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David Sirota

David Sirota

Posted: May 20, 2010 03:28 PM

What Dems Don't Want Mentioned in the Rand Paul/Civil Rights Debate

What's Your Reaction:

Obviously, I agree with all of today's criticism of Rand Paul about his extremist position on the Civil Rights Act. However, let's be very clear here: Many Democrats (and, of course, most Republicans) support our system of laws that lets employers and private businesses discriminate against employees and customers for all sorts of other, non-racial reasons.

Let's stick for a moment to employment, as just the best example. Today, there is only one state in the nation that is not technically an "at-will employment" state (Montana). But everywhere else, unless you have a private party or union contract that says otherwise, you are an "at-will" employee, which means that your employer can fire you at will for any reason not explicitly protected under state law or in the Civil Rights Act (the federal protected classes are listed here).

So yes, as outrageous as it sounds, it's true: right now, many if not most Americans can be fired if their employer doesn't like the sports team they root for. Or if their boss doesn't like their choice of tie on a given day. Or if their boss hates their new glasses. Or, in many states without non-discrimination statutes, if their boss doesn't like their sexual orientation. You get the point.

Obviously, I don't think this reality is a good thing at all -- but I am saying that Paul's position*, while offensive and extreme, is merely an extrapolated position of many "mainstream" so-called "pro-business" Democrats and Republicans in Congress who would call "just cause" legislation (ie. mandating that an employer have a "just cause" for firing you) "radical." As just one example, here in Colorado, leading Democrats in 2008 lined up to oppose a "just cause" ballot initiative.

Considering they haven't used their congressional majorities to expand the Civil Rights Act, Democrats have basically decided to draw the line in the sand on protected classes at the status quo (race, gender, age and religion -- all of which, let me reiterate, should and must remain protected classes). And that's certainly more than you can say for Rand Paul and the libertarian movement he represents. But when you start really looking at employment/discrimination law, you find that by omission, those same Democrats expressing outrage at Paul's position are perfectly fine with a largely deregulated labor market that lets employers fire and discriminate against you for all sorts of preposterous reasons.

This is the unspeakable taboo in the whole discussion about Rand Paul in the Democratic-aligned "progressive" media -- taboo because to acknowledge it is to admit just how owned by corporate interests "mainstream" Democrats and Republicans really are. Again, Paul is extreme and offensive in his extremism, but he's just degrees more extreme than so many "centrist"/"pro-business" lawmakers of both parties.


* Oddly enough, while Paul's libertarianism led him to such extreme criticism of the Civil Rights Act, he also said "we did some very important things in the '60s that I'm all in favor of and that was desegregating the schools." This could be construed to be an interventionist position that some Democrats still don't fully embrace, because when they hear language like that, many of them hear "busing." Now, it's true: we can't know whether Paul's reference to "desegregating schools" meant specifically cross-geographical busing. But it is weird to hear him take such an extreme position on the Civil Rights Act, but also using language that raises the prospect of busing.

 
 
 

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