The Rand Paul campaign had barely swept up the confetti from its victory party for securing the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate candidate when the media began trying to paint him as a racist. The flap arose over comments that Paul made on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” last Wednesday. On Friday the New York Times reported: “Asked by Ms. Maddow if a private business had the right to refuse to serve black people, Mr. Paul replied, ‘Yes.'”
That’s not quite how it went down. In this video clip “The Rachel Maddow Show” guest host Chris Hayes explains how the The Times got it wrong.
Despite this misquote, Rand Paul did say that he had problems with some provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. After mentioning that he‘s “not in favor of any discrimination of any form,” and pointing out that he supports 90% of the Civil Rights act, specifically the parts that banned institutional discrimination in the public domain, he asked some libertarian philosophical questions about federal desegregation of privately-owned venues. “Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?” asked Paul. “These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion.”
Important questions indeed. If you don’t want to invite someone into your house because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, weight, shoe size or any other reason, it’s generally agreed that you have no legal obligation to allow that person onto your property. Why do so many people think that the rules suddenly should change if you are trying to make money on the use of your property? Isn’t commercial property still the property of the owner, just as noncommercial property is?
Another interesting question in regard to federally mandated desegregation is the constitutionality of it. Only in the mind of an imaginative Progressive is exchanging food and crumpled bills across a lunch counter a transaction of “interstate commerce.” While the state and local governments might have something to say about who someone serves in their privately-owned business, the federal government isn’t holding many constitutional cards on the issue.
It would be increasingly hard for a business or property owner to discriminate in this day and age, not because of any law, but because of how our culture itself has changed. Racism simply is not tolerated as it once was. That is mostly because of the work our great social reformers (often private religious leaders) who worked to change society’s hearts and minds about race. In most instances, government (at all levels) had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into modernity after society had mostly evolved into its more tolerant self.
These are “important philosophical debates,” Doctor Paul, but don’t expect anyone in the press or politics to debate them with you. Just expect more “gotcha” politics.