Ron Paul was many Democrats’ favorite Republican when he ran for President in 2008. Paul’s steadfast opposition to the Iraq War along with his proneness to bizarre conspiracy theories, and the energy of his supporters in spamming the living bejesus out of any online forum that even mentioned his name was golden political theater and an enjoyable disruption to Republicans’ nominating process. Alas, the love doesn’t extend to his son Rand, now the GOP nominee for Senate in Kentucky.
The current controversy surrounds Rand Paul’s implication that he opposes the portions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that ban racial discrimination in private businesses that provide “public accommodations”, such as hotels and restaurants. In fairness to Rand, this is a bit of a political hatchet job. Rand Paul did nothing more than respond to a question from MSNBC’s liberal-leaning Rachel Maddow by reiterating a well-known libertarian theme that, while racism is bad, the reach of the government in combating it should not reach on to private property. Libertarians generally believe that the market will punish private racists by denying them customers, thus making it unnecessary for the government to infringe private property or seek to directly govern private conscience in the process. And while it is certainly legitimate to see it differently (i.e. note that when all the businesses in an area are practicing racism, the market “fix” doesn’t really work at all), it is only fair to acknowledge that libertarians like Paul aren’t themselves racists for having made their argument. In fact, another fave-rave conservative for some progressives, Barry Goldwater, made exactly the same argument when he actually voted against the 1964 Act.
Of course, such nuance is lost (and actively sabotaged) in the no-holds-barred political process. The “Republicans are racists” meme has proven very useful for some Democrats over the past few decades (and especially in recent months, when the accusation is deployed by a few high-profile commentators to condemn literally every single instance of Republican dissent from Democrats’ policy agenda), and it was inevitable that Rand Paul’s peculiar libertarian brand of Republican politics would become a lightning rod for yet another reprise. It’s worth remembering that Lyndon Johnson nuked Barry Goldwater with exactly the same blunt-axe distortion that Rachel Maddow deployed against Rand Paul.
Once this kerfuffle fades, though, look forward to an amusing excursion into Rand Paul’s views on the Federal Reserve (his father wants to abolish it, Rand only wants to make it more “transparent and accountable”, neither has the slightest inkling of the role that independent central banks have in ensuring recessions don’t turn into depressions and suppressing “political business cycles”), international treaties (both Pauls believe they are unconstitutional infringements on U.S. sovereignty, notwithstanding the fact that treaties are specifically equated with the Constitution itself in the Constitution itself), and other assorted strangeness. I can’t wait for someone to ask about the Illuminati or UFOs. Rand Paul is more conventionally conservative than his downright loopy dad (best line ever about Ron Paul: “this is the sort of economics you get when you go to an ob-gyn”), but not by enough to save him from the tender mercies of the left-leaning media and blogosphere.
Democrats have a great chance to pick up a seat in Kentucky.