It is easy to respect a political ideology that promotes the liberty and freedom guaranteed in the Constitution regardless of the economic policies that party endorses. In fact, there is no greater determinant for what it means to be American than a philosophical view that first and foremost protects the basic freedoms the Founding Fathers advocated and courts have upheld throughout the country’s history. Libertarian’s philosophy often blurs the lines between protecting the rights and freedoms of an individual with economic freedom inherent in capitalism, and presents contradictions that result in one side or the other being denied their basic rights. The most recent pseudo-Libertarian and tea party representative, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), presented such a controversy last year during the 2010 midterm elections when he questioned the Civil Rights Act’s legitimacy because on one hand, he supported business’s right to operate without the government’s mandate that refusing service based on race was a violation of the Constitution, and the other that he supports the rights of people of colour.
It is a confusing expression of individual rights, but this week, the Senator went too far by insinuating that the 1st Amendment’s freedom of speech can be ignored if the right conditions are met. Paul had gallantly protested reauthorizing the Patriot Act claiming that it infringed on too many individual freedoms and nearly derailed it by offering amendments to weaken the law. Senator Paul called the law “an unconstitutional infringement on civil liberties” and said his amendments were meant to prevent the government from “continuing to blatantly ignore the Constitution.” They were noble statements from a champion of individual freedoms and civil liberty, but he belied his words in a radio interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
Paul was explaining his opposition to the Patriot Act, and while discussing ethnic profiling at airports, he revealed a contrary opinion that violates the 1st Amendment’s right of free speech and assembly as well as the Due Process Clause of the 5TH, 6TH, and 14TH Amendments. The civil liberty champion said, “I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.”
On its face, the notion of imprisoning anyone for plotting to violently overthrow the government may seem like a reasonable proposition and if there are credible, actionable threats, the government has procedures in place to stop a potential rebellion. However, the freedom of speech prohibits criminal action against anyone for speaking about armed conflict against the federal government or some politicians would be in prison or deported already.
Last year, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told Minnesota residents that she wanted them to be “armed and dangerous” in case the federal government tried to enforce federal laws Bachmann disagreed with. Bachmann was not attending a speech promoting violence against the government; she promoted violence against the government. Mr. Paul did not call for his teabag compatriot to be imprisoned or deported because she is not a Muslim. Sharron Angle, the Nevada teabagger and racist, notoriously suggested that if Congress did not act according to her beliefs that citizens would be justified in pursuing “2nd Amendment remedies” to violently overthrow the government. Rand Paul did not call for Angle to be imprisoned or deported although Angle and Bachmann were coming dangerously close to committing treason or at least, incitement to violence against the government.
Rand Paul’s contention that attending a speech where violence against the government is suggested takes violation of the 1st Amendment to a dangerous level, and informs his anti-Islamic tendencies. He was discussing airport profiling, and although he attempted to assuage his egregious anti-Islamic beliefs, he was not speaking about his white compatriots in the tea party who espoused violence against the government. He was talking about people who have been traveling and said it had to be taken into account whether or not they listened to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It is irrelevant that Paul said he was not referring to adherents of the Islamic religion or a person’ skin color because the context defined his meaning.
Rand Paul has been consistent in his anti-civil liberties position and has stated that he will always fight to keep GITMO open and that foreign terrorists do not “deserve the protections of our Constitution.” If Paul was a defender of civil liberties and the Constitution, he would not endorse deporting or imprisoning anyone for attending or listening to a speech regardless of the speaker or subject. Last year during the midterms at a debate in Kentucky, Paul’s operatives violated a protestor’s civil rights by knocking her to the ground and stomping her head into a curb. The young woman was not doing anything wrong and was certainly not attending a political event promoting violence against the government, but her civil liberties were infringed upon and Paul did not attempt to deport or imprison his campaign worker. Indeed, Mr. Paul dismissed the curb-stomping incident as crowd control, and the worker who stomped on the woman’s head demanded an apology from the woman.
Rand Paul is a hypocrite, and although his objections to portions of the Patriot Act were admirable, they appear to be little more than political theatre. Not only does the Kentucky ophthalmologist advocate deporting and imprisoning Muslims for attending or listening to speeches promoting violence against the government, but he supports depriving them of their right to due process guaranteed in three amendments to the Constitution. Rand Paul supports civil liberties of businesses who would deny service to people of color because he claims they have the right to conduct business without government intervention. Paul also supports the civil liberties of white teabaggers who work for him and stomp on protestor’s heads because they were controlling a crowd. He defends the civil liberties of white teabaggers who call for armed insurrection and resistance against the federal government because one serves in the House of Representatives and another aspired to the United States Senate.
It is tragic that a sitting United States senator who took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies” is willing to disregard the most basic freedoms guaranteed in the document to suit his double-standards when it’s convenient. But that is what Republicans are wont to do and if it weren’t so egregious it could be misconstrued as comical. However, bastardizing the Constitution’s most basic freedoms to fit ones hypocritical standards is the typical for Republicans and teabaggers. In spite of Republicans’ frequent disregard for the Constitution to suit their hypocrisy, it never fails to give one pause and wonder how long before they eliminate its freedoms completely. Based on recent Republican and Supreme Court behavior, the document will not last much longer.