THE BLOG
05/20/2010 03:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rand Paul Underscores the Tea Party's Connection to Race

I'll take Rand Paul at his word. He's opposed to racial discrimination.

However, he obviously supports allowing businesses to engage in racial discrimination with impunity. Evidently, if the government says it's against the law to run a whites-only business, this is a bridge too far for Rand Paul.

Congratulations, Republicans. The man you chose to run for the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Kentucky and the man who delivered the highest profile political victory for the tea party movement has turned out to have some very twisted ideas about civil rights and race.

On the Rachel Maddow Show last night, Paul suffered an epic meltdown -- more or less admitting that he doesn't support the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which "prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin." In other words, Paul implied that the First Amendment allows any business to be "white-only" if it chooses and the government isn't allowed to interfere.

But he's against racial discrimination. He said so.

Rand Paul's extremist position on the Civil Right Act underscores a major flaw in libertarian ideology, and it further cements the connection between the tea party movement and race.

Libertarianism, which both Ron and Rand Paul famously embrace, suggests the free market is a significant and vital component of liberty. Private businesses are capable of accomplishing everything, and government can't interfere or regulate those businesses in any way. The free market will police itself. Just leave it be.

Private industry can pave roads, educate children, put out fires and protect our streets from drunk drivers. It can shuttle our kids to corporate schools and back, it can provide clean water to our homes and they can guarantee our meat and vegetables aren't contaminated with diseases. And by the way, in a nation that's 70 percent white, private businesses can choose to do all of these things for white people only. Private businesses can provide everything we need, but only offer those services to white people.

And these businesses, according to libertarian ideology, can form monopolies if they want to. As we're all painfully aware from the health care debate, monopolies occur even in our current government-regulated system. Imagine what would happen in a totally unregulated free market.

So, in Rand Paul's utopia, not only can Woolworth's prevent black people from sitting at its soda stand if it wants to, but a private, free market police corporation can set up shop in a community, buy up any competing police corporations and announce that it no longer serves black people or Jewish people or Hispanic people or gay people -- any minority segment of the population.

Or, when public schools are eliminated, a free market education franchise can form a monopoly and ostensibly can choose turn away non-white students, potentially excluding minorities from receiving an education. And all of these businesses are allowed to consolidate with each other, forming larger monopolies, and the ability of the people to effectively fight back simultaneously decreases as unregulated corporation's financial and market power increases.

Of course these free market mega-corporations might not admit that they're engaging in discriminatory practices. Bad PR. They could lie and say that all are welcome, but then create unseen rules that prevent minorities from enrolling. No wheelchair ramps, or prohibitively expensive tuition for poorer students and so forth.

Who would hold them accountable for their lies? Who would have the financial and organizational wherewithal to take on too big to fail corporate franchises like, say, the Halliburton Police Department? Or the Bechtel Water Corporation? Or the News Corp School System?

Most libertarians claim to oppose racial discrimination, but they ultimately support a system that utterly ignores it as a business practice. Put another way, it's like being opposed to cancer, but in favor of asbestos. Rand Paul, to say nothing of a long list of other Republicans, subscribes to this free market libertarian philosophy. And he's also become a champion of the tea party movement.

A gaffe, they say, is when a politician tells the truth out loud. Rand Paul revealed that there is, in fact, a strong racial component of the tea party movement. I don't know if he realizes it or not, but Paul actually helped to vindicate anyone who has pointed out the tea party's connection with race.

Where there's racial smoke, there's racial fire. And the preponderance of evidence points to a large and serious racial aspect of the tea party. Rand Paul just happened to conveniently let it slip out, as did tea party leaders Dale Robertson and Mark Williams, who recently said that Muslims worship a "monkey god."

I can understand a movement based around smaller government and lower taxes, as long as that movement is honest and consistent (this one hasn't been, as evidenced by its eight years of virtual silence). But the positions on race held by Rand Paul and others lead me to believe that smaller government and lower taxes are merely cosmetic -- disguising uglier positions and serving as code language designed to rally certain crowds who hear these concepts and think "welfare queens" and "lazy free loaders."

Small government, in the parlance of tea party leaders, now includes allowing businesses to discriminate against minorities. Lower taxes, meanwhile, only means lower taxes for upper middle class and wealthy Americans. (When the allegedly anti-tax movement learned that 47 percent of Americans didn't pay federal income taxes in 2009 due to tax cuts, they were outraged.)

The Republican Party, for its part, continues to engage in Southern Strategy politics. This isn't a matter of opinion. It's empirical fact. The Republican Southern Strategy is real and it inextricably binds the party to the exploitation of anti-minority bigotry for political advantage. Arizona's anti-Hispanic law is the most recent example in a long history including the "Harold! Call me!" commercial, Lee Atwater, Jesse Helms, Pat Buchanan and the Nixon White House. Therefore the Republican Party has a considerably large racial -- even racist -- component that's in operation today. Right now. If it exploits white racial prejudices a wedge for political gain, how can there not be a bond between the two? How can it not be a component?

Likewise, it's become crystal clear throughout the past year or so, going as far back as Sarah Palin's "community organizer" dog whistle during the campaign, to the wide variety of racially insensitive protest signs and all the rest of it, that the tea party isn't just about smaller government and lower taxes. It's also about race. And with a candidate for Senate like Rand Paul straddling three racially unfriendly political worlds -- the GOP, the tea party and libertarianism -- hopefully this ugliness will be taken seriously now by mainstream Americans and help to discredit large chunks of the tea party movement.

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