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Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act: Was he right?

The controversy over Rand Paul’s comments about the Civil Rights Act shows a major misunderstanding of freedom and the road to racial equality.

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Fresh from his victory in last week’s Kentucky Republican senatorial primary, Rand Paul found himself caught in a whirlwind when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act properly outlawed racial segregation at privately owned lunch counters. Speaking circuitously if not evasively, Mr. Paul finally said:

“[O]ne of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized. But that doesn’t mean we approve of it.”

So although he supports striking down segregationist state Jim Crow laws, he objected to Title II of the Act, outlawing racial discrimination in “public accommodations.” “Had I been around I would have tried to modify that,” he said.

However, after a torrent of media and blogospheric criticism, he changed course, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “I would have voted yes…. I think that there was an overriding problem in the South, so big that it did require federal intervention in the sixties.”

Which Rand Paul had it right?

The first one. Had he known and related the full story, he could have avoided the metamorphosis.


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