies what safety systems to build into an offshore drilling platform? Can it tell toy companies to test for lead? Can it tell liquor stores not to sell to minors? These are the sort of questions that Paul needs to be asked now, because the issue is not "area politician believes kooky but harmless thing." It's "area politician espouses extremist philosophy on issue he will be voting on constantly."

This is the problem with pure Libertarianism and it's the reason Libertarians never get more than a few percentage points in elections: their principles are largely untenable in the real world. Personal freedom is a great thing and I'm all for having hypothetical intellectual arguments but allowing institutional racial discrimination or going back to the gold standard are absurd ideas in a modern society. Plus, Paul isn't even as ideologically rigid as he comes off: he has lately said that he would not leave abortion to the states, he doesn't believe in legalizing drugs like marijuana and cocaine, he'd support federal drug laws and he's ignored the regulatory and safety corner cutting that allowed the BP disaster to occur in the Gulf by stating that "sometimes accidents happen". The only thing worse than a strict unbending Libertarian is someone who arbitrarily believes in personal freedoms only when they suit him personally. And we've all seen what that looks like, haven't we?]

[Update II: One of Andrew Sullivan's readers sums up the position of intellectual theory versus real world practice better than I:
There are no purely intellectual positions for people who wish to be elected to government office. The consequences of their philosophies must be their responsibility. Balancing intellectual ideals with the reality of human action is what we expect from our leaders.
People tell me all the time that I should run for some type of political office, and I echo Sullivan in replying that this is one reason why I haven't. Yet.]

4 comments:

Donald Douglas said...

What part of "state-sponsored non-private Jim Crow segregation" do you not understand. Rand Paul denounced it, in no uncertain terms.

I guess you love some libertarianism if it allows you to smoke fat hoochie marijuana joints (breaking the law) but not when it favors individual freedom to associate with those of one's own choice.

James B. "Boogie Nights" Webb: Hypocritical troll and FAKE libertarian.

No debate here, loser. You're not banned at AMPOW. But gotchas are deleted FAIL (your trademark, btw).

JBW said...

Don Douglas, as I live and breathe! Why would you ever lower yourself to comment on my filthy commie website? Oh yeah, because you keep deleting my comments on yours...

If you read my post you'd see that I agreed with Paul's stand on principle, I just think he's a fool to stick to his guns on this largely academic argument when he's running for office. He can denounce "state-sponsored non-private Jim Crow segregation" all he likes but if he thinks that would ever have gone away in the South without government intervention he's obviously a dumbass and history bears this out. Are you saying then that you agree with William F. Buckley "that the federal enforcement of integration was worse than the temporary continuation of segregation"? If not, what exactly are you defending?

And yes, I do love Libertarianism if it allows me to smoke "fat hoochie marijuana joints". Is that what the kids are calling them in So-Cal? No, it's more likely that's what unhip prohibitionists like yourself call them. Plus my doctor's recommendation keeps me well within California law. And I'm sure the speedometer on your grocery-getter has never exceeded 65 mph for the same reasons, right? Because everyone knows that bong hits on the couch are so much more dangerous to society than a speeding automobile...

Of course I endorse the individual freedom to associate with those of one's own choice. You can hang out solely with just black guys or just white guys or just half black/half white guys to your heart's content, I just don't think businesses should be able to hang "No Coloreds" signs in their windows. As you tried to intimate, my Libertarianism does have limits, hence the word "Socialist" after the dash that so confounds you.

As always Don, it's you who would empower the US government to impinge on the individual freedoms of its citizens, whether those freedoms are to enjoy the sticky icky or be free from bodily torture and unlimited imprisonment. And you're right: there is no debate here. Just a grumpy old man calling me names in lieu of one.

Oh, and I wouldn't trade in gotchas if you didn't make it so easy to do so. You, accusing someone else of being a whiny minority crying "RAAACISM!"? Fish in a barrel, my fleshy friend. Fish in a barrel.

one L said...

I liked this post. The comments bored me, but the post was solid.

A few weeks back, a buddy (Caleb) and I were explaining the general beliefs/principles of the Libertarian party to a friend of ours (John). His reaction was interesting. He took from the description that Libs are just slightly left of Republicans. I told him that I thought you could actually consider them to the left of Democrats and be justified.

The reason we were having the conversation is because - a week prior to that - one of the most conservative guys I know (Kevin) claimed that he considered himself a little more Libertarian than Republican... when Caleb and I started peppering him with questions, he realized his error and started backtracking a little.

So when I told John that I was way more Libertarian than Kevin, he said, "You? But I thought you were just condemning them?" I responded with, "Was I?" and John became so upside-down and backwards that we all ended it there.

All that to say, it's hard out there for a pimp; but especially for Libertarians.

JBW said...

Thanks, one L. I know several conservatives who claim to be more Libertarian than Republican but when I start to grill them about their beliefs it becomes pretty clear that they don't mind the government curtailing the rights of the citizenry in many ways.

And it's even harder out here for a Libertarian-Socialist, my friend.