Rand Paul: Republican Senate Candidate and Ignorant Disablist

by Shaker Maud

"Paul Vows to Remain True to the Tea Party", says the New York Times headline.

Oh, good.

Rand Paul is now Kentucky's Republican candidate for the Senate . His political views follow closely those of his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, deviating only by a recent move somewhat vaguely away from the elder Paul's advocacy of bringing home all of the several hundred thousand U.S. troops stationed around the world. Not wanting the U.S. to dominate the planet militarily just doesn't fly in Kentucky (or any other) Republican circles.

Rand Paul (he was not, as I initially suspected, named for Ayn Rand, but it seems perhaps not wholly coincidental that he goes by Rand rather than Randall or Randy, either) is an ophthalmologist who has never held political office. His past political activity, other than campaigning for his father, has been rooted in the oppression he suffers as a well-off, cis, straight white man who is expected to pay taxes. So wounded was he by this scourge that he founded a group called Kentucky Taxpayers United, presumably consisting of people who hope to cease being Kentucky Taxpayers and be left in peace to enjoy only those amenities of life each of them has provided for hirself individually, with no governmental support of any kind.

Of course, this might require Dr. Paul to give up his medical practice. The internet tells us that Dr. Paul has devoted his career to doing eye surgery. The commonest eye surgery done is LASIK, I believe. The Excimer laser used in this procedure was developed at the Northrop Corporation Research and Technology Center of the University of California, and I would hazard a guess that there was some, perhaps considerable, gummint research funding involved somewhere in the process. But presumably Paul is planning on leaving ophthalmology behind to become a full-time government employee, anyway, so no more profiting at the taxpayer's expense for him!

Expecting people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps is the very best thing you can do for them, libertarians will tell you. It encourages them to work hard, first to acquire some bootstraps, and then to learn to pull themselves up by them (unless their daddies are doctors and politicians, and can give them plenty of nice, shiny bootstraps and pots of tuition that they may themselves become physicians and then use their daddy's mailing list of well-endowed political donors to also become politicians, but wev). Fighting gravity will make a man of you! (Unless you're, you know, that other one. No, there's just the one other one, I'm pretty sure. Dr. Paul may be "100-proof libertarian" according to Newsweek's Howard Fineman, but he's a proud Tea Partier now. Men on this side, other one on that side, and no switching off.)

But, you may wish to know, what of people who require assistance in pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, due to disability? What about those who cannot interact with bootstraps by any means, and therefore require alternative gravity-defying technology?

Well, Dr. Paul understands that you, being disabled, are probably all emotional about this bootstrappy-assistance shit. But try not to be so selfish - think of the poor business owner. This video shows an unidentified person briefly interviewing Rand Paul at an event in Lexington, KY last weekend. A transcript follows.

Interviewer: Could I ask you a question?

Rand Paul: Sure.

Interviewer: Do you support the Americans With Disabilities Act? Or do you think that's the federal government getting too involved in things (inaudible)?

Paul: You know, I think a lot of things on employment should be done locally, you know, when it comes to figuring out what's right or wrong locally. Some of the things - you know, for example, I think we can come up with common sense solutions - like, for example, if you have a three-story building, when you have someone apply for a job, you might get them a job on the first floor if they're in a wheelchair as opposed to making the person in the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that I think are unfair to the business owner. But I think we should try to accommodate people (inaudible) jobs.

Interviewer: (inaudible) voted against that?

Paul: You know, I - I've never looked at the whole thing and see, but I don't like the idea of telling a business owner that they have to put an elevator in versus (inaudible) making an accommodation to make it worse than what it was. So, uh, it's a very emotional issue for people, you know, but I think better to decide things like that locally rather than from Washington.

Interviewer: Now, do you think that Americans, based on the Second Amendment, do you think they have a Constitutional right to violently overthrow the government if they feel that –

(At this point a hand reaches from the side and partially covers the camera's lens, and the voice of an off-camera Rand Paul associate of some sort, is heard.)

Voice: Stop recording on this.

Interviewer: Public place, sir; this is a public place.

(But alas, the associate and Dr. Paul are already fading into the distance.)
Dr. Paul seems to be under the impression that the ADA specifies the particular accommodation which must be made for every disability in every situation. Which is not only not the case, but would be stupid. But perhaps he's just never given the matter the tiniest thought, and when he speaks off the top of his head, stupid is what he comes up with. To be fair, he is not alone in this regard, when it comes to questions of disability and accommodation.

The law does not impose a specific requirement on any business to build an elevator to the third floor. It requires reasonable accommodation be made to allow all facilities necessary to the hiring and work of disabled individuals to be available and accessible, and also to make that access available to potential clients of a business. If a business chooses to allow a disabled worker to work on the first floor, say, rather than install an elevator, that's not only not disallowed by the ADA, it may be a better solution for the worker, because the use of elevators with heat-sensitive call buttons makes using the elevator in case of a fire not such a good idea.

What the ADA does mandate is that you not refuse to hire a wheelchair user to work in a given department because that department is currently on the third floor and you don't feel like making a reasonable accommodation so as to permit a qualified candidate for the job who uses a wheelchair to work in that department. "Getting them a job on the first floor" which is not the job they have applied for and are fully qualified for is not an appropriate solution, however.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." However many of the signatories to that document actually believed that all men are created equal, it was certainly far less than all of them, and we as a people have been struggling ever since to get that "self-evident truth" recognized by the government we founded to replace the one we declared ourselves independent of with that document, and struggling further to expand the concept to include those of us not included in that otherwise fine assertion – women – and to recognize that those rights are inherent in all humans independent of the existence or definition of a "Creator."

The ADA is part of that struggle. You cannot say that all are equal in a society until all have an equal opportunity to employ their skills and effort in supporting themselves, and until all have equal access to public accommodations. That's why accessibility is "a very emotional issue for people", Dr. Paul. Public spaces either welcome all of us as equals, or they accommodate one kind of person or a limited range of people as equals, and either disallow the rest or begrudgingly allow them a lesser, limited access, all the while moaning about how "unfair" it is to have to recognize their lesser, limited humanity at all. And so long as just how limited or unlimited - how much lesser - some people's humanity is judged to be varies from one locale to another within these United States, we self-evidently are not all created equal, and do not all enjoy equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I am almost inclined to be sympathetic to Republicans in the state of Kentucky. They had a choice between Rand Paul, endorsed by James Dobson* and Sarah Palin, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's protegeé Trey Grayson, endorsed by Dick Cheney and Rudy Giuliani. But with candidates, not to mention policies (or lack thereof) like those being offered by the Republican Party, I can't feel sorry for anyone who still is a Republican. Rather, I feel sorry for the people of Kentucky and the United States who didn't vote for either of these sorry suits, yet may well have to live with Paul's presence in the U.S. Senate anyway, given the uncertain prospect of Kentucky's sending a Democrat to Washington come fall.

"The Tea Party movement is huge," Mr. Paul said to the crowd at his victory party. "The mandate of our victory tonight is huge. What you have done and what we are doing can transform America."

So it can. If we let it.


*I don't know how a "100-proof libertarian" reconciles himself with the Dobson position on abortion and gay/trans rights, but I'm betting there's no good news there.

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