There have been two incidents now, since the Kentucky primary, in which Rand Paul has failed to prostrate himself automatically before a political shibboleth. One concerned the Civil Rights Act, the intent of which Paul has expressed full support for. His quarrel is with the element of the Civil Rights Act that authorizes the federal government to regulate private businesses.
The Paul record on the Civil Rights Act is a particularly telling issue because quite a few Republicans are terrified of being seen as violating an article of faith – even though the highly questionable assumption of federal authority to regulate business practices in this realm is the same assumption at issue with the individual health insurance mandate. It’s to the advantage of only the left, for this assumption to be considered sacrosanct and beyond question because of what the assumption was made for.
Federal overreach in a good cause is still federal overreach. Republicans must reflect on this fact: that if we refuse to reexamine the loose thinking about federal authority in the Civil Rights Act – thinking that was strongly opposed by many at the time, as older readers will remember – then we have already ceded the principle of federal overreach, and, by our own agreement, there is nothing the US federal government can’t do to us. (…)
Tacit, unexamined acceptance of federal authority to do these things is what Rand Paul is challenging. In 2010, he is the one asking people to think, rather than to merely repeat doctrinaire talking points taught to them since birth. His critics, on the other hand, sound like nothing so much as children reciting a catechism, and tsk-tsk-ing over those who don’t recite it in exactly the same way.
That includes many of his critics on the right – who have agreed to be governed by a list of pieties that makes effective dissent from the left’s religious doctrine impossible.