Rand Paul For President? Not If I Can Help It

In 1964, Nelson Rockefeller was defeated by Barry Goldwater for the Republican Party nomination. Both prior to and during his time as Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller consistently favored racial equality and supported the Civil Rights Movement.

Senator Barry Goldwater had supported some state and local civil rights reforms and even some federal civil rights legislation. He was not a segregationist in the manner of Southern Democrats like Strom Thurmond, Richard B. Russell, J. William Fulbright, James Eastland, and John C. Stennis. However, he was one of just six Republicans Senators to vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (twenty-one Senate Democrats voted against it) and stated that if private businesses wished to discriminate against blacks, it was not the role of the federal government to stop them. For the last fifty years, Goldwater has been portrayed as a principled libertarian free of racial bigotry but also bound by conviction to oppose federal bans on private sector discrimination. The time would indeed come when an aging Barry Goldwater embraced libertarianism, skewering the Religious Right, endorsing the legalization of medical marijuana, and calling for a full repeal of the military’s ban on gay and lesbian soldiers. Interestingly, according to Goldwater family friend John Dean, the Arizona Senator also eventually expressed regret for voting against the Civil Rights Act. However, in the 1960s, Goldwater was still a conservative with a bit of libertarian flavor, rather than a true libertarian. A good analogy is that Russ Feingold is a liberal with a bit of libertarian flavor. (Full disclosure: Russ Feingold is a political hero of mine, even though I don’t agree with all of his stances.) Goldwater was also, in the 1960s, a very mild, moderate, conflicted racist. In 1964, Goldwater tried to paint his opposition to the Civil Rights Act in libertarian terms by saying that the federal government only had the right to ban government discrimination. Yet just four years earlier, he had written that the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court, a firmly libertarian decision that only prohibited discrimination in government-run schools, had been an overreach of federal power. This is totally contrary to true libertarianism, which holds that the government must not use the force of law to brand some citizens as inferior and others as superior. Five years after voting against the Civil Rights Act, he would support federal anti-pornography legislation. Thus, the 1960s Goldwater was neither a consistent opponent of government discrimination nor consistently devoted to restraining federal power. With these facts in mind, Goldwater’s claim that his motivations for opposing the Civil Rights Act had nothing to do with racism rings hollow. Yet his time as a presidential candidate made him a libertarian icon thanks to his commendable opposition to the military draft and strong support for fiscal conservatism. At the same time, his candidacy not only marked the end of the GOP’s days as the less racist of the two parties but also had the side-effect of promoting the idea that libertarianism is hostile or callous to the needs of minorities, despite the fact that a libertarian lawyer named Moorfield Storey served as president of the NAACP for twenty years and persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down laws mandating residential segregation. Which brings me to Rand Paul.

Like Barry Goldwater and Ron Paul, Rand Paul has become popular with many libertarians. I myself believe that Rand Paul is one of the best politicians when it comes to issues such as fiscal responsibility and ending government violations of privacy and due process. There is some talk of him being the Republican Party candidate for president in 2016. However, I have to say that I am not even open to voting for Rand Paul and that although I have written before of my hope that Hilary Clinton will not be the Democratic Party nominee, I would vote for her over Rand Paul in a heartbeat. As I said earlier, Paul has better policies than Clinton in many areas. Unfortunately, he is also a bigot in libertarian clothing. In 2010, Rand Paul echoed Barry Goldwater’s view that if a business wants to discriminate based on race, the government should not prevent them from doing so. Unfortunately, just like his father, Rand is only a libertarian when it suits him. At the same time that he was defending the right of Lester Maddox to keep black people out of his restaurant, Rand Paul thumbed his nose at the right of Lieutenant Dan Choi to serve his country without remaining in the closet. When asked in 2010 about Paul’s view on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Paul’s campaign spokesman stated that, “Dr. Paul believes this is a matter that should be decided by the leadership of the military, not through political posturing.” In other words, if the generals wanted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to stay, Paul wanted it to stay. It should be noted that at this point, even libertarians like John Stossel and Andrew Napolitano, who were working for Fox News, were already eviscerating the military ban on openly gay soldiers. More recently, Rand Paul’s position on gay marriage has been hardly libertarian. While he has indicated support for privatizing marriage, he has also made it clear that if civil marriage exists, he would prefer it be denied to gays–again, a violation of the libertarian principle that government has no right to discriminate arbitrarily. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Paul opined, “I think right now if we say we’re only going to [have] a federally mandated one man, one woman marriage, we’re going to lose that battle because the country is going the other way right now. If we’re to say each state can decide, I think a good 25, 30 states still do believe in traditional marriage, and maybe we allow that debate to go on for another couple of decades and see if we can still win back the hearts and minds of the people.” Essentially, Paul wants to leave the gay marriage issue to the states in order to keep gay marriage illegal in much of the country.

