Friday, May 28, 2010


Ron Paul's Civil Rights Act?

In an interesting bit of irony considering the political headlines of the last couple of weeks, Rep. Ron Paul made a little bit of history last night:  He was one of five House Republicans to vote for repealing "don't ask, don't tell"  (the measure passed 234-294, with 26 Democrats voting against ). The other four GOPers?  Brand-new House member Charles Djou of Hawaii,  Vietnamese-American Anh "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana, Cuban-American Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Judy Biggert of Illinois.  In case you couldn't tell from the names and description, that means Paul was -- as noted effusively on Twitter -- the only white male Republican to vote for repeal. 

Given how much attention made to the against-conventional-wisdom view of Paul and his son, Kentucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul, about the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act, this vote is both surprisng and maybe less so.

It's mildly surprising because, when running for president, Paul had said that he thought DADT was a "decent policy" viewed through the prism of curtailing identity politics.   But there's evidence of evolution in his thinking over the years.

However, in his public discussions over the CRA, he has said that government should have a strict non-discrimination approach.  It was in the area of private interaction where the Pauls believe that discrimination should be permitted (or not forbidden, depending on your perspective). I agree with that in the philosophical abstract.  However, I also think that the special circumstances that existed in 1964 -- where a direct line could be drawn from the approval of a Constitution that permitted slavery to the Civil War and into Jim Crow -- made it a moral necessity to draft a Civil Rights Act that required non-discrimination in certain areas of private transaction. On last Sunday's "This Week," George Will articulated the moral trade-off that the CRA presumed).  The Pauls are more strict in their interpretation of the Constitution -- though Rand has subsequently said that he would have voted for the CRA. 

In any event, it's good to see Ron Paul walk the walk on what can be seen as an issue of equal justice under the law. And it's also interesting to see an incredibly odd bloc of GOP diversity coming together on this sort of vote. 

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