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Dyche: A history lesson shows why McConnell didn’t back Paul

May 25, 2010

Columnist John David Dyche has an interesting historical look today in the Louisville Courier-Journal offering a thoughts on why McConnell backed Trey Grayson in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate race rather than Rand Paul.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at the Republican National Committee meeting in Washington in January 2009. (AP Photo)

Dyche’s column follows the flap over Paul’s comments regarding the federal Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 that among other things barred racial discrimination by businesses. During earlier comments to the C-J editorial board and then again on national television last week, Paul maintained that businesses should be free to pick and choose their customers without federal interference, even if those choices are based upon race.

Dyche notes that Paul’s stance is oneĀ that was held by former presidential contender Barry Goldwater, a Republican who campaigned against federal civil rights legislation in the early 1960s, and was a stance not supported by McConnell then or now.

From Dyche’s column

In 1964, McConnell spoke at a campus “Freedom Rally” urging students to march on Frankfort with Martin Luther King Jr. for a Kentucky civil rights statute. He declined to act as “campaign manager” for Goldwater at the university’s mock Republican convention. Instead, McConnell helped block Goldwater, nominate moderate Henry Cabot Lodge, and pass a strong civil rights plank.

That summer, McConnell interned for Kentucky Republican U.S. Sen. John Sherman Cooper in Washington. Cooper helped assemble votes to break the filibuster of the federal civil rights law. Goldwater opposed the bill “because it contained ‘no constitutional basis for the exercise of federal regulatory authority’ in the areas of employment and public accommodations.”

President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2. Two weeks later, Republicans rejected establishment candidates and nominated the insurgent Goldwater for president. “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” thundered Goldwater in acceptance.

Johnson won in a landslide. Goldwater got just 38.4 percent of the vote and carried only Arizona and five Southern states. No major Republican has seriously questioned the federal prohibition of race discrimination by private businesses since. Until Kentucky’s U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul last week, that is.

Not sure I agree with Dyche that Paul’s views were the basis of McConnell’s decision to back Grayson – “Maybe now Kentucky Republicans can understand why McConnell endorsed Trey Grayson and will examine their own conservative consciences accordingly” – but it’s an interesting read nonetheless.

Check it out and chime in with your thoughts.

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