Rand Paul makes a play for black voters but stumbles badly

Rand Paul displays the sort of lack of self-awareness that could only make a sociopath smile – which I suppose explains how he’s managed to become a leading national politician despite, well, everything about his entire career as a politician. Still, his willingness to say anything cannot overcome his inconsistency.

The best example of this is the Republican Senator’s recent claim that the GOP can increase their share of the black vote from 5 to 20 percent in the next presidential cycle.

Paul made this comment to a champion of the black community (insert sarcasm pill here), Sean Hannity, who tried to goad Paul into admitting the obvious: He’s running for president in 2016. Paul wouldn’t bite, but he did explain that he wants Republicans to embrace a 50-state strategy and point out that one way to do so is to secure a greater portion of our support. Can he really lead the charge on that?

A Republican who has reached out

To his credit, Rand Paul has been actively trying to engage with black voters. He stopped by my alma mater, Howard University, and proved himself to be very proud that he showed up. Indeed, Paul quipped at the podium, “Some have said that I’m either brave or crazy to be here today.”

You know, ‘cause us Negroes are so intimidating!

Paul then proceeded to deliver a condescending, historically-inaccurate speech that led to a Q&A session in which Howard students schooled him about the America of yore and the one he’s seeking a big time come up in today.

After that disaster, Paul expressed shock that students at a HBCU would know the history of the NAACP’s founding.

“This is my first time to go to a historically black college,” Paul said. “In retrospect, it sounds like it is a dumb question but it’s like, Republicans haven’t been going to Howard for 20 years.” He went on to add, “I learned something, that everybody there knows. I was told that in no uncertain terms.” Someone should also tell him that the GOP has taken plenty of field trips to Howard in the last two decades.

Civil Rights Act position is slippery at best

After he’s schooled on that, add a friendly reminder that his past comments about the Civil Rights Act may prove it quite difficult for him to lead the beginning of blacks’ reatreat back to the Grand Old Party.

At Howard, Paul said, “I have never wavered in my support for civil rights and the Civil Rights Act. The dispute, if there is one, has always been about how much of the remedy should come under federal or state or private purview.”

But back in 2010 Paul said, “I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.”

“I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners — I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant — but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind,” he added.

Paul went on to note, “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior, but if we’re civilized people, we publicly criticize that, and don’t belong to those groups, or don’t associate with those people.”

Ron Paul’s influence

This is the political equivalent of “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” given his father and future fellow failed presidential candidate, Ron Paul once said on the House Floor that the Civil Rights Act (on its 40th anniversary, no less) was “a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society.”

In a recent The New Republic profile, Paul refused to offer a definitive answer on his CRA stance, but acknowledged federal intervention had been justified. And yet, “I’m not a firm believer in democracy,” he said. “It gave us Jim Crow.” Embracing Pell Grants and bashing “urban reconstruction” is great, but if you can’t fully embrace the Civil Rights Act, how are you going to secure significant black support?

Short answer: you don’t.

So interesting a read as that TNR piece – entitled “President Rand Paul” was – I’d bet my student loan debt that we’ll have a President Blue Ivy Carter before Rand makes his way into the White House in any role that goes beyond invited guest. Ditto on 20 percent of the black vote.

Follow Michael Arceneaux on Twitter @youngsinick