With 31 percent of the vote, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) won the closely watched Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll this weekend, dwarfing second place finisher Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) 11 percent of the vote.
The son of libertarian icon and former Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), Rand Paul has emerged as the nation’s leading spokesperson for an anti-government philosophy that would undo nearly all the accomplishments of the New Deal and the Civil Rights Era. As a Senate candidate in 2010, Paul came out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s bans on private discrimination — including the bans on employment discrimination and whites-only lunch counters — claiming that the right of “private ownership” should trump African Americans’ and other minorities’ right to be free from invidious discrimination. Permitting private discrimination, according to Paul, is “the hard part about believing in freedom.”
Nor are Paul’s libertarian views limited to his skepticism towards civil rights protections. In 2013, Paul endorsed a long-ago overruled Supreme Court decision called Lochner v. New York. The Court’s Lochner opinion relied on a fabricated “right to contract” that it and subsequent cases used to strike down various laws protecting workers from exploitative employers — on the idea that if a worker signs a contract that forces them to work 16 hours a day for barely subsistence wages then it would somehow violate the worker’s rights to pay them more money for fewer hours work.
Lochner was overruled in 1937, after the Great Depression discredited the largely libertarian economic policy that had been imposed upon the country by the Supreme Court. And it was, until very recently, viewed as a disastrous opinion even among leading conservatives. Robert Bork, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by a Senate that deemed him too conservative, labeled Lochner as “the quintessence of judicial usurpation of power.”
Yet, if Rand Paul were elected president, he would have the power to nominate potential Supreme Court justices who would restore Lochner and who would potentially strike down the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters to boot. And this is the man that one of the nation’s top conservative gatherings selected as their first choice to be the next President of the United States.