Meet U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY). He’s not a racist. But he believes we should go back to the days when restaurants could tell black people they couldn’t eat at their lunch counters, use their bathrooms, or even drink from their water fountains if there wasn’t one marked for coloreds in the place.
Of course Paul won’t actually come out and admit this – he’s too shrewd of a politician for that. Instead, he’ll spend most of his time, as he did on Rachel Maddow’s show last night, talking out of both sides of his mouth.
In one breath, Paul has nothing but praise for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. For him, it’s a wonderful piece of legislation that finally gave black people a chance at equality by making racial discrimination illegal in this country. In the next, he’s dismissing it, saying the federal government has no place telling private businesses, like Woolworth’s back in the 60’s, that they have to accept a certain race, like blacks, into their place of business.
The reason, according to Paul’s logic, is that federal laws like the Civil Rights Act should only apply to businesses that receive federal funding. If the business doesn’t receive any federal funding then the matter should be left up to the laws of that particular state, a distortion on his part of the 10th amendment.
But this is a copout no matter how you look at it. You either believe that racism, like theft or fraud, should be tolerated in the United States or not. It shouldn’t matter in what type of business it takes place or which form of government, federal or state, says it’s illegal.
And besides, the states had 99 years (1865-1964) from the time slavery was abolished to the passing of the Civil Rights Act to do something about racial discrimination. Most of them, especially in the South, did nothing – well, nothing but establish Jim Crow laws that deemed blacks and whites separate but equal, while ensuring that whites separately received better public schools, better public facilities, better public jobs, and better public seats on a publicly provided bus.
So if Paul abhorred racism like he said on Rachel Maddow’s show, then he’d have to admit that it was the states’ failures to address racism between 1865 and 1964 that led to a federal Civil Rights Act. He would also have to admit that the 10th amendment is flawed if it gives states the right to treat U.S. citizens unequally, which is a way of denying them of the freedom the U.S. Constitution was designed to provide them in the first place.
But Paul will do none of that. As he showed during the interview with Rachel Maddow, he’ll just talk in circles until he can finally distort what the issue is really about. For example, whenever Maddow would push him and try to get a straight up answer on whether he believed a private business should be able to discriminate against blacks or not, Paul would turn it into an issue about the 2nd Amendment, saying that if you’re going to force private businesses to allow black people at the lunch counter then you’re going to have to force them to allow people who carry guns at that same counter also.
Obviously, he knew what he was doing. He knew Maddow was a liberal, and that some liberals have a problem with the 2nd Amendment, which supposedly grants the average citizen the right to own a gun. So he was hoping that he’d catch her in some kind of ideological trap where she’d have to choose between gun laws and racism. Thankfully, Maddow was smart enough not to even entertain that.
And hopefully, come November, when Paul is spouting his Tea Party rhetoric about “taking our country back,” voters of Kentucky are smart enough not to entertain him either. Because the country he’s talking about taking us back to is the one where people would have their heads cracked open with billy-clubs and their bodies bruised by fire-hoses all because they wanted to eat at a restaurant that would deny them service in a place where state laws treated them as second class citizens just because they happened to be black.
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