For over twenty years conservative constitutionalists have held up Senator Kennedy’s tirade against “Robert Bork’s America” as the pinnacle of left wing political slanders of the right.
How dare he say that conservative constitutional views would return us to the days of segregated lunch counters?
It is too bad that the senator did not live to see Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Republican nominee for the Senate on the Rachel Maddow show. As it turns out in Rand Paul’s America, an America where the original Constitution (as Paul understands it) has been restored, we would in fact still live in a land of segregated lunch counters.
Rand Paul has clarified his position on the 1964 Civil Right Act.
To his credit he stated that he thinks the act is settled law and that he would have voted for it. I am willing to set aside the question of how the principled constitutionalist and libertarian Paul would justify voting for a bill that overstepped Congress’ constitutionally limited role. And I certainly do not think, as his left wing critics would like to suggest, that Paul has a racist bone in his body.
That said, this is what the president might call a “teaching moment.” Might the conservative movement be going off the rails when its celebrated anti-establishment candidate needs to clarify his position on perhaps the most significant law in the nation’s history, one that has gone effectively unchallenged for over 40 years?
And what does this episode tell us about conservatives’ capacity to govern? When Bob McDonnell was elected in Virginia we were told that he succeeded because he provided voters with a positive agenda in accord with conservative principles. The failure on Tuesday in PA-12 — where the GOP ran in opposition to spending and with no real positive agenda that speaks to voters — seems to confirm the lessons from McDonnell’s victory
Yet if ascendant conservatives, in their desire to restore the constitution in exile, believe like Paul does that the constitution so limits federal power that even the 1964 Civil Rights Act cannot be justified on originalist grounds, then how in the hell is the GOP going to develop a positive agenda that goes beyond politically destructive and strategically improbable efforts to cut spending and fiscally irresponsible calls for more tax cuts?
Posted at 2:15pm