Rand Paul is fine with government discriminating against gay people, but when it comes to the government protecting blacks from getting discriminated against, he starts using libertarian rhetoric. I believe in federal anti-discrimination laws that apply to the private sector as well as the government. In fact, I support affirmative action, which is probably enough to keep me from being considered a full libertarian. However, I absolutely acknowledge that there are non-racist people who are consistent libertarians and believe that while the government must not discriminate, the government also cannot force private institutions to stop discriminating. Rand Paul is not one of these people. And just as I would have identified as a “Rockefeller Republican” in the 1950s and 196os based on the Rockefeller Republicans’ support for equal rights, even though my fiscal views are much more Goldwater-esque, I now identify as a Democrat based on the party’s support for equal rights. And just as I would have voted for Lyndon Johnson over Goldwater in the 1964 general election based on the issue of racial justice, I would vote for Hilary Clinton over Rand Paul, because I cannot vote for a candidate who displays racism and homophobia. And while my concern here is moral, not pragmatic, I should state my belief that if a racist homophobe becomes the standard bearer of libertarianism, it will damage the movement greatly by turning off young people, women, gays, and racial minorities. There is already an unfortunate perception among some people, aided by the Libertarian Party’s nomination of Bob Barr back in 2008, that “libertarian” is simply another word for right-wingers who think the Republican Party is not fiscally conservative or anti-gun control enough. I, for one, will never “stand with Rand.”

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10 responses to “Rand Paul For President? Not If I Can Help It

  1. I very much appreciate the sentiments being expressed here, but I will still support Rand Paul over Hillary Clinton because I am adamantly opposed to American adventurism overseas. If socialism doesn’t work when the federal government tries to impose rule my philosopher kings here at home,… how can rule by philosopher kings work overseas. The west went through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment while the Middle East, Africa, and Asia have yet to have their own authentic experience with the discovery of the value of individual sovereignty over that of the collective tribe/state/professed good intentions. American could substantially balance it’s budget if it would simply stop spending money it no longer has overseas. For more see antiwar.com

  2. Just one thing (there are several, actually, but one must choose one’s battles carefully): the Federal Government had no legitimate authority over public schools back in those days. So it technically WAS an overreach. Goldwater may have been a latent, mild racist (pretty common in those days, I suppose), but he was correct on this point from a Constitutional standpoint. Now, I realize you were talking about the libertarianism of his opinion rather than the constitutionalism of it, which I applaud, but I again think you are mistaken. While it is certainly not libertarian for a local public school, as per state law, to segregate minorities, it is even less libertarian to have public schools in the first place, and less libertarian still to have a centralized authority get its foot in the door on education so it could later nationalize and all but destroy the education system of this country.

    • First of all, I am glad that we agree (or at least I think we agree, based on your comment) that the Constitution shouldn’t be followed in cases where the Constitution poses a conflict with liberty. However, I am going to respond to your claims about the libertarianism of Brown v. Board. First of all, while in a totally libertarian society there would be no public school, it does not follow that having segregated public schools is more libertarian than having integrated public schools. By segregating public schools, government is labeling one group of citizens as inferior based on race. By having integrated public schools, government is avoiding holding up one race as superior to the other and is instead simply treating everyone equally and taking a race-neutral stance. Secondly, federal intervention in cases like Brown v. Board, Lawrence v. Texas, the Thirteenth Amendment, etc. are victories for liberty, because this intervention protects the individual freedom of citizens everywhere. Obviously, the federal government often enacts policies that inhibit individual freedom. However, cases where the federal government nullifies anti-liberty laws (such as Jim Crow laws) at the state level, while also not having them at the federal level, represent triumphs for freedom and small government. Allowing states to have authoritarian policies is not in any way conducive to liberty or small government. There are no states’ rights that supersede individual rights, and it is no more legitimate for the states to violate the rights of individuals than it is for the federal government to do so. There is nothing libertarian about a country where a person’s civil rights are determined by whether they live in Vermont or Virginia. When any branch of government violates people’s rights, it is unacceptable and must be stopped.

      • Thank you for the response,

        No, of course segregated public schools are not more libertarian than integrated ones. I agree and that was not my claim. I am saying that while segregation is unlibertarian, so is forcing people to pay for other children’s education and so is forcing children to be indoctrinated.

