May 29, 2010

Jim Crow In A Teabag

What can I say about Rand Paul that has not been said? Paul, of course, is the GOP nominee for Senate in Kentucky, and Great White Hope for the Tea Party faithful around the country. And he is the son of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.

Rand Paul recently made statements in opposition to portions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, on the grounds that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate against African-Americans and others and deny service to them. He is entitled to his opinions, however racist they may be. But he cannot expect to run as a serious candidate from a major party and not have such controversial points of view scrutinized. At the very least, watching this not-ready-for-primetime-politician try and wiggle his way out of his past statements will make for great entertainment at the very least. Paul is dead wrong, but he unwittingly provided a valuable service to the public.

Tea parties and racism. Many of us suspected that the Tea Party movement is a fundamentally racist one. Although it would be unfair to say that all Teabaggers are racist, certainly it would be disingenuous for anyone to argue that the movement does not appeal to the angry mob, particularly those white folks who hate blacks and Latinos, immigrants, and most of all the President because he is black fascist-socialist-Muslim-communist from Kenya who refuses to produce his real birth certificate. And it would be intellectually dishonest to say that the Teabaggers are not a part of the recent surge in right-wing hate group activity of late, including militias, anti-immigrant Patriot groups and others.

From their early days at the McCain-Palin rallies during the 2008 presidential campaign, the Tea Party crowd has had an energy about them that smells of a Jim Crow type of racial intolerance, just like the 1950s and 1960s. Rand Paul's prominence only confirms what many already knew, which is that racism under girds the Teabag movement.

Flawed ideologies. All ideologies need to undergo a stress test to see if they can survive everyday use. It is one thing to express an ideology, and sell wolf tickets if you will. But it is an entirely different thing to put those ideas into practice. In that regard, Communism as practiced has been a huge failure. The notion of equalizing a society that has known harsh inequities and economic exploitation sounds like a good idea. But when the new system of government is as brutal, corrupt and incompetent as, or more brutal, corrupt and incompetent than the one it replaced, well, that is a bankrupt ideology--at least as it is being applied.

Similarly, capitalism in the American context is a failed system. The concept of trickle-down, free-market economics has led to an unprecedented looting of the American people and a concentration of economic power, with an upward redistribution of wealth from the have-nots to the have-mores. Moreover, the financial institutions that espouse laissez-faire capitalism for the rest of us prefer socialism for themselves in the form of government-sponsored bank bailouts and corporate welfare payments.

Aspects of libertarianism have their merits, and there is something to be said about less government intrusion in certain aspects of one's life. But his civil rights views demonstrate that Dr. Paul and his libertarian ideologies are impractical and simply not ready. If you hate government so much, why run for political office in the first place? And how can you claim to oppose government intrusion, yet oppose physician cuts to Medicare when it serves your own narrow interests?

Finally, for Paul to call the President un-American for criticizing BP--the corporation responsible for the world's worst ecological disaster--is confounding at best. Obviously, Rand Paul is cheerleader for a system that allows people and businesses to do as they please without limits, without social responsibility built into the system. Remember, unfettered capitalism gave us slavery, worker exploitation, and all sorts of human rights abuses. That was the free market in action.

Dr. Paul wants to appear principled by opposing civil rights and endorsing the oppression of black people over forty years after the fact, all in the name of his narrow ideology. In the end, he appears boxed in by that ideology, as are his prospects in the Senate.

But then again, in this country, you never know.

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