As on object lesson for those who would divorce principles from politics, and as an indication of the evasive follies that result from such attempts thereafter, consider the latest Tea Party tussle:
"Tea Partiers had barely started their victory lap for propelling Rand Paul to triumph Tuesday [May 18th] in Kentucky's GOP Senate primary, when a controversy over the new nominee's criticism of the Civil Rights Act threatened to rain on the parade." ("Tea Party activists defend Rand Paul amid civil rights controversy," Foxnews.com, May 21st.)
Mr. Paul, in a series of interviews, aired the belief that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which concerned itself with racial discrimination on private property as well as in the public arena, stepped outside the bounds of proper government by doing so. And now, naturally, Democratic cries are loud and clear: "Racist!"
Yet on this issue Mr. Paul is correct: regulating personal behavior on private property, beyond the scope of force or fraud, is outside of government's legitimate boundaries — and such regulations always end up causing more problems than they purportedly solve.
The first casualty is the integrity of property rights themselves — which, ethically, brook no compromise whatsoever. They are present or they are not. Private property owners have the right to peacefully use their property in any manner they please. And, while most of us find uses based in racist motivations morally reprehensible, our only legitimate weapons against such uses are boycott and social ostracism. Turning a government gun on such ill-thought motivations simply obliterates the proper fabric of social interaction.
Nor does such aggression cure bigots of their racist beliefs: it merely fosters them by adding new elements of resistance to, and opposition against, the unwarranted control.
No, the only true cure to racism is education and the promotion of its opposite, individualism — but one doesn't promote individualism by destroying its corollaries of capitalism and individual rights. Corollaries which, it should be noted, had already wiped out segregation in the North long before passage of the Civil Rights Act.
While Mr. Paul — who has stated repeatedly that he is not racist — has the guts to stand up for principle, however, the same cannot be said about the Tea Party coalition that propelled him to victory. "'The people in the Tea Party movement oppose racism,' said Debbie Dooley, a Tea Party Patriots organizer and FreedomWorks volunteer outside of Atlanta. 'We don't believe private businesses should be allowed to discriminate.'"
Observe the smear of linking racism with — of all things — individual rights. And more: the extent to which Tea Party advocates refuse to acknowledge the primacy of those rights, is the extent to which they cut the ground out from under their own feet. For on what other basis do they intend to challenge Big Government's takeover of every aspect of America's political structure?
But principles cannot be ignored with such impunity. And, when they are so ignored, observe the consequences: "The Tea Party movement faces a dilemma. The conservative grassroots phenomenon that has shaken up the political landscape in the past year has faced accusations from the left of racism. Now it must decide how to deal with the fallout over Paul's comments, which have given Democrats more ammunition for November's midterm elections."
Yet, historically, the South's "Jim Crow" laws, which were properly invalidated by the Civil Rights Act, resulted from the machinations of which political party? Democrats.
Which political party engineered poll taxes and literacy requirements to effectively disenfranchise Southern black voters? Democrats. Which political party formed paramilitary organizations such as the White League and the Red Shirts to intimidate, terrorize and murder black citizens and Republican officeholders all throughout the late 1800s'? Democrats. And from which political party does the Ku Klux Klan derive most of its members? Democrats.
The facts are quite clear: so, if Republicans and Tea Party types now find themselves paralyzed by "racist" Democratic charges, it is only their complete abandonment of principles, ideas and history that permits it to happen.
And the answer to the Tea Party's "dilemma"? Wouldn't a spirited defense of individual rights, as well as pinning the "racist" tail on the Democratic donkey where it belongs, be a good place to start?
Bradley Harrington is a former United States Marine and a free-lance writer who lives in Cheyenne, Wy.