Rand Paul is fond of invoking the Constitution to support his policy preferences. But is he really a “constitutional conservative”?
Roger Clegg raises the question in light of Paul’s announced plan to introduce federal legislation to enfranchise some felons. This plan probably reflects Paul’s desire to increase his appeal to African-American voters. But is it constitutional?
No, it is not. As Clegg explains:
The Constitution gives the states the authority to determine who can vote in elections, so long as they do so in a way that does not violate some other provision of the Constitution (for example, gender discrimination in voting). But there is no credible argument that disenfranchising felons violates the Constitution; indeed, the Constitution itself (in Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment) expressly contemplates the disenfranchisement of felons.
My congressional testimony from a few years ago lays all this out; the Supreme Court confirmed this more recently in an opinion last year written by Justice Scalia that even the entire liberal wing of the Court joined.
If Rand Paul wants to pander to African-Americans, that’s okay. Clearly, he has some ground to make up, having once expressed his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But when Paul’s pandering causes him to disregard the Constitution, one can only conclude that he is a faux constitutional conservative.