Rand Paul Opposed Anti-Racial Discrimination Measure in 2002

Rand Paul's campaign has made some efforts to walk back the candidate's statements in opposition to a key tenet of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- the provision prohibiting individual racial discrimination, not just state-sanctioned discrimination. But any effort at damage control was dramatically undermined minutes ago with the report from Dave Weigel that Paul had vocally opposed an anti-discrimination measure as recently as 2002.

In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul's hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that "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." (Hat tip: Page One Kentucky.)

"The Daily News ignores," wrote Paul, "as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual's beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn't want noisy children? Absolutely not."

In language similar to the language he's used talking about the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized racism while defending the right of businesses to discriminate.

"A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination," wrote Paul, "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."

It's awfully hard to argue, as the Paul campaign has attempted to this afternoon, that the candidate does not support rolling back protections against racial discrimination when, on the same basis as his comments this week, he previously spoke out in favor of "abid[ing] unofficial, private discrimination."

This all reminds me of something I read in Ethan Bronner's outstanding book on the Bork nomination, Battle for Justice. The key turning point in the battle over Robert Bork, Bronner writes, came when white Southerners read of the nominee's backwards writings on the subject of race.

Southerners perceived the nomination as racially divisive and so a threat to their peace and prosperity. No matter what racial resentment many southern whites still harbored, they recoiled at the prospect of reviving the period of intense racial tension.

It's not clear to me that we are already at this point with regards to the Senate candidacy of Ron Paul in the border state of Kentucky -- but it's also not clear that we are all that far away, either. The prospect of relitigating Civil Rights legislation aimed at prohibiting the type of racial discrimination that kept African-Americans out of restaurants and other accommodations cannot sound appealing to Southern voters, even many Southern whites who have in recent years flocked to the GOP. I'm still not sure just how Paul gets out of this pickle.

Tags: KY-Sen, Senate 2010, Kentucky, Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, rand paul (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

the Bork nomination

I haven't read that book, and it sounds interesting. My memory of the Bork controversy was that Arlen Specter provided the turning point when he said he would not vote to confirm Bork. I didn't know about that southern angle.

by desmoinesdem 2010-05-20 05:32PM | 0 recs
RE: Rand Paul Opposed Anti-Racial Discrimination Measure in 2002

I give Rand Paul credit here for holding an intellectually consistent position. It may be an abhorrent position, but he is simply making the libertarian argument against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

My question is: will white southern conservative voters connect with such an egg-headed approach.

When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he was quoted as saying that democrats just lost the south for a decade. It turned out to be more like five.

First Goldwater, then Nixon's southern strategy. And Ronald Regan launched his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, with a stump speech on States Rights. Republicans have been winning with various slight modifications to the souther strategy for five decades now. Simply exploit opposition amongst the once segregationist south to the cultural upheaval of civil rights using implicit code words and the plentiplaint of substitutable threats and fears which can stand in for race.

Having grown up in the south, it is hard to describe how race is repressed to this basal and animalistic emotion in people. In a modern society, no one talks openly about their racial prejudice as they may have done 150 years ago. So they express these feelings with often silent actions. They vote Republican. They listen to Rush Limbaugh. And they're rewarded with a wink and a nod. No one dares talk about repealing the civil Rights Act of 1964, but they're sure pissed about the Federal Government imposing itself as it did back then.

The problem with Rand Paul's candidacy is that he is not only bringing racism out into the open, but he is making an intellectual argument for it. Never in the southern strategy has there been such transparency and intellectualism.

And that's what concerns me.

On one hand, as Jonathan notes, when confronted with their own ugly racism, southern whites may retreat, content to live in the perpetual angry fantasy of never meaning to undo what truly bothers them. On the other hand, libertarianism could finally provide the much needed intellectual backbone for emotions that have run deep for centuries.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-05-20 07:56PM | 0 recs

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