of partisan groupthink
by Gene Lyons
Following Rand Paul's foolhardy ruminations about
civil rights, a headline in the Week cut to the chase:
"Is Rand Paul Crazy?" Fresh from
winning Kentucky's GOP primary, the sometime libertarian and Tea Party
told an interviewer that he wouldn't have supported
part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing racially segregated businesses.
While he personally abhors racism and wouldn't
patronize a restaurant that refused to serve African-Americans, Rand explained,
government coercion of private associations is
worse. "Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant?" he asked.
"Or does the government own his restaurant?"
Sigh. Sophomoric is more like it.
As the 47-year-old ophthalmologist was still in
diapers back in 1964, he has no firsthand memory of the beatings, nightstick
dog attacks, murders and assassinations that
accompanied the last days of Jim Crow. But anybody styling himself a "libertarian"
ought to understand what "legal segregation"
consisted of: systematic, state-sponsored denial of black citizens' constitutional
Turning away black customers wasn't personal preference;
across most of the South, serving them was against the law.
Actually, I suspect that Dr. Paul does know that,
and that his seeming naiveté masks a coded appeal to voters -- thankfully,
a diminishing number -- who prate about "states'
rights" as a means of expressing racial resentment.
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