Rand Paul is no Jack Kemp

Precisely because this effort is so important, it is also important to point out: The Kemp project, placed in Paul’s hands, would be an utter, counterproductive failure.

Kemp, you might remember, had both a personal history — as a pro-civil rights union representative in the American Football League — and a political ideology suited to outreach. He conceived an active role for government in empowering individuals and reclaiming urban communities.

Paul has his own history. He employed, as a close Senate aide, a writer who styled himself the “Southern Avenger” and who authored a column titled “John Wilkes Booth Was Right.” This personnel decision would have been impossible to imagine from Kemp. But it points out the deep affinity between certain strains of libertarianism and the Lost Cause. While running for the Senate, Paul criticized the centerpiece of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the part desegregating public accommodations — because it conflicted with his libertarian conception of property rights. And Rand Paul, of course, worked for a presidential candidate in 2012 (his father, Ron Paul) who claimed that the Civil Rights Act “violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty” and argued that the Civil War was a senseless mistake.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul’s 2013 proposal for a balanced budget in five years — which would have eviscerated large portions of the federal government and weakened the social safety net — was less of a blueprint for reform than a demolition order.