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Rand Paul at Howard University

6 min read

“Some argue with evidence that our drug laws are biased-that they are the new Jim Crow.

But to simply be against them for that reason misses a larger point. They are unfair to EVERYONE, largely because of the one size fits all federal mandatory sentences. Our federal mandatory minimum sentences are simply heavy-handed and arbitrary. They can affect anyone at any time, though they disproportionately affect those without the means to fight them. We should stand and loudly proclaim enough is enough. We should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence. That’s why I have introduced a bill to repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences. We should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community.”  Senator Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul spoke at the predominantly black Howard University. This is not exactly like Marco Polo discovering China yet in terms of naked symbolism it was significant. Senator Paul’s actions in going to Howard are most significant considering that Senator Paul is a Republican, but less so given the Senator’s brand of libertarian inspired conservatism. In point of fact, there is more in common between liberals, civil libertarians and libertarians than between either of these groups and some elements in the current GOP. The liberty movement can and should embrace civil libertarianism and parts of liberalism because if it does so, it has a much broader demographic appeal than it may yet realize. It is possible to have libertarian tendencies and embrace the civil rights acts because they are an important arena in which the federal government protects the civil liberties of all Americans.

Senator Paul is right, Republicans started civil rights. The Radical Republican dominated 42nd Congress enacted Section 1983 to combat the Ku Klux Klan’s actions that threatened Reconstruction in the Southern States. Section 1983 of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 imposed civil liability on every person that would under color of law, deprive another of a federal or Constitutional right. It was only the federal government that could have enforced the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

Section 1983 has not materially changed since its enactment in 1871 other than for the piecemeal repeal of it by the Judiciary and the Judiciary’s nullification of the legislative intent of Section 1983 by broader and broader application of absolute immunity to state officials. The federal courts are at times the only effective refuge for some Section 1983 legislation in towns like Chicago because of the political slating of state judges.
I have invoked Section 1983 to combat corruption in Cook County and pierce the veil of absolute immunity that corrupt government officials don when they violate the Constitution rights of Americans.

My associate and fellow civil rights lawyer, Jonathan Lubin and I are using the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to combat a major university’s anti-semiticism. The civil rights acts are important because they protect and preserve civil liberties. While it is simple to say that individuals left alone treat each other as they should, this is not reality.

How did the party that pushed for the Civil Rights Act go on to lose 95% of the African American vote? There is a perception that the GOP does not welcome minorities. Romney’s public statements after losing the election that the democrats are to blame for buying off minorities is not only characteristically tone deaf, it feeds into a larger optics problem that plagues the GOP. One that is internally completely inconsistent. A political party that claims to stand for fiscal discipline and therefore espouses that it is preferable to cut programs for education, seniors, the unemployed and disabled, while retaining entitlement programs and tax cuts- as long as militarism and nation building abroad, which will account for one third of the deficit, is unquestioned-has an internally inconsistent fiscal policy.

“Some Republicans, let’s call them the moss-covered variety, mistake war for defense. They forget that Reagan argued for Peace through strength, not War through strength.”

The impact of cuts on social and welfare programs along with preferential tax treatment are disproportionately felt by minorities. The message of subsidies for oil companies, bailouts, corporate tax entitlements and tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, disproportionately favor the wealthiest Americans, the largest lobbies and big business. The message is clear, the rich are welcome and the rest of you, if you are not wealthy must be lazy: drop dead. While it is true that welfare programs are growing at an alarming rate, it is hypocritical to complain while your own preferred expenditures and subsidies grow at commensurate rates.

Rush Limbaugh does not think with the presence of two handfuls of black figures in the GOP and conservatism such as Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Herman Cain and Clarence Thomas, that the GOP has anything to prove-it is not racist. Yet Senator Paul’s speech was not well received by a lot of the Media one of the criticisms being that Sen. Paul had previously criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in its application to private institutions. Another criticism by the more liberal media was why bother? Or to paraphrase, “Give up the ghost, you silly Republicans, you are losing 95% of the black vote and everyone knows you are a bunch of science denying, wretched racists.”  Reports of the GOP’s death may prove to be premature.  There is one point the Media overlooks-Senator Paul’s brand of libertarian inspired policy does not have to adopt the baggage of the elements in the GOP.

“We must always embrace individual liberty and enforce the constitutional rights of all Americans-rich and poor, immigrant and native, black and white.
Such freedom is essential in achieving any longstanding health and prosperity. As Toni Morrison said, write your own story. Challenge mainstream thought. I hope that some of you will be open to the Republican message that favors choice in education, a less aggressive foreign policy, more compassion regarding non-violent crime and encourages opportunity in employment. And when the time is right, I hope that African Americans will again look to the party of emancipation, civil liberty, and individual freedom.”

This week also marked the death of the world’s second female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Images of her and President Ronald Reagan were on every newspaper worldwide. The sad reality is that although the GOP would like to look in the mirror and see Ronald Reagan, what is more often there now is a Michelle Bachman speaking of anchor babies, Sarah Palin addressing CPAC with a large soft drink, or Rick Santorum explaining rape. Lets face it; the gravitas has gone.

When the GOP decided it wanted to be the party of small government except when it came to budget busting regime changing, spending and other people’s bedrooms, it went from fighting grand enemies to fighting the extinction of Slurpees and all but legislating the use of vaginal probes. It went from the party of grand principles and grand ideas, appealing to our better angels to the party of petty retort.

Rand Paul’s message at Howard cannot be dismissed out of hand. He is right to point to the heritage of the Republican Party. There is a lesson here for the liberty movement, embrace that part of the heritage of the GOP and try to get back to speaking of substance and grand ideas-leave the Slurpees alone.
IMG_1241R. Tamara de Silva is a litigator specializing in Constitutional law in the federal courts. Ms. de Silva is also a professional securities trader. She writes a blog about the law, the financial markets and politics, which can be found