Rand Paul: Opportunist or Ferguson’s Libertarian Civil Rights Hope?

Senator Rand Paul published an op-ed in Time Magazine and gave a speech this week about Ferguson Missouri and Civil Rights. Given Senator Paul’s long-held views on civil rights, how should we interpret this latest effort? Is it opportunism or a genuine attempt at curing a longstanding social wrong? Let’s examine the record:

Professors Michael Eric Dyson (sitting in for Ed Schultz) and James Peterson discuss leaders taking a stance on militarization (with John Fugelsang).

Citing big government, Senator Rand Paul urges demilitarization of the police

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, August 15, 2014 11:40 EDT

Republican US Senator Rand Paul called for the demilitarization of the police Thursday, blaming “big government” for the clashes which flared following the killing of an unarmed black teenager. Paul, seen as a contender for the Republican 2016 presidential election ticket, argued in a commentary on Time magazine’s website that the crisis reflected a “systemic problem” of US law enforcement, which is often tainted by racism. “Anyone who thinks that race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention,” said the Kentucky senator. “And the root of the problem is big government.” Paul the trend towards police forces equipping themselves with military style equipment, suggesting it had played a part in the violence in Ferguson, a suburb of the midwestern city of St Louis, where officers with assault rifles faced unarmed protesters. “If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot,” he said. “There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response. The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.” Paul said the federal government had “incentivized the militarization of local police precincts” by helping local government “build what are essentially small armies.” “That goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement,” Paul said. “When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury … we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.”

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Blogger’s Note:

All this is well and good, until one is reminded of all the other things Rand Paul has said.

Case in point? This, from not so long ago, in 2010:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during the inaugural Freedom Summit meeting for conservative speakers in Manchester, New Hampshire, April 12, 2014.

   “There’s a fellow in the White House who says you’re clinging to your religion and your guns,”  began the Kentucky junior senator to a gathered crowd at an Open Carry rally in Frankfort, Ohio, on March 27, 2010. “How many of you are clinging to your religion and your guns?”

The crowd cheered vociferously. In the spirit of the event, they had brought their guns to celebrate their 2nd Amendment rights, and they weren’t ashamed to let the whole world know.

Among those attending the 2010 Open Carry rally at which Senator Paul was a keynote speaker were the Ohio Valley Freedom Fighters, a militia whose mission statement promises their countrymen that they are ready to “serve [their] country by being prepared to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

 (Curated from www.ibtimes.com)

Then, we also have Senator Paul on video, in his own words, telling Rachel Maddow that were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 up for a vote today, he would vote against it.

Additional Reading: Paul Waldman:

The shooting death by police of Ferguson, MO teenager Michael Brown, and what has happened in the aftermath, has been blanketing the news for the past few days. It’s a story about race, but it’s also become a story about the power of the state and how it’s wielded, and against whom.

So my question is this: Where are the libertarians?

Libertarians are, after all, supposed to be having their moment, as a cover story in last week’s New York Times Magazine put it. The foundation of libertarianism is skepticism toward government and a belief in individual freedom. There aren’t many freedoms more fundamental than the freedom to walk to your grandmother’s apartment, as Brown was doing, without getting shot by a representative of the government. So you might have thought that libertarians would be all over the media raising pointed questions about the misuse of police power.

Curated from www.washingtonpost.com

Rima’s End Notes:

It is especially important to account for the totality of politicians’ public statements, over years, and not single self-serving opportunistic statements such as the latest from Rand Paul.

Governor Jay Nixon has a very long record of dealing with racial discrimination and protests. There is much to be derived not only from his words in the Ferguson crisis, but also the amount of time it took him to utter them and the actions he ultimately takes. Having the state police take over the security of Ferguson was a great move. Not removing the chief of Ferguson PD from office canceled it out. Calling a state of emergency and curfew in Ferguson is taking care of business from the wrong end of the problem.

Who caused what in Ferguson? Why?

How long have the citizens of Ferguson been living under oppressive conditions? Socio-economic conditions?