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Rand Paul's Retro America

Tom Degan: Coming out as he did against the one of the main purposes of the Civil Rights Act was not a stupid gaffe on the part of Rand Paul - it was a decided political calculation. He wants and needs the racist vote, and he has every intention of getting it. Are there enough bigots in that state to put him over the top? Being an ancestor of Kentucky, I sure as hell hope not.

"I'm opposed to institutional racism, and I would've, had I been alive at the time, I think, had the courage to march with Martin Luther King to overturn institutional racism." -Rand Paul

segregated drinking fountain

What a guy! But the nasty fact still remains and cannot be spun in any other direction: Rand Paul believes that privately owned businesses have the constitutional right to discriminate against black people.

Back on April 20, I wrote that I was the proud grandson of Kentucky native Walter Clements. That's a photograph of him on the right. It was taken about 70 years ago during his heyday when he was thriving as a successful lawyer from South Bend Indiana. One of his clients (and personal friends) was Knute Rockne! Being a descendant of generations of Kentuckians, I know enough about that state to inform you - without equivocation - that it is packed to the rafters with down-to-earth, sensible, decent folks. That being said, what could it be about the politics of that state that would attract such good and righteous people to chowderheads like Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul? Is it the water? Or is there some other mysterious, unexplainable force at work here? I just don't get it.

"Segregation Today! Segregation Tomorrow! Segregation Forever!" -George Wallace, 1963

When I sat down to write this piece early this morning, my original intent was to title it, "Rand Paul's George Wallace Moment." But I then realized that that would be grossly unfair - to George Wallace. Think about it: Wallace was born in rural Clio, Alabama, in the summer of 1919 - a very different America in every way imaginable. He was socialized from the moment of his birth into believing that people whose skin was darker than his were inherently inferior; that they had no rights that he or any other white person was expected to recognize - not even the right to life! Remember that the hideous Southern tradition of lynching only became illegal at the 20th Century's halfway point.

Walter Clements, circa 1930

Walter Clements, circa 1930

To the old bugger's credit, he eventually "came home to Jesus" in a matter of speaking. Toward the end of his life, he asked the African American population of Alabama to forgive him for his sins against humanity: "I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over", said the contrite former governor. The people he tried to oppress for so many years forgave him. Good for them.

Rand Paul, on the other hand, does not have the convenient excuse of ethno-centricity to fall back upon. He was born on January 7, 1963, at a military hospital in Texas. Think of all that was going on then: Jim Crow's house of cards in the deep South was already in the process of crumbling. By the time of his third birthday in 1966, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts were the law of the land. When he was 13-years old, his father Ron Paul was elected to the House of Representatives. He didn't spend his formative years shoveling shit on some horse farm 20 miles outside of Galveston. He spent them in the supposedly "sophisticated" city of Washington DC! Why would he go on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program earlier this week and imply that he would not have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had he been there to vote on it. Did he really believe that there would be any possible political gain by doing something as reckless and as silly as that?

The answer is - Yes he did - and here's the really sad part: He was probably correct to believe there would be a substantial political payoff in the long run for making such an egregiously ignorant remark. Just take a look around you....

The political landscape of this once-great nation is more tarnished than at any time in the last half century. The right-wing media, with FOX Noise in the lead, has created from scratch an industry whose whole purpose is to mine racial fears against the first African American president in American history. For many years - right up until the moment Barack Obama took the oath of office - racism in America was, for the most part, covert. On January 20, 2009, it became - in too many corners of this country to count - overt.

"Oh, the sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home,
'Tis summer and the darkies are gay."

-Stephen Foster

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Coming out as he did against the one of the main purposes of the Civil Rights Act was not a stupid gaffe on the part of Rand Paul - it was a decided political calculation. He wants and needs the racist vote, and he has every intention of getting it. Are there enough bigots in that state to put him over the top? Being an ancestor of Kentucky, I sure as hell hope not. If this dingbat is sent to the Senate next Election Day, I'm going to be just a tad disappointed in more-than-a-few of my distant kin.

Alabama Gov. George Wallace

Alabama Gov. George Wallace

Call it a crazy hunch on my part, but I have a feeling that Rand Paul was never been forced into the humiliating situation of relieving himself on the side of the road because some privately owned establishment would not grant him entry because of the color of his skin. I'm willing to bet the farm that - at not one time in his life - was he forced to go hungry because the black owner of a restaurant told him that "we don't serve honkies 'round here!" You would think that after 47 years on the Planet Earth, Mr. Paul would have learned the meaning of the word "Empathy".

Yes, the current political climate in America is ripe and ready for the type of nuttiness that was offered to us this week - gift wrapped - by Rand Paul. Within hours of his debacle on the Maddow program, he canceled a scheduled appearance on Meet The Press with David Gregory. His campaign claimed that he was "exhausted". The fact that this was Friday and that he had two days to rest up for the Sunday gig apparently never occurred to them. Besides, going on MTP was now unnecessary. He had gotten his message out. He now says that for the rest of the campaign, he will only talk to the Kentucky news media. Shrewd move.

It's bad enough that they thought sending a corrupt thug like Mitch McConnell to Washington was a good idea. If Rand Paul is elected this November, it will not be a complementary reflection on the people of Kentucky.

Weep no more, my lady....

Tom Degan


Big Russ and Me, by Tim Russert

I just reread it yesterday. If you haven't already read it, please do. It's a wonderful book. I sure do miss Tim Russert.


The day passed and, as far as I can tell, I was the only person in the country to take notice of it. Eleven days ago, President Kennedy made a major recession into history. When he died on November 22, 1963, he was one week shy of forty-six and-a-half years old. One week shy of forty-six and-a-half years after he died was the fifteenth of May. This means that May 16, 2010 marked the very first day in history that Jack Kennedy has been gone longer than he was alive on this earth.

Do I have way too much time on my hands?