Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential campaign is already living up to the far-right brand of libertarianism he’s come to symbolize for his followers. In one of his first interviews after announcing his 2012 bid yesterday morning, he called for eliminating FEMA, even as much of the country suffers from devastating natural disasters, suggesting that people who happen to be in the path of a tornado or wildfire are “dumb.”
But in an an interview just minutes later yesterday evening, Paul outdid himself by telling MSNBC host Chris Matthews that he wouldn’t have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it was unfair to property owners. When Matthews asked if Paul thought it should be legal for a store to refuse to serve African Americans, Paul dodged, saying, “that’s ancient history.” Finally, when asked if he thought we would be better off without the Act and other government programs like Social Security, Paul replied we would be “better off” if government stayed out of such matters:
MATTHEWS: You would have voted against that law. You wouldn’t have voted for the ’64 civil rights bill.
PAUL: Yes, but not in — I wouldn’t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.
MATTHEWS: But you would have voted for the — you know you — oh, come on. Honestly, Congressman, you were not for the ’64 civil rights bill.
PAUL: Because — because of the property rights element, not because it got rid of the Jim Crow law.
MATTHEWS: Right. The guy who owns a bar says, no blacks allowed, you say that’s fine. … This was a local shop saying no blacks allowed. You say that should be legal?
PAUL: That’s — that’s ancient history. That’s ancient history. That’s over and done with. [...]
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. We have had a long history of government involvement with Medicare, Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. And I think you are saying we would have been better off without all that?
PAUL: I think we would be better off if we had freedom, and not government control of our lives, our personal lives, and our — and policing the world.
Paul has expressed opposition to the Civil Rights Act on numerous occasions in the past, even taking to the House floor on the 40th anniversary of the law’s passage to give a speech calling it an unconstitutional attack on “individual liberty”:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society.
He later appeared on Meet the Press to defend his position. But it’s noteworthy that he took such an extreme position on the same day he announced his run for president.
Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), got in trouble during his Senate campaign last year for also opposing the Civil Rights Act from a similar libertarian position. He eventually recanted and said he would have voted for the landmark law.