Rand Paul: Superfriend to Black Folks?


So I read an article on the The Grio a little while ago that left me a bit perplexed. Apparently there’s some confusion in the Black community as to whether or not Senator Rand Paul, a.k.a. the GOP Emissary to Black People, is actually on the side of angels (hint: he isn’t). The article is entitled Black leaders divided on whether to view Rand Paul as friend or foe. I have my own theory as to why this is happening but for now I’ll let the Grio start things off:

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) aggressive outreach to the black community over the last several months is dividing African-American leaders, as some are excited that a prominent conservative Republican is embracing their causes, while others argue that working with the Kentucky senator and a likely 2016 presidential candidate is a mistake…

Among those in the excited camp is the NAACP, who seem to have lost their way sometime around the Donald Sterling fiasco. But we’ll circle back around to them a little later. The story in the Grio continues:

In a coup for Paul, Lorraine Miller, the interim president of the NAACP, said earlier this year the group would consider having the Kentucky senator as one of the keynote speakers at its annual conference.

So leaders in the Black community are scratching their heads as to who the real Rand Paul is and I’m scratching my head as to how it is at all possible to NOT understand Rand Paul. This is a man who was a finalist for “best” use of racism during last year’s Non Blogosphere awards. So I’m going to break it down for everyone. Sometimes you can be nice and other times, in the immortal words of my sister, you have to let motherfuckers know what time it is. So let’s start with the outreach. Now while it is true that Senator Paul has made outreach efforts toward the Black community, to say it’s gone horribly wrong would be an understatement. I expressed as much in my post Rand Paul Needs to go Back to School. That’s the speech he gave at Howard University where he condescended to Black students about Black History, lied about his support for the Civil Rights Act, and name dropped the first Black Senator elected to office who happened to be Republican. The name dropping could have gone better save two tiny little things:

  1. The first black senator, whom Paul was so keen to mention? Well, Paul got his name wrong. AND…
  2. He seemed utterly shocked that the black kids who are attending a historically black college were educated enough to correct him on his ignorance.

But even if you wanted to give Senator Paul an A for effort for that train wreck of a performance, there’s still the problem of the people he chooses to associate with — and hire. This is a man who has had not one, but two separate staffers resign over of charges of racism. First up, we have Chris Hightower, a campaign spokesperson who liked to celebrate Martin Luther King Day in the most traditional way possible. And by traditional I mean social media updates that included a picture of a lynching with the phrase “Happy Nigger Day” attached. But this pales in comparison with Senator Paul’s director of new media and co-author, Jack Hunter.

SouthernAvenger Now where does one start with Mr. Jack Hunter? Well, not only was he Senator Paul’s director of new media but a Neo Confederate nut-job to boot. You know just the usual pro-American stuff like celebrating the birthday of Presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth and wanting the South to secede. That’s just par for the course for a man who was Chairman of the League of the South. That would be the organization designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This of course was all just a carefully crafted cover identity. For at night the mild-mannered Hunter transformed into a super hero known as the Southern Avenger. The Southern Avenger had no super powers to speak of, unless you count the ability to withstand the forces of extreme irony. For example, the Southern Avenger liked to wear a Mexican Luchador mask emblazoned with a Confederate flag while waxing poetic about why it’s ok for Americans to hate millions of Mexicans. AMAZING! Past his questionable hiring choices, his policy interests and initiatives aren’t particularly mind-blowing.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Rand Paul truly believes in restoring the voting rights to felons and fixing mandatory minimum sentencing requirements. In a complete vacuum those would be laudable policy positions. However, given what we know about Rand Paul, including his discomfort with landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, how is this even a serious question? The potential to restore voting rights to hundreds of thousands of felons in Kentucky who have served their sentences would probably be more a lot more impressive if you weren’t for millions who’d lose their voting rights in the recent spate of voter restrictive laws passed by Republican Legislatures and Republican Governors. Laws that Senator Paul wholeheartedly supports. Of course depending on what media outlet he’s talking to, that support is downplayed. He likes to portray himself as a new kind of conservative after all. Here’s the Senator on Voting Rights in an interview with the New York Times:

“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Mr. Paul said in an interview. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”

Notice he didn’t say that in-person voter impersonation is so close to zero percent as to be virtually non-existent. Or that the real purpose of these laws is to disenfranchise major constituencies of the Democratic base and thereby make elections more winnable for Republicans. He’s just saying that Republicans shouldn’t talk about it so much. And if that wasn’t totally clear here’s Senator Paul’s chief of staff making sure everyone knows exactly where he stands a few days later with Slate Magazine:

“[Paul] reiterated a point he has made before that while there may be some instances of voter fraud, it should not be a defining issue of the Republican Party, as it is an issue that is perhaps perceived in a way it is not intended,” said Stafford. “At no point did Senator Paul come out against voter ID laws. In terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it’s up to each state to decide that type of issue.”

Way to stand up for principles of states’ rights, Senator. It’s not like that tired old trope has been used for generations to deny Black people access to pretty much every element of their citizenship. But as long as it’s not emphasized, I’m sure it’s A-OK. So let’s take a look at the scoreboard. Senator Paul believes in restoring voting rights to the convicted felons of Kentucky and fixing elements of sentencing requirement for drug offenses. Awesome. However, at the same time Senator Paul apparently doesn’t have a problem with businesses denying service to people based on the color of their skin, has a history of hiring racist employees, and his support of voter ID bills and other restrictions would disenfranchise millions more people than the felons he’s supposedly trying to help. This is the man who the NAACP is considering giving a keynote address? Really?!! Support from minority groups and organizations sure is cheap these days. Donald Sterling got two lifetime achievement awards from the California chapter of NAACP for a couple of donations and some Clippers tickets. So I guess the organization is moving in the right direction. That’s a pretty low bar though.

Here’s the problem as I see it. Republicans are really bad when it comes to appealing to groups outside of their main constituencies. So any attempt, no matter minor is haled with breathless astonishment by certain members of the media. Please see every article written about Paul Ryan being an anti-poverty crusader. Like this one from Buzzfeed. The articles generally go like this: OMG, he’s actually talking to poor people. How brave. He must care so much. Rhetoric about helping poor people is one thing, but we actually have a voting record and budget proposals to square that against. So if every budget Congressman Ryan releases seeks to shred the social safety net and reduce taxes on high income earners even further, it doesn’t really matter to me how many soup kitchens he’s visited. Not to mention quotes about the supposed work ethic in “urban” communities. Rand Paul is just performing a slightly more sophisticated version of the Paul Ryan routine.

Senator Paul, unlike Paul Ryan, has a couple of proposals (albeit minor) that get folks to take him seriously. Apparently there are those in the Black community who’ve chosen to believe the hype. The problem is that with one hand he’s trying to restore voting rights to 180,000 people in Kentucky and with the other hand, he’s totally on board with disenfranchising millions more nation wide. Possibly as much as 11% of the entire electorate according to the Brennen Center for Justice. My nieces are only nine years old and they can do this math. I’m not sure why the NAACP and other leaders in the Black community are having such a hard time with this. Here’s some advice: Lets not have the guy who’s still not reconciled to the Civil Rights Act give the invocation at the MLK statue in Washington D.C.. Keep his scope of direct influence and exposure limited to where it actually belongs, and work with him where your policy proposals coincide. That makes him a minor legislative ally in very specific instances. Not a friend, nor a Superfriend.

Besides, his buddy the Southern Avenger has a much better costume.

Categories: Politics Fix

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1 reply

  1. Hey, the GOP has never tried to disenfranchise black people! That effort was aimed at poor people. Any overlap in those two demographics is entirely coincidental. Sources: studies by A. Rand and M. Thatcher…

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