        And even more tyrannical than either of these is the establishment of judges as statesmen and lawmakers. It would have been awesome if all Brown v. Board of Education did was bring integration, which would indeed be a victory for liberty, but the case has served as a precedent for the abuse of power and the usurpation of liberty, where none was necessary (given democratic trends and market pressures).

        We can argue all day about which was the lesser of two evils, segregation or judicial dictatorship, but the fact remains that from a libertarian perspective, both were evil, which means it does not make one a lover of segregation or a racist to point out that Brown v. Board of Education was an overreach that could (and did) lead to other overreaches, not all of which have been used to preserve liberty or promote the common good.

        Again, all liberty is good, but liberty brought about at the expense of liberty (I am not just talking about states’ rights; I agree that states can be tyrannical too and that individual rights trump states’ rights or any other type of collective rights) is inherently less good than it would be had it been brought about in another way. In this, liberty was victorious by setting a precedent of judicial fiat, legislating from the bench, activist judges, and by giving the federal government the ultimate say in all educational questions, for good or bad.

        The rights of plaintiffs, defendants, voters, parents, children, teachers, and communities everywhere were subverted and trampled. It was for a worthy cause, yes, but the ends do not justify the means.

      • I would encourage you not to throw the baby out with the bath water. If you don’t like certain decisions that Brown was used as a precedent for, by all means, oppose those decisions. I’m certainly not saying all of those decisions are good. But do not oppose Brown, which was a very libertarian decision and was an absolute moral necessity (though the “go slow” portion was ill-advised). I should also clarify that I never said Goldwater was a lover of segregation. In fact, I specifically stated that he was not a segregationist like Southern Democrats. What I did say, and what I do stand by, is that Goldwater opposing a decision that struck down state Jim Crow laws shows that the rights of racial minorities was a disturbingly low priority for the Arizona Senator, to the point that it demonstrates unconscious racism. Again, I would never suggest that Goldwater was on the level of someone like Richard B. Russell. However, I do want to thank you for being respectful in your responses, because I really prefer when we can keep debate civil.

      • Absolutely, I will applaud the main result of the decision in Brown, just as I applaud the result the Civil War had in regards to slavery, however, I would disagree with the means to those ends in both cases. I realize that hindsight is 20-20, but judging the actions of the past is crucial to understand the present and avoiding or dealing with mistakes in the future.

        And thank you for giving me a place to voice a response as well as taking the time to respond to me. For me (as well as for you, I would imagine), civil debate goes far beyond the mere preference to avoid confrontation. It is a necessary part of changing things for the better.

        For the record, I’m no great fan of Rand, and I have no intention of voting for either him or Hillary. I think however, you won’t have to worry about making such a decision, as Rand is still too much of an outsider to gain the kind of traction he would need to compete against someone like Chris Christie for the Republican nomination. But I guess this remains to be seen.

      • While I remain firm in my stance that the Brown decision and the Civil War were necessary to promote freedom and were most definitely not mistakes, I am glad that you applaud the results of outlawing Jim Crow in education and ending slavery.

  3. Pingback: Libertarians: Stop Cozying Up To The Political Right | Spatial Orientation

  4. Perhaps I am wrong about this, but I find Hillary to be much more jingoistic than Rand. Would it be uncharitable of me to believe that since you would much rather vote for her (for the reasons given), you consider the question of whether the federal government recognizes gay marriage to be more important than, say, civilians being killed by drones?

    • Hillary Clinton is definitely much more hawkish on military policy than Rand Paul, and when it comes to drones (and most other military/”national security” issues), Paul has better policies than Clinton. I do believe that issues such as drone strikes are important issues, and I would never suggest that they are trivial. Because I consider these issues to be important (and am appalled at the civilian casualties caused by drone strikes), I believe I should explain why I consider Rand Paul’s racism and homophobia to be deal killers but do not consider Clinton’s views on issues like drones to be deal killers. The reason is that the use of drones by our government, along with most other foreign policy issues, is a complicated matter. I feel strongly about my position, but I understand there are arguments both for and against the use of drones. Racial equality and gay equality, however, are extremely cut and dry issues. There are no good arguments in favor of racism and homophobia. The most fundamental test for any nation is whether or not all citizens, regardless of immutable traits like race and sexual orientation, have equal rights. I totally understand being unwilling to vote for Clinton based on her views on certain issues. In fact, I have written a blog post before detailing my view that Clinton is a poor choice for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. However, if you feel unwilling to vote for Clinton, my advice would be to vote for a third party candidate that supports equal rights and opposes drone strikes.

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