washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Rand Paul’s White Working-Class Problem

MyDD‘s Jonathan Singer has a post up that should be of interest to the Jack Conway for Senate campaign. Singer focuses on one of Rand Paul’s more significant vulnerabilities revealed in recent interviews:

…Paul made fairly clear that he did not believe it within the bounds of Congress’s powers to address issues of private discrimination. In legal parlance, Paul does not believe that Congress’s power under Article I, section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution to “regulate Commerce… among the several States” extends to the private actions of the citizens of these states…
…The problem with this view is apparent to just about anyone who lives in a world of reality rather than ideology. It is fine enough to believe that, in theory, individuals’ contractual and property rights should not be trampled on by the state, and that, what’s more, the market will solve all problems. But the fact is the market did not solve the problem of institutional racism. It took state action, not only in directing state actors but also in directing the practices of private individuals like the ones who owned restaurants. The same can be said about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which like the Civil Rights Act restricted individual action to ensure access for those who otherwise might be denied access. The good acts of individual property owners to accommodate their workers in the ways described by Paul in his NPR interview are important — but they were not enough. Only when the state stepped in were the rights of the disabled to access restaurants and other accommodations ensured.

Singer then suggests four very good questions for Paul, “considering his apparently limited views of Congress’s Commerce Clause powers”:

1. Do you believe the federal minimum wage is constitutional?
2. Do you believe federal overtime laws are constitutional?
3. Do you believe the federal government has the power to enact work safety laws and regulations?
4. Do you believe that federal child labor laws are constitutional?
A “no” answer to any of these questions would presumably be problematic for the Paul campaign considering folks seem to like the minimum wage, laws that stop employers from, say, making their workers use machines that cut off their hands, and laws that prohibit 7 year olds from laboring in coal mines.

So it’s not only the racial aspects of Paul’s views that are going to cause him trouble. Singer has hit on a major weakness of Paul’s knee-jerk libertarianism, the belief that the private sector has constitutional protection from damn near all regulation. The politically-alert segment of the white working class in KY would be very interested in Paul’s answers to Singer’s questions.
Jack Conway didn’t get to be Kentucky A.G. by missing opportunities like this one. This senate seat should be a Democratic pick-up.

2 comments on “Rand Paul’s White Working-Class Problem

  1. spencer on

    Rather than asking about the minimum wage ask about the 40 hour work week.
    The 40 hour work week is standard because of federal law requiring employers to pay overtime when an employee works over 40 hours a week. It is the same issue as the minimum wage to libertarians, government interference in the free market so they oppose the 40 hour work week.
    But Paul will be prepared to answer a question about the minimum wage with the standard libertarian argument that it hurts the poor by causing minimum wage employment to fall. He can provide an answer that makes it sound like he is actually trying to help the poor.
    Rather, ask him if he opposes the federal law requiring employers to pay overtime — at time and a half — to hourly wage employees working more than 40 hours per week. He will not have a good answer prepared because it is generally not an issue and may actually say he opposes the law. But working class voters will relate much more to opposition to overtime pay because it hits them personally and Democrats can make an issue of Pauls opposition to overtime pay. They can get a lot more mileage out of this issue than the minimum wage.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.