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Rand Paul relies on past in hopes of Black votes

Maya Rhodan | 4/22/2013, 12:01 p.m.
Rand Paul, the conservative Republican senator from Kentucky, tried last week to pave the way for Blacks to vote for ...
Sen. Rand Paul Speaking at Howard University. Justin D. Knight/Howard University

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Rand Paul, the conservative Republican senator from Kentucky, tried last week to pave the way for Blacks to vote for Republicans in the future by extolling the GOP’s accomplishments of the past.

Speaking at Howard University, Paul said: “The story of emancipation, of voting rights and, of citizenship, in the modern era from Frederick Douglass to the present is really, in fact, the history of the Republican Party.”

But he had to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of African Americans don’t share that view.

“How did the party that elected the first Black U.S. senator, the party that elected the first 20 African American congressmen, how did that party become a party that loses 95 percent of the Black vote?” Paul asked. “How did the Republican Party, the party of the Great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?”

Paul’s speech was an appeal to Black voters and an effort to set-the-record-straight about his personal beliefs and the actions of his party as a whole.

Most Blacks cast their vote for Republicans until Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. Still, as late as 1960, Republicans were receiving about a third of the Black vote. But that changed when Republicans adopted a “Southern strategy,” basically writing off the Black vote in an effort to directly appeal to White segregationists.

In the process, the Republican and Democratic parties switched positions in the South. Democrats were more sympathetic to issues important to Blacks, and Republicans appealed directly to Southern Democrats, many of whom had risen to power by suppressing Black voter participation.

Paul said that while Democrats offer African Americans “economic emancipation” and a tangible promise that “puts food on the table,” the Republican promises of opportunity and free market will “lead to growth.”

Paul said, “Big government is not a friend to African Americans. If you’re struggling to get ahead, you’ve got student loans and private debt, you should go with a political party that leaves more money in the private sector.”

The audience reacted as Paul struggled to recall the name of Edward Brooke, the first Black senator from Massachusetts. But Paul continued to press his case. He asked, “Would any of you know that the founders of the NAACP were all Republicans?”

The audience erupted in reactions ranging from laughter to groans.

That same NAACP no longer considers Republicans partners in the struggle for equality.

On the NAACP Legislative Report Card covering the 112th Congress, for example, every Republican in the United States Senate and House of Representatives earned an F. By contrast, 159 Democrats in the house earned A’s and only four received F’s. In the Senate, no Democrat earned an F and 47 got As.

Paul did not win over many members of the audience with his support of voter ID laws.

When asked about his stance on voting rights in light of the 2012 voter suppression efforts put in place by mostly Republican-dominated state legislatures across the country, Paul said, “If you liken showing a driver’s license to a literacy test, you demean the whole of what happened in the 1940s and 50s.” He said, “Showing your driver’s license is not unreasonable to have an honest election, that’s the main thing Republicans are trying to get across.”