“I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners - I abhor racism, I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant - but at the same time I do believe in private ownership but I think there should be absolutely no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding.”
- Rand Paul, May 20, 2010
Fresh off a resounding primary win, Rand Paul didn’t leave himself much time for a “honeymoon” this week when he inadvertently uttered one of the Things You’re Not Allowed To Say.
Just what did he say? Did he espouse the merits of racism? Did he lament that the country did not elect Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats in 1948? Did our good and benevolent media handlers, who cannot possibly have an agenda of their own, catch Rand changing out of his surgical scrubs and into his Klan hood?
Rather, Rand Paul made a statement intolerable to our political and cultural elites when he suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not infallible.
In fact, there was nothing in the above quote that was even inconsistent with his philosophy.
Rand Paul’s entire campaign thus far has been about keeping government out of the lives of private citizens. Do the liberals (and a conservative establishment altogether unhappy with this marriage) want us to believe that Rand’s whole campaign, nay, whole life dedicated to preserving the privacy and rights of the individual was just part of a grand scheme to reinstitute segregated lunch counters?
It wasn’t enough to say that racism is wrong. It wasn’t enough to point out the economic stupidity inherent to discrimination practiced by business owners. Rand Paul’s detractors, both Left and Right, show us that the only acceptable way to be absolved or recused of racism is to faithfully recite the court history.
Always tenuous in his relationship with the Republican Party, whose full support he needs, a chastened Dr. Paul, with all the passion of a church heretic choosing expediency over burning at the steak, has backpedaled by saying that he would have undoubtedly supported the Civil Rights Act, a position he implied in the first place. Perhaps now that he says he believes all the articles of the government catechism, the Inquisition of Acceptable Opinion will pull back on the reins.
But this is unlikely to end as this is only the second act of a play we’ve already seen.
The Democrats have naturally lacerated Rand. They are loathe to ever pass up an opportunity to project their bloated sense of moral superiority at anyone who disagrees with them by labeling them a racist or bigot. Perhaps even less surprising is how the GOP has turned its back and tepidly cheered on the Left’s hysterics.
The Republicans, who are none too happy that Rand pummeled their candidate of choice, finally have a reason to throw him to the wolves. For a candidate whom they have no passionate attachment, cutting the rope comes naturally and easily. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the party who left Jim Bunning to twist in the wind has given the same treatment to his potential successor.
While there is a fair amount of criticism about Rand Paul’s campaign, particularly among libertarians, that he is so reviled by his party’s establishment, both before and after a landslide primary victory, shows that his enemies still see him as a legitimate threat to cut against the grain of his party. And that is what cannot be tolerated.
Despite all of this, it’s still doubtful this will sink the 25-point lead Rand currently holds over his opponent. Try as they might, the Democrats cannot put “macaca” in his mouth.
But Rand Paul has been here before.
Last December, a prominent staffer resigned when racist content was found on his myspace.com page. Although the staffer, Chris Hightower, did not author the substance, he did leave it alone, an indication that he values a person’s right to the freedom of speech, even when it’s detestable.
Likewise, Rand Paul never condoned racism or discrimination but only nodded that property rights are sacred in the western tradition, even when the holders themselves are repulsive.
But the point is that Rand Paul has survived this sort of controversy before. He kept on his message of rejecting government interference and balancing the budget, even when his primary opponent tried to use this incident as a club in evidence of Rand’s “strange ideas.”
Yet, Rand Paul is still naturally strong in this race. He’s the indisputably conservative candidate in an indisputably conservative state.
“Gotcha” questions like these will come up again. The successful distraction caused by this kerfuffle only proves that it will come up again because the more time we spend talking about 46-year-old legislation that is not about to be repealed means there will be less time to talk about dangerously inflated budgets that are sinking the economy.
Rand Paul needs to get together with his team to prepare for every possible contingency because the next irrelevant question is already being cooked up.
Otherwise, damage control will have to be added to his list of talking points.
Here are a few other takes on this situation that are worth a read:
Tom Woods: Rand Paul and the Zombies
Jack Hunter: Rand Paul's Practical Philosophy
Daniel McCarthy: Rand Paul and the Paleos
Daniel Larison: Can Rand Paul Revive Conservative Foreign Policy?
Jacob Hornberger: Rand Paul, Civil Rights, and More Liberal Hypocrisy on Race
Michael Scheuer: Maddow and the Obamas: Killers of Hope, Spurs of Rebellion
Wes Messamore: A Question for Rachel Maddow
Chris W: Progressive Hypocrisy and Rand Paul
This essay is also now up at The Humble Libertarian.