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Conservatives And Civil Rights

National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru goes after Rand Paul-ism:

But Paul’s views on the Civil Rights Act cannot simply be treated as an irrelevancy because it is 2010. He is running largely on the basis of his adherence to a political philosophy. He means to confine the federal government to what he regards as its proper constitutional dimensions. Voters may reasonably conclude that a political philosophy that places such strict limits on government that it cannot ban racial discrimination in circumstances such as those of the South in the mid-1960s is defective.

Which it is. Looking back, it seems obvious that the Goldwaterites failed to give sufficient weight to the black claim to justice. Even those who agreed that blacks were being treated unjustly did not see the rectification of that injustice as an urgent necessity, and that moral error affected their political judgment about federal intervention.

They also erred about the Constitution, even as they, like Paul, urged restraint in its name. Too many conservatives in the Sixties treated the claim that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution are not valid law as though it were a serious argument. But even those who were immune to this kookery acted as though the enactment of these amendments had changed nothing.