Dr. Rand Paul, within 24 hours of his senate primary win in Kentucky, seems to have stepped into the frying pan by questioning the holy grail of all legislation passed in the last fifty years, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The heat won’t be turned down anytime soon as we move through the rest of the spring and into the heat of the summer.
So what has Dr. Paul done to cook his goose? In a nutshell, Dr. Paul is questioning whether the federal government has a right to tell private property owners what to do with their businesses. Requiring that business owners not discriminate against blacks and gays may, according to Dr. Paul, violate the business owners free speech.
Needless to say, the social justice and race entrepreneurs are piling on Dr. Paul. Given the bona fides bestowed upon and accepted by him from the al-Qaeda-esque Tea Party movement, liberals are preparing to have a field day.
For example, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pressed Dr. Paul on his claim that he supported most portions of the Act even though he had problems with the public accommodations portion. Dr. Maddow cited the beatings that civil rights marchers received while trying to desegregate lunch counters in the South. Dr. Maddow also cited the failure of Bob Jones University to sanction interracial dating, providing that as an example for the need of the Act.
The problem with Dr. Maddow’s argument is that it, like the other arguments I expect from the left, is based on emotions, morals, and heart tugging violin music.
Congress was able to expand and codify the concept of civil rights based on commerce. Yes, commerce. If the business doing the discriminating affected interstate commerce, then Congress could regulate its behavior by requiring the business accommodate minorities.
Commerce includes travel, trade, traffic, transportation, and communications. This is why Dr. Maddow’s interracial dating example is a stretch.
Dr. Paul’s mistake was trying to appease the Tea Party by making a smaller government argument on the back of the civil rights movement. The public accommodations portion of the Act is really conservative in nature and narrowly written. It makes clear that racial discrimination in the conduits of interstate commerce is an antithesis to national economic growth.
Dr. Paul is correct that government in general has expanded far beyond its constitutional mandates. It is time for Congress to start the slow and painful process of repealing a number of statutes that have nothing to do with commerce, the national defense, or the general welfare. Getting rid of the Department of Education and the Department of Energy would be a good place to start.
Through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, government has appropriately balanced the promotion of commerce and the protection of the general welfare of all of its citizens.