Memo to Arlen Specter, the recent defector to Democrats and former long-time Republican senator from Pennsylvania: You do know why you lost, don't you? I know what you were thinking when you switched parties last year, but history demonstrates it's the most politically active partisan voters who show up on election day during primary season and that holds true for both Democrats and Republicans.
Using this same knowledge, it should not be a surprise to any of you reading the results of last week's Kentucky Republican primary where the staunchest of the staunch chose Rand Paul, son of congressman and former 2008 presidential candidate, Ron Paul, won his party's nomination for the senate. The younger Paul is also closely aligned with the "Tea Party" movement, the seemingly anti-everything wing within the GOP we have come to associate with former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.
Am I jesting a bit when I call the Tea Partiers "anti-everything" (giving whole new meaning to the party of "no!")? Perhaps. However their ideological bent does tend to oppose any government intrusion on civil liberties and that can sometimes lead to problems both for candidate and the Republican party as a whole. Paul now finds himself mired in a firestorm of his own after defending answers he had given to the editorial board of the Louisville Courier-Journal in regards to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a few weeks prior to the election. During interviews with NPR's Robert Siegel and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Paul attempted to clarify his stance.
Naturally, eyebrows were raised when Paul side skirted the question of civil rights with respect to public accommodations by getting into a philosophical debate with Maddow when he said,
[I]f you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring a 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?
As specious as the above argument seems (and calculated too since it draws in the second amendment), therein lies the debate of civil liberties versus civil rights. Does one usurp the other? If my civil liberty is infringed in favor of someone else's civil right, have I suffered injury at the behest of the government? Am I somehow less free? As a society we have decided civil rights prevail, yet Paul and others do not quite see it that way.
Paul insists he is opposed to racism, supports the spirit of civil rights and does not wish to see civil rights law repealed. On the other hand, his ideological stance paints a different picture - one that might even support racism or as one commenter to a blog put it, "I don't support discrimination, but I don't want the Federal Government to do anything to stop it." And a 2002 letter to the editor where he goes on record questioning the merit of open housing does nothing to help his cause.
Might Paul have a point when he attempts to throw in the additional argument relative to the first amendment and protection of hate speech? Why can a Klansman march and spew venom against blacks but be forced to serve those same blacks at his place of business? Unfortunately, Paul's steadfastness to ideals have the potential to do more harm than good to GOP prospects this fall as the party continues to try and distance itself from charges of supporting racism.
In spite of this, can we find any merit in the questions Paul asks at all? In the broadest way possible, he and others of his ilk him appear to enjoy living in a philosophical world where ideally we would have no need for a Civil Rights act.
Sadly we don't.
Yes, I'm back and I still gotta scoot...