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By MICHELLE BURROUGHS
Rantoul Press columnist
In the aftermath of their presidential defeat, after much self-scrutiny, many Republicans have humbly acknowledged that they absolutely must break the habit of intentionally ostracizing the working class if they hope to gain any political ground in the future.
I was reminded of how fleeting humility can be when I heard Sen. Rand Paul’s rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address last week. Paul, a physician with no real political or executive experience, was elected to the U.S Senate by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 2007 and has expressed hopes of pursuing the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
One of the right’s hopeful new stars, Paul is not only unapologetic about his patronizing attitude toward the working class; he seems more determined than ever to drive home his point that the majority of us down here on the bottom rung are nothing more than a bunch of spoiled takers who are itching for a free ride (better known as the 47 percent).
In his rebuttal to the president, Paul said, “All that we are, all that we wish is now threatened by the notion that you can have something for nothing, that you can have your cake and eat it too.”
Almost in the same breath, however, he proposes that we impose a flat income tax of 17 percent and a reduction in corporate income taxes by half. (Remind me again -- who is it exactly that wants that free ride?)
The next day Paul did an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel. When asked to explain how President Obama was able to win the election in spite of such a dire economic climate, Paul smugly offered, “Well, I don’t know if I have an explanation other than that it is much easier to offer people something for nothing than it is to tell people that in reality hard work and sweat equity is how a country gets rich.”
In other words, supporters of the present administration (in Paul’s skewed version of reality) are all a pack of lazy, shiftless takers who hope to ride on the president’s coat tails in hopes that we might catch a few of those free crumbs.
Wow! Yesterday, when I was shoveling the driveway at 5:30a.m. (so that I could make sure that I was able to get to work on time), I was thinking about Paul. For a man who has so many undeniably questionable character issues, such a short, yet clearly inconsistent political track record and a fondness for jumping on some of the wackiest conspiracy theory bandwagons out there, he sure has a lot of nerve. Who is he to point fingers at people who work harder at having a little than he can possibly ever fathom?
Just for the record, Paul, we don’t want anything to do with a free ride. We do, however, believe that we (just as much as you) deserve the right to have a fair chance at getting ahead; heck, we’d even settle for breaking even at this point -- hard work, “sweat equity” and all.
In the spirit of fairness, I figure, if Paul can generalize and condescend to people that he doesn’t know anything about, it really is only fair play that we take a good, long, thorough look at him. So, besides Ron Paul’s son, what is Rand Paul really about anyway?
As a vocal advocate for the Tea Party movement, Paul won his Senate seat running on a Libertarian/independent platform; but it is a politician’s record that tells us who that politician really is, or at least who his constituents are.
Rand Paul has strong convictions that our involvement in foreign affairs should be minimal, at most. This is an idea I can get behind, but what I can’t understand is the inconsistency with which he seems to approach offering foreign aid, which he claims he would like to end altogether.
In a recent visit to Israel, Paul declared that the illegal settlements that Israel is bent on building in Palestinian areas are “none of our business.” Really? Hmmm…. So even though we are providing aid, which Paul vehemently opposes, thereby freeing up Israeli cash flow to enable their production of these illegal settlements, it’s still none of our business?
This doesn’t even take into account the statements that Paul has made publicly, declaring U.S. solidarity with Israel, stating that “any attack on Israel will be treated as if it is an attack on the U.S” Whoa, is that right? How is that possible, if we aren’t offering up our involvement or our money in foreign affairs, as you have suggested? Stand on whatever platform you wish, but please, for crying out loud, pick one.
In reference to more domestic issues, Paul recently voted against two bills to assist the devastated victims of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, despite the fact that not long before, on two separate occasions, he personally requested disaster relief for Kentucky residents dealing with the hardship of drought and the tragedy of multiple tornadoes.
Furthermore, his stance on women’s issues is worrisome in general, but specifically of late, Paul failed to support The Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill intended to expand the protections of The Equal Pay Act so that continuing disparities in compensation between women and men might be uncovered and addressed. Paul refused to even consider the bill, suggesting that anyone who dared to would be guilty of promoting a Soviet-style oversight board, much like the former Communist Politburo Committee.
Adding insult to injury, he also voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which provides much-needed support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and provides development of preventive programs designed to deal with some of those same social issues.
The bill passed anyway 78-22, but Paul’s denial of something so important to women, especially down here on this “bottom rung”, leaves little to question in terms of his willingness to advocate for us.
In addition to his history of opposing women’s issues, Paul has also publicly admitted that he would literally abolish the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. Paul explains that he cannot support such a law because it just “isn’t fair to American business owners.”
What frightens me the most about Rand Paul, though, is his shaky stance on civil rights. In order to get the tremendous significance of his position, it is essential that we put it into context first.
Paul is closely tied to right-wing pundit and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who abides by the philosophy of the John Birch Society. Incidentally, Rand’s father, Ron, is also closely associated with JBS. This is important because JBS is notoriously known for producing some of the leading figures in the neo-Nazi movement today.
On its own, agreeably, this is not damning information. However, Rand Paul’s former spokesperson, Chris Hightower, is also a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, shamelessly posting unforgivably racist photos and malicious comments on his personal MySpace page a few years back. Likewise, Paul has admitted accepting campaign contributions from White Nationalist groups like Stormfront and infamous members of the White Supremacy and White Nationalist community, specifically the likes of William D. Johnson and Carl Ford, the latter of whom has declared hopes of sponsoring a “White Nationalist candidate in every state.”
I suppose you could say it is all circumstantial information if you wanted to, but Paul’s stance on The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not sit well on its own, let alone in the face of all of these unattractive connections.
Paul takes Barry Goldwater’s approach to the law to an extreme, claiming that while he supports desegregation in an institutional sense, he feels that enforcing such a law on private businesses is unconstitutional. When MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked him directly and repeatedly whether he thought private businesses have the right to put up a “Blacks Not Served Sign,” Paul stammered, gesticulated and entirely avoided answering the question. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess which constituents he was catering to there.
I’ve not even touched on the ridiculous conspiracy theories that Paul not only buys into, but intentionally perpetuates publicly. For instance, did you know that soon “we will have an army of armed EPA agents, thousands of them” busting into our homes to take us away if we aren’t sufficiently meeting energy-efficiency standards?
Likewise, for goodness sake, do not tell your doctor if you own a gun because all physicians are now secret Obamacare agents; and unlike the Weather Underground from the early 1970s, Rand Paul stands by the assertion that President Obama is arming all weathermen at NOAA, in preparation for civil unrest.
All of these fictional plans are overshadowed by the recent news of the senator’s grim concern about Chuck Hagel’s alleged involvement with the imaginary group Friends of Hamas. Oh dear. It would seem that Paul is getting his main talking points these days from his new fact checker, Ben Shapiro.
The point is, know who you are voting for. God forbid Rand Paul should end up on the presidential ballot in 2016. But if he does, consider who he is. Consider who his primary constituents are, who he advocates for and who he thinks you are.
Recently, Paul said that American voters want a different face. Perhaps in due time, Sen. Paul, yes. Perhaps in 2016, we will want a new face; but just let me say, that when that time comes, I will be more than thrilled to call her my president.
Michelle (Heck) Burroughs, a lifelong resident of Rantoul, writes a monthly column for the Rantoul Press.