On Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act

desmoinesdem has already written a bit about the recently stated views of Kentucky's Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul -- questioning the validity of the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banning discrimination in public accommodations like restaurants. I just had a chance to watch through Paul's interview with Rachel Maddow, which have included below, and wanted to jot down a few thoughts.

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During the interview with Maddow, as well as an earlier interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, Paul made fairly clear that he did not believe it within the bounds of Congress's powers to address issues of private discrimination. In legal parlance, Paul does not believe that Congress's power under Article I, section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution to "regulate Commerce... among the several States" extends to the private actions of the citizens of these states. Instead of Congress addressing the issue of discrimination under this power, Paul apparently believes that it should be left up to private citizens to weed out discrimination. Here's an illustrative exchange from the NPR interview:

SIEGEL: But it's been one of the major developments in American history in the course of your life. I mean, do you think the '64 Civil Rights Act or the ADA for that matter were just overreaches and that business shouldn't be bothered by people with the basis in law to sue them for redress?

Dr. PAUL: Right. I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.

The problem with this view is apparent to just about anyone who lives in a world of reality rather than ideology. It is fine enough to believe that, in theory, individuals' contractual and property rights should not be trampled on by the state, and that, what's more, the market will solve all problems. But the fact is the market did not solve the problem of institutional racism. It took state action, not only in directing state actors but also in directing the practices of private individuals like the ones who owned restaurants. The same can be said about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which like the Civil Rights Act restricted individual action to ensure access for those who otherwise might be denied access. The good acts of individual property owners to accommodate their workers in the ways described by Paul in his NPR interview are important -- but they were not enough. Only when the state stepped in were the rights of the disabled to access restaurants and other accommodations ensured.

This isn't to say that Paul is racist or biased against the disabled. He's not. He holds a principled stance against federal action to regulate private action in these areas. But this stance, when the manifested as the law of the land prior to enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, enabled institutional racism to occur. That's a fact. And that's a problem for Paul because it's hard to imagine many Americans, or Kentuckians specifically, want to go back to a period in which segregated lunch counters, whether on the basis of race or disability, are condoned under the law.

[UPDATE by Jonathan]: Four more questions for Rand Paul considering his apparently limited views of Congress's Commerce Clause powers:

  1. Do you believe the federal minimum wage is constitutional?
  2. Do you believe federal overtime laws are constitutional?
  3. Do you believe the federal government has the power to enact work safety laws and regulations?
  4. Do you believe that federal child labor laws are constitutional?

A "no" answer to any of these questions would presumably be problematic for the Paul campaign considering folks seem to like the minimum wage, laws that stop employers from, say, making their workers use machines that cut off their hands, and laws that prohibit 7 year olds from laboring in coal mines.

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: Paul's campaign issued a statement today on the controversy. He says he supports the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and will not seek to repeal it. "As I have said in previous statements, sections of the Civil Rights Act were debated on Constitutional grounds when the legislation was passed. Those issues have been settled by federal courts in the intervening years."

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



jobs , spending , defictis , debts

economy , growth of government are the issues that would turn the election in my view ....

by lori 2010-05-20 10:55AM | 0 recs
Well if people want jobs

there is gonna have to be spending and deficits, so they need to make up their minds. 

by DTOzone 2010-05-20 12:09PM | 1 recs
And the Lester Maddox Award for Lunch Counter Maintenance goes to...

...Rand Paul, winner of the Kentucky Republican Senate Primary.

In an interview last night, Paul told Maddow that he agrees with most parts of the Civil Rights Act, except for one (Title II), that made it a crime for private businesses to discriminate against customers on the basis of race. Paul explained that had he been in office during debate of bill, he would have tried to change the legislation. He said that it stifled first amendment rights.

Rachel pushed for specifics:


<blockquote><em>Maddow:... How about desegregating lunch counters?

    Paul: Well what it gets into then is if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says 'well no, we don't want to have guns in here' the bar says 'we don't want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each-other.' Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion...

    Maddow: Well, it was pretty practical to the people who had the life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen's lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about what it means about ownership. This is not a hypothetical Dr. Paul.</em></blockquote>

Oh Boy... this is going to make Kentucky a real fight. Paul faces Democratic Senate candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in the general election to replace Republican Sen. Jim Bunning on November 2, 2010...

Here's a big chunk of the Maddow show if you think you haven't heard enough:




by btchakir 2010-05-20 11:14AM | 0 recs

" Oh Boy... this is going to make Kentucky a real fight. Paul faces Democratic Senate candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in the general election to replace Republican Sen. Jim Bunning on November 2, 2010..."

