In the wake of the police response to protests in Ferguson, Mo., Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to TIME magazine on Thursday to write an op-ed decrying the increasing militarization of domestic police forces as well as the inherent racism in the U.S. criminal justice system. While most conservatives are busy casting aspersions on Mike Brown, who was gunned down by police last week, and are bizarrely calling on his family to condemn the looting that’s occurred, Paul bucked this sickening trend in what was essentially a giant middle finger to the conservative media.
Paul writes, “If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.”
He says that there’s a “systemic problem” with the country’s law enforcement, noting that “Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies.” As a result, local police forces are equipped with weapons and vehicles that exceed what’s needed for domestic law enforcement:
“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.
“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”
At a time when Paul is increasingly facing criticism from libertarians for appearing to be compromising some of his libertarian cred for the sake of political convenience, there’s little doubt that politics is taking a back seat to principles in this case. And for all the heat he took for critiquing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — as he should have — Paul has been one of the few Republicans in Congress who’s taken an active role in crafting legislation to mitigate the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. He’s also faced pressure from the Right for his openness to compromise on immigration reform because, you know, Mexicans.
Paul is a top contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. If he runs, it will be interesting to see how he handles the inevitable questions from fellow conservatives about the time he dared to express concern about another black teenager being fatality shot by police, who responded to protests with all the force of a special ops unit in the mountains of Kandahar.