As a matter of principle, I don’t devolve into ad hominems, but that’s not the only reason I refrain from calling Rand Paul a douchebag. It doesn’t help promote a clear understanding of his positions. And there are many douchebags with whom I happen to agree sometimes.
But in this guy’s vision of America, I might have to stop blogging in this space because WordPress would be allowed to keep Jews off its servers.
Ludicrous, I know. I don’t believe that’ll actually happen. I just wanted to point out the absurdity of the position he doubled down on last night.
I was watching Rachel Maddow. (Yes, I watch Rachel. Something about the fantasy of turning her straight just reels me in. Maybe she’s not really gay. Maybe it’s just that she surrounds herself with guys like Kent Jones and Chris Hayes and thinks all men are like that. Call me, Rachel, any time, day or night!) One of the things I like about her hour, as opposed to Keith Olbermann’s, is that you’ll frequently hear from people who disagree with MSNBC’s editorial positions. Last night it was Rand Paul, attempting to defend his critique of the Civil Rights Act. You know, the one that ended segregation. In 1964. Actually, he was on once before — it was on the Maddow show that he actually announced his candidacy for the Senate seat from the Tea Party — uh, I mean, Kentucky. That’s right. He wants to represent an actual place, not an ideology. Right.
First, he said that he agreed with the 90 percent of the act that ensured that no entity that segregates can benefit from government protection or largesse. It was the 10 percent that had to do with individual business owners’ rights to cater to whomever they pleased, and only to whomever they pleased. He said that he personally considered discrimination abhorrent, wouldn’t join a club that subscribed to such bigotry, and that segregation is a very bad business model. Also, if you tell a restaurant owner that he has to serve black people, then you can’t tell him that he can turn away people at the door just because they’re openly carrying assault weapons.
Oh, where to begin shredding this argument!
Let’s start with the idea that the public sector shouldn’t descriminate. Rand Paul and I actually agree on that. Where we disagree is on whether or not the public sector should even exist. I think it’s kind of neat that we have a government, as infuriating as it can be at times. It stands as a shield not only against foreign enemies, but also against that single greatest threat to liberty: poverty. When the banks failed (because the regulators were appointed by a laissez faire administration) and the auto makers went bust (because big business and unions can both be as stupid as you or I) and our houses were worthless (because of a lack of consumer protections) and our retirement accounts evaporated (because the free market will never be perfect as long as there are irrational fear and greed), there weren’t a lot of institutions left between us and a new era of breadlines and Hoovervilles. Government was it. I’m appalled that it took less than a year for so many Americans to forget that, but I guess that’s the Obama administration’s price of success. Listen, I’m not a communist. I’m not a socialist. I have a master’s degree in business administration, which means I’m by definition pro-business. I just don’t believe either estate — business or government — should be in a position to run our lives. So I’ll be prepared to deconstruct the government when we’re all ready to deconstruct the Fortune 500.
Moving on, I take Dr. Paul the Younger at his word that he’s not a racist. I have no reason to believe otherwise and I always choose to think the best of others’ motives. I’m sure he mixes very well throughout that rainbow known as the Tea Party. And he’s so right about segregation being bad for business. He and I are about the same age, and the worst of the offenses were before our time, but we’d both agree that if Woolworth’s didn’t integrate its lunch counter, it would’ve eventually gone out of business. Oh wait. It did anyway. I’m all for free enterprise, but could someone please explain to me again how it inevitably leads to a morally enlightened populace?
In my decidedly non-libertarian opinion, we need government to step in and take a stand. A century and a half ago, I’m sure there were lots of well-meaning people throughout the pre-Civil War United States, north and south, saying things like, “I’m against slavery myself and nobody in my family would own slaves, but I don’t believe it’s the government’s place to tell my neighbors what they should do with their property.” Sorry, not good enough for the judgment of history. Today, and this will offend many of my friends on the left, a similar statement could be made: “I’m against abortion myself …” It’s nice to talk about “a woman’s right to choose”. But ultimately, human life is either sacred or it isn’t. I’m for having all kinds of codicils around the law — let’s cover incest, rape, endangerment of the mother’s pre-existing right to life — but I’m against abortion on demand for the same reason I’m against allowing openly carried firearms in restaurants and against having separate restrooms for non-whites. It’s bad public policy. I heard that roughly one out of every two reported pregnancies in the Bronx ends in abortion. That’s way too many. I don’t want to go back to coat hangers or road trips to Mexico, but we have to find a middle ground that’s both respectful to women and morally sound. I remember Bill Clinton once envisioning a policy in which abortion is “safe, legal and rare.” What he said.
The arguments we’re hearing from Rand Paul in particular, and the far right that he represents, are specious. They sound patriotic, they celebrate individual achievement, they’re comforting to a lot of people. But they don’t make a lot of sense. That, and they rely on fear and hate. Yes, we should fear and hate terrorists, but that doesn’t mean we have to fear and hate everyone whose worship or skin color or native language is different from ours. And are we supposed to fear and hate our own government? We can, and must, disagree with policies we despise. But the decision makers were elected by the majority of the American people, so are we to fear and hate all Americans who disagree with us? Are we to dehumanize everyone who isn’t native born, living in a small town or leafy suburb, not just conservative on most issues but ultra-conservative on all issues?
Rand, I haven’t read all your policy statements. I don’t know all your positions. If you’re anything like your father, I might agree with your point of view on military adventuring and live-and-let-live attitude on social issues. But on civil rights, dude, you’re on the wrong side of the barricade.