From: http://www.nysun.com/editorials/rand-paul-and-the-constitution/86970/

The New York Sun wasn’t publishing in 1964, but we have no doubt that it would have supported the Civil Rights Act, as the editor who now conducts these columns did then and as the Sun does now. We revere the great figures of the civil rights movement. When their names — Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Thurgood Marshall, to mark but three who are still in the news columns — come up at the dinner table, we speak to our children about their righteousness, courage, and heroism. We haven’t the slightest hesitation in supporting the authority of the federal government to outlaw racial discrimination in public or private businesses and myriad private transactions, such as, say, the sale of real estate. We favor aggressive enforcement of civil rights laws, even after the dismantling of Jim Crow.

If we were voting in Kentucky today, however, we’d vote for Rand Paul for senator. It’s not that we care to cavil about the fine points of the Civil Rights Act. It’s no mere artifact of a great struggle. On the contrary, we’re of the view that without it, the danger of a retreat would be a constant worry, even in the early 21st century. But the law itself is settled and secure. What does not seem settled and secure are other matters — property rights, say — on which Dr. Paul stands heads and shoulders above his opponent, Jack Conway, one of the most aggressive state attorneys general advanced by a Democratic party that has shown scant regard for the principles of federalism, for the constitutional contract that undergirds our republic, and for the negative way the constitution vouchsafes our rights.

By this we mean, Dr. Paul comprehends that the Bill of Rights is largely a prohibition on the government. When one listens to him talk, one gets the sense that he comprehends that the Founders of America feared that the biggest threat to our rights was from our own government. He has this streak of constitutional fundamentalism that one hears among the Tea Party enthusiasts, but among not only them. One hears it from the Libertarians, and from a growing number of neoconservatives who are taking a fresh look at the Constitution at a time when advocates of limited government are unlikely to find much encouragement from the Congress or the administration.

There are those who belittle this constitutionalist streak, including, to pick a recent example, the columnist Michael Gerson, who, Ira Stoll noted in a post at Futureofcapitalism.com, complained of what “might be called ‘constitutional conservatism.’” Mr. Gerson reckons such conservatism has “the virtue of being easily explainable — and the drawback of being impossible.” This prompted Mr. Stoll to point out that it did pretty well — not flawlessly, but pretty well — in the century-and-a-half before the New Deal. By our lights the blitheness with which so many are prepared to breeze past the plain language of the Constitution, and past such bedrock as the idea of enumerated powers, is breathtaking. That Rand Paul has the grit to challenge all this is, we’d like to think, connected to his popularity.

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This is one of the traits of both of the Pauls, father and son. We have many times remarked that we part company with them, and other libertarians, on many aspects of foreign policy (though Ron Paul would not abandon the fight against Al Qaeda; we have already endorsed his plan to use against Osama Bin Laden Congress’s power to grant letters of marque and reprisal). But they are an outstanding pair when it comes to this idea of constitutional conservatism — or, our preference, plain language constitutionalism. A lot of things can happen between now and election day. But our guess is that if Rand Paul prevails, one of the reasons will be his attention to the theoretical underpinnings of our constitutional republic, a trait that he shares with the architects of the Civil Rights Act we amire so much.

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