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Rand Paul: Ideological Purist or Just Another Right Wing Bigot?

May 20, 2010

Poor Rand Paul! He’s had a tough couple of days. Within 24 hours, he went from the high of a blow-out win in the Kentucky primary, to becoming mincemeat at the hands of first NPR’s Robert Seigel and then MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. At issue is Dr. Paul’s Libertarian views of the Civil Rights Act, as well as subsequent similar pieces of legislation. While Paul repeatedly professes how much he abhors racism, and how he supports laws to prevent discrimination on a  government level, he just can’t ever actually bring himself to answer the question of whether he would have voted for the Act had he been around in 1964, or whether he would repeal it now. It’s pretty brutal.  I wouldn’t normally post a 19 minute video, but…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Finally today, the handlers took control of the situation and Paul unequivocally stated that he would not be voting to repeal the Civil Rights Act. Whew! Crisis averted, eh? Not so fast. Dr. Paul is right about two things: 1) repeal of the Civil Rights Act is not of immediate concern and 2) this is a political question designed to trip him up. Now, does this mean I agree with him or think the questions should not be asked? Absolutely not.

In the same way that Elena Kagan will be grilled on her ideology and how it will effect Supreme Court rulings, Dr. Paul’s ideology is legitimately questioned.  In fact, as Rand Paul appears to be by far the more ideological in this comparison, it is even more relevant.

A Senator will vote on many pieces of legislation over the course of a career. While securing a Senate seat may not be a lifetime appointment, it is notoriously hard to unseat an incumbent Senator (even in a year of “anti-incumbent fever”.) The current average tenure in the Senate is around 16 years, with Robert Byrd clocking in at 51 years. My point being that while the Civil Rights Act is not likely to come up for a vote in the 112th Congress, we have no way of knowing what issues would come before a Senator Paul, and how his extreme Libertarian views might lead him to vote.

Why do I say extreme? Because Rand Paul is espousing a strict interpretation of Libertarianism, which, like any ism, when taken to a textbook-pure implementation becomes patently absurd and frankly, dangerous. Where has this ideological exercise gotten Paul? Essentially, he doesn’t believe that the government should be allowed to discriminate, but that private groups and businesses should. He sees this as a legitimate trade-off in the cause of individual freedom. A 2002 quote from the candidate:

“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.”

See? It’s an intellectually pure point of view! Of course, the problem is that Dr. Paul is not entirely consistent in his Libertarian worldview. He takes this strict stance regarding the rights of private businesses to discriminate (believing, if one can, that a free market will punish that behavior in lieu of government involvement.) Okay. Let’s just say I buy that this is the cost of freedom. (I don’t, but let’s go with it.) Does his ideological purity extend to drug laws or government involvement in who marries whom? No and no. Does he believe the government should stay out of a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body?  No, he doesn’t. In fact, Dr. Paul is so vehemently anti-choice, that he supports banning all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

Rand Paul may run on that “Libertarian streak” that Sarah Palin finds so appealing, but he appears to me to be not much more than a typical Tea Party member with muddled ideology. He’s Libertarian to the extreme, as long as it’s convenient. Conservatives have been angry with the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and more for decades. Dr. Paul is nothing new. Anti-choice, anti-marriage equality, anti-legalization, anti-tax, anti-public education, anti-Federal Reserve… he’s just another conservative.

Rand Paul is bad for minorities, women, children and a civil society. Dr. Paul can hide behind Libertarian ideology as an excuse, and perhaps that is truly his thinking; but the upshot is a candidate appealing to the most bigoted, backward conservatives in the country.

Update: Paul has now flipped on his long-held stance and says that he would, in fact, have voted for the Civil Rights Act. The Americans With Disabilities Act? Eh…not so much.

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