Last Friday, Rand Paul made waves with all the wrong people when he announced after meeting with some black pastors that the GOP needs to “lay off” Voter ID laws because “it’s offending people.” According to the story, Paul does not dispute that Voter ID laws are meritorious or that voter fraud is real; in fact, he is quoted as acknowledging that dead people vote, voter fraud is real, and that Voter ID laws are an effective deterrent to this fraud. Paul’s basis for opposition has solely to do with the optics of pushing for this admittedly meritorious legislation among the minority community. Predictably, Rand Paul’s many online lickspittles rushed to pen defenses of this asinine position,* proving that there is nothing so politically stupid that some people will not defend it if a Paul says it.
It is really difficult to know where to begin with this tin-eared garbage. A good place might be to note that an astounding 74% of Americans favor Voter ID laws. Another place would be to note that the 23% who oppose them are likely to be the least persuadable voters in all of America to vote Republican under any circumstances even if the GOP were to drop support for voter ID. Another would be to note that successfully passing Voter ID laws would eliminate votes that tend to overwhelmingly lean Democrat in actual elections – to wit, fake/dead voters in Democrat machine precincts.
But what is most striking to me in this entire sordid tale is the stunning hypocrisy of Rand Paul in terms of supporting things that are offensive to black people. For instance, you know what’s very offensive to many black people? The public display of the confederate flag and neo-confederate rhetoric. Such as you might find in the context of a shock radio personality named the Southern Avenger who wore a facial mask prominently displaying the confederate flag, who was a member of Rand Paul’s staff. When information came out that Paul was harboring such a person on his staff and even co-authored a book with this person, Paul stood by him for weeks, oblivious or indifferent to how this would tarnish his image specifically or the Tea Party’s image generally to have this guy prominently affiliated with a standard bearer for the TEA Party.
You know what else many black people do not care for? People who oppose, even still today, the Civil Rights Act. So widespread is support for the Civil Rights Act, especially in the black community, that no one even polls it anymore. And yet as recently as 2010, Rand Paul went on the record opposing the Civil Rights Act and specifically acknowledged that it was unpopular to do so, but that he must stand on principle:
PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.
PAUL: You had to ask me the “but.” I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners — I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant — but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.
INTERVIEWER: But under your philosophy, it would be okay for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworth’s?
PAUL: I would not go to that Woolworths, and I would stand up in my community and say that it is abhorrent, um, but, the hard part — and this is the hard part about believing in freedom — is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example — you have to, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things and uh, we’re here at the bastion of newspaperdom, I’m sure you believe in the First Amendment so you understand that people can say bad things.It’s the same way with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior, but if we’re civilized people, we publicly criticize that, and don’t belong to those groups, or don’t associate with those people.
Now, the point here is not that Rand Paul was right or wrong to either stand by the Southern Avenger initially or to hold this principled position against the Civil Rights Act. The point is that Rand Paul has a lot of nerve lecturing the GOP about dropping principled positions because they are offensive to minorities. Rand Paul himself has on two prominent occasions stood by principles that are unpopular with swing voters and especially black people – right or wrong – because they were what he believed. Now, he asks the GOP to abandon a position that is wildly popular and which he himself admits is right for the sake of not being offensive to wholly unpersuadable voters.
Let us pray that no one possessed of such a tin ear ever seriously contends for the GOP Presidential nomination, or the party may be set back decades by his political foolishness.
*In a delicious bit of irony, this particular lickspittle is the Southern Avenger himself.