 - Not really , the unpopularity of the president and democratic agenda in these parts makes him a 2 to 1 favorite to win , nothwithstanding his libertarian views that a lot of people seem to find to be weird . Conway himself isn't terribly popular in Kentucky...

by lori 2010-05-20 11:43AM | 0 recs
That's what people said in PA-12

Conway himself is the most popular politician in the state of Kentucky 

by DTOzone 2010-05-20 12:07PM | 0 recs

Conway and his Dem opponent each received more votes than Rand Paul.

by Dreorg 2010-05-20 11:36PM | 0 recs
Rand Paul, the Balloon Boy of the 2010 Election Season
With Rand Paul running for Senate the Tea Party is finally going to have to spell out for us exactly what their agenda is. From whom exactly does the Tea Party want to take our country back? Turns out it's from disabled people whose rights Rand Paul will strip away, from African Americans who Rand Paul would re-expose to discrimination by private enterprises, from students whose scholarships he will eliminate, from scientists and researchers who will see their grants dry up,  from construction workers and commuters who will see every infrastructure project in the country come to a screeching halt --- if Rand Paul has his way.   And to whom will Rand Paul and the Tea Party hand our country in the name of the common (white) man? Wall Street, the banks and big oil, who Rand Paul will de-regulate into fatcat hog heaven. Tea, anyone?   Just as with the new Arizona law, every Republican in the country is going to have to take a stand on Rand Paul and his controversial radical Tea Party agenda. And it ain't going to help them in the general.   The Tea Party is loud and colorful but the new silent majority is on the center-left. All but ignored by the mainstream media is that the LOSING Democratic Senate candidate, Mangiardo, got more votes last night than the WINNING Republican candidate Rand Paul.   Rand Paul is a shiny object that cable's bobbling talking heads just can't help but fixate on, but his flaky tutti-fruitti ideas are nothing but hot air without a half chance in hell of gaining majority support. Rand Paul is the balloon boy of the 2010 election season. Come November 3rd, Rand Paul is going to wake up with Democrat Jack Conway's size 12 boot planted 14 inches up his scrawny little ass.  
by liberalart76 2010-05-20 11:48AM | 2 recs
I hate it when Republicans make mountains out of mole-hills...

You know how every Democrat who ever espouses truly liberal ideas like:

- we need to end the prison-industrial complex by loosening drug laws and legalizing marajuana.

- corporations should not be treated as if they were human beings.

- we only make more enemies by pursuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

- rich people should pay their fair share of taxes.

gets branded by Republicans and conservative pundits as one sort of "extremist" or another?  It's total bullshit and it demeans actual political debate.


I don't support Rand Paul, nor Tea Baggers in general.  But to call his point of view "extreme" is to conflate the idea that he doesn't think the government should have any say about how private companies are run with the idea of racism.  Maddow comes off as trying -- unsuccessfully -- to do a Chris-Wallace-style hit job on Dr. Paul.

When it comes right down to it, I think most people will agree that things like the Civil Rights Act and OSHA are good and necessary restircitions on private companies just like laws that prohibit individuals from theft, murder, and assault. 

I think Dr. Paul's message can stand on its own.  There's no need to claim that he's some sort of "extremist."  It's just the same old conservative thought that lost out about 50 years ago.  If anything I would say Paul is "anachronistic" or "out of touch with the times."  Reserve "extremist" for Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.  They are the ones that really are implying violence and racism in their programing.

Even if he does win a seat in KY, I don't see any indication that Paul will put any legislation together that rolls back civil rights, let alone have the political will to pass it.

by jlars 2010-05-20 01:12PM | 0 recs
RE: I hate it when Republicans make mountains out of mole-hills...

I agree that it is obnoxious to go around lableling all those who disagree with democrats, racist.  Rand is a libertarian which is in itself a sort of obnoxious political party/philosophy.  He is libertarian until it comes to women's bodies in which case he is authoritarian.... but I do not think he is racist.

He is correct in theory that the government should not be able to tell people how to run their business.  But come on, the government owes protection to the minority as well as the majority and it will set about to correct gross inequities.

I do not understand running to be part of the government when you hate government.  Didn't the republicans already show us during the bush years that you do not put government in the hands of those who hate it unless you want your country destroyed?

by TeresaINPennsylvania 2010-05-23 02:45PM | 0 recs
RE: I hate it when Republicans make mountains out of mole-hills...

This, from someone who sees sexism in a nose scratch. Give me a break.

by QTG 2010-05-24 12:48PM | 0 recs


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