Let Rand be Rand!!

May 25th, 2010

By now everyone has probably heard about Rand Paul’s tumultuous week.

Frank Rich sums it up nicely here.

If you missed it, the Rich article contains links to many of the essential parts. I suggest that you click on the Maddow link and follow it wherever it takes you (even to a defense of Paul from a conservative Christian group).

In his acceptance speech, Paul defiantly tied himself to the Tea Party. “The Tea Party Movement is huge,” he said. “The mandate of our victory is huge.”¬† Ignoring Tip O’ Neil’s maxim that all politics is local, Paul mentioned Kentucky just once and the Tea Party nine times.

He followed up the next day with an appearance on the Rachel Maddow show where he said that he had some problems with the most famous civil rights bill in American history, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It’s not like this¬†issue came out of the blue, or Paul hadn’t thought about it before. He had commented on it during the campaign and when he was asked about it by Maddow, he said that he agreed with 9/10 of the bill, but disagreed with the section which disallowed discrimination in private businesses (which is a huge part of the law). Also, he has a written record, writing in a letter against the 1968 Fair Housing Act to his local paper in 2002:

“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. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities.”

So this is no “gotcha” question (as Sarah Palin (surprise!) said this weekend on Faux News). It’s a legit question on how he views the powers of the body to which he is running for.

That being said, I have to disagree with many on the left’s characterization that this is mainly about race. I don’t believe that Rand Paul is a racist (at least I don’t have any evidence of that), but I do think that his “strict constructionist” view of the Constitution does put him way out of the mainstream and expose the reactionary views of many in the Tea Parties.

Basically, this philosophy comes down to a view that the Constutution doesn’t allow the federal government to impose regulations on individuals or private businesses within the states.

This is a fringe view and has been settled by the Courts for decades, which basically ruled that the Interstate Commerce Clause allows the federal government to enforce the Bill of Rights within the states. This may have been an end run around the Constitution at the time, but it has been accepted by a huge majority of people in the US (who don’t know anything about the Interstate Commerce Clause, but accept at face value that the Federal Government can enforce civil rights laws against busineses across the country who discriminate on the basis of race).

Under pressure from the national Republican party, Paul has moderated, saying that he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and isn’t in favor of repealing it. Even the most right wing Republican Senators were quick to say that they shared this view.

Since then, he has backed off a bit, saying on GMA that he believed the Fed’s had a right to set a minimum wage and cancelling his Sunday interview with Meet the Press, but he couldn’t resist one more wacky comment on Friday when he said that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s comment that his job was to keep his “boot on the neck of PB” was “un-American.” Given that a large majority of American’s probably believe that’s exactly where the Administration’s boot belongs after watching millions of gallons of crude oil spill into the gulf, it was a hell of a way to end the week.

I have to say that I am dissapointed that Paul is censoring himself these days. I think the debate would have been good for the country. At minimum, it would make the Tea Partier’s question how far they want go with their strict constitutionalism and expose what the consequences of an America that hewed to strict libertarianism would look like.

I’ll be interested to see how this plays out since there may be some agreement from the left on some of his policies (on military intervention and drugs). It will also be interesting (If he wins) to see how much his voting record differs from the hard line (American Taliban-cultural conservative) wing of the Republican Party.

I say: Let Rand be Rand!

The people of Kentucky deserve to know who they’re voting for and the American people deserve to know what this kind of unfettered free market capitalism and strict constitutionalism would look like.

Plus, it’ll make for an interesting debate and the country could use one right now.

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