The Beginning of the End?

I think the Rand Paul/Civil Rights Act episode might be the real beginning of the end. Here is why.

The only real opposition to the growth of the federal government in the last quarter-century has been the recent Tea Party movement. It may be too late to make any real difference, but it was a slender hope, a spark of life, a sign that perhaps there was still some fight left in the spirit of American liberty and independence. Then its numbers got bigger, its rallies got bigger, and, in a spectacular victory, it got one of its people—Rand Paul—the Republican nomination for senate. Wow!

The mainstream media, and the people defending and even desiring the expansion of the federal government, have correctly viewed the Tea Party movement as a threat, and they have worked hard to suppress it. One main strategy has been to dismiss them on the grounds that they are all really just special-pleading racists. Deep down, their real objection was to President Obama’s race or to the fact that people of color are now rising up and threatening their privilege. The media have tried very hard to find evidence of this racism, but, despite some initially promising attempts, they had had only limited success. But they still knew somehow that all those arguments about constitutionality and liberty were really rationalizations masking the true, ugly motives underneath.

And then . . . Rand Paul said that he wasn’t too sure about that 1964 Civil Rights Act. Maybe it violated business owners’ private property rights and thus constituted an unjust governmental incursion, he suggested. Ahh, just exactly what was wanted: proof—absolute, uncontrovertible, indisputable proof—that (a) he is a racist and therefore can be dismissed; that (b) therefore the movement supporting him is racist and can be similarly dismissed; and that (c) therefore everything he and his movement supported arose out of racism and can also be dismissed. Just to be sure, before pronouncing the final verdict, media members asked some prominent “libertarians” whether they too were against the Civil Rights Act. And they all duly said no, no, of course not: Paul is “wrong,” he’s  “brain-dead,” etc.

Well, that’s that, isn’t it? The whole Tea Party movement can now finally be safely disregarded as a racist rabble, unworthy of serious consideration. And all those people who have been arguing in support of the “free market,” “limited government,” “constitutional limits,” “individual liberty”? Well, they must be racists too, and we now know for sure those phrases are really just code words for racism.

Therefore, all the opposition to increasing federal debt, to increasing federal centralization, to government takeover of various industries, to increasing federal management and nudging of the markets by enlightened and benevolent philosopher-kings is just so much racist special-pleading. We are now safe to proceed apace, psychologically secure and confident in the purity of our motives and no longer needing to feel any guilt for not paying attention to those people “on the right.”

One might have thought that the Rand Paul affair is, in the grand scheme of things, just a small blip. How many politicians, after all, have said things that got them into hot water, even sometimes ending their political careers? But I fear this one is different because the stakes are so much higher. Although many of us prefer not to think about it, Europe is right on the precipice of a fiscal collapse, and the United States is hurtling in exactly the same direction. If the Tea Party movement—and all those who, though not exactly members, were cheering them along—are discredited and defeated, then there is no real opposition, no real brakes on our accelerating progress toward what now seems might be an inevitable end.

Perhaps my pessimism is getting the best of me; time will tell. But if one thinks that Europe does not have the will to solve its debt crisis, and if one thinks that the only way the United States will be able to weather that coming global fiscal storm is if we were to get our own house in order first, then Americans would need to make difficult and painful political and economic decisions very quickly. Perhaps the Rand Paul Affair will pass, without the significance I suggest here; indeed, I hope I am wrong. But if it does turn out to have simultaneously crippled those who are pushing for those difficult fiscal decisions and comforted those opposing them, then it may become a pivotal event sealing our fate.

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13 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End?

  1. I am not a fan of Rand Paul and I do not live in Kentucky. Therefore I will comment only on the Constitutionality of the 1964 Civil Rights law, which I am also not familiar with in detail.

    Article IV, Section 2: “The citizens in each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.”

    Article I Section 8: “Congress shall have the power to… make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States…”

    If the 1964 law was necessary to enforce the carrying out of Article IV, then Paul was incorrect in his “off the cuff” answer. I am certain, however, that he would not be in favor of repealing that law.

  2. Jerry McDaniel:

    How does the use of private property somehow relate to “The citizens in each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states”?

    What this means is that no State shall make laws discriminating between state-residents and out-of-state actors. It has nothing to do with how private parties associate with other private parties.

  3. @Jerry: I take the issue isn’t the Constitutionality of the CRA, but its coherence with the rule of law and respect for private property, as Hume indicates.

    @Jim: I’m not sure whether there is at much stake here as you thought (though I agree there might be), not because it will blow over, but because I’m uncertain how much long-term, large-scale significance there would be anyway to Rand Paul’s victory in the general election. I’m not sure what sort of “projectible” lessons there would be to take away from it. I’m certain it wouldn’t under the best conditions be a harbinger of a broad-based move toward liberty.

  4. Hume, you missed the word “if” in the last paragraph of my comment.

    Jim, Rand Paul is a libertarian. I don’t know a lot about him, since I have not followed his career. However, a lot of libertarians, it seems to me, confuse liberty with libertine. The Constitution promotes an ordered liberty to “establish justice”, insure domestic tranquility,…promote the general welfare”. Some of the libertarian political positions do not meet the standards of this goal. At least that is my impression.

    I confess to having little interest til now in studying the libertarian philosophy, therefore, any misconceptions are probably based in ignorance.

      1. [[Thus, while only 35 percent of strong Tea Party supporters rated blacks as hardworking, only 49 percent described whites as such. While the gap is evident, these responses are close to those for all whites (blacks are rated as “hardworking” by 40 percent, whites by 52 percent). ]]

        you have to love an argument that says “well they’re not racist because everyone else is, too.” as if racist were a marginal term, used to describe people who are more racist than average.

      2. In other words, the Tea Partiers are about as racist as, say, the Democratic or Republican parties, which is not very much. The charge pretty much has no edge.

  5. The “racist” tag is very quickly losing it’s power. It has been abused to the point that every white person is now a racist.

  6. If the media really wanted to suppress the Tea Party movement, it would do what it does to large-scale leftist movements like the antiwar movement in the runup to the Iraq War–not cover it at all.

  7. Bill, the thing is the mainstream media can no longer just ignore something and make it go away. The rise of alternative media precludes that option.

    It seems clear to me that many members of the media are indeed trying to marginalize the Tea Party movement as best they can.

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