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Earl Ofari Hutchinson
GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul still wages war against civil rights. And we really shouldn’t be surprised since Paul has repeatedly got into hot water nearly every time he opens his mouth about anything that remotely touches on race. But this time Paul sailed past the outer limits with his defiant boast that he would not have voted for the landmark 1964 civil rights bill. That’s right the 1964 bill; a bill that’s been the law of the land for nearly six decades, and Paul still opposes.
Paul’s rap against the bill is just as absurd and tortured as the one that Southern Democrats and Northern GOP conservatives that bottled the bill up for more than a year in Congress used to pretty up their opposition to it. It violated property rights. Paul nearly six decades after their efforts failed tells an interviewer, “to say I’m for property rights and for state’s rights, and therefore I’m a racist, that’s just outlandish.”
But what else would you call it? The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment wiped away the bogus claim that property rights trumps racial discrimination a century before Paul and Jim Crow maintenance proponents used this ploy to torpedo the civil rights bill. There’s method, though, to Paul’s silly and repeated knock of the law. He’s now a declared 2012 GOP presidential candidate. And he knows full well that there are legions of frustrated, disgusted, even enraged defrocked GOP backers and purported libertarians that are desperate to have an alternative to the drab, lackluster, and downright zany cast of would be GOP presidential contenders.
Paul gives those desperate for an alternative exactly what they want. That’s a candidate who will say anything to tweak the establishment. Paul actually garnered a 49 percent approval rating in the recent AP-GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. That high an approval rating put him far ahead of Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, and former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman in the GOP favorability derby.
The cornerstone of his appeal is his view of government and what it should or should not do about civil rights. Paul holds that government should have minimal or better still no role in civil rights laws and enforcement. The government passed and enforced civil rights laws, did nothing to solve the country's racial ills, and worse, fueled even more racial polarization, he says. That old, worn, and thoroughly discredited view warms the hearts of the packs of closet bigots that pine for the old days when racial and gender discrimination was the American norm and government did little to protect black and gay rights.
On his campaign website ronpaul2008.com Paul highlighted this as "Issue: Racism." "Government as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry." In other words, the 1954 landmark Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of education school desegregation decision, the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and legions of court decisions and state laws that bar discrimination are worthless. Worse, said Paul, they actually promoted bigotry by dividing Americans into race and class.
Paul was outraged during his short lived presidential bid in 2008 when he was dinged as a racist when that as well as embarrassing newsletters was cited that were either written by Paul or authorized by Paul on his sites in the 1990s along with racially front loaded inflammatory quips that bashed blacks. The Paul-attributed digs and insults called blacks chronic welfare grifters, thugs, lousy parents, and said they are inherently racist toward whites. Paul vehemently denied that he said any of those things.
The quips appeared in his officially approved newsletters. There is no evidence that he wrote a correction, or issued a clarification. The jury then and now is still out on whether those views truly represent his feelings or not. He loudly protests that he’s not a racist now because he has to if he is to have any credibility as a serious presidential contender.
But an anti civil rights position linked directly to the old property rights canard is another matter. It fits neatly into the stock libertarian argument that the best thing that government can do is stay out of the affairs of private citizens and private business. That the root of America’s woes-- bloated spending, soaring deficits, congressional gridlock, crippling energy dependence, massive tax disparities, the drug plague, and even America’s wars are the result of top heavy government interference and intrusion in the lives of Americans. Paul also knows that spicing up the horribly distorted Jeffersonian principle of limited government with race is always a good catch all.
It is a surefire way to get the media and public attention, and to get back in the political hunt. Fallen media curiosity Donald Trump used the race tact to masterful effectiveness by recycling the birther craziness about President Obama’s birth certificate. It didn’t last, but he got his 15 minutes.
Paul will get more than that. Unlike Trump he’s a politician who knows how to get and sustain attention. And knocking civil rights when all else fails is always good for that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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