Memo to Rand Paul: Condescension Won’t Win You the Hearts of the “Rest of America”

Sen. Rand Paul

From the Huffington Post:

At a sold-out New Hampshire Republican Party dinner Monday night, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) encouraged the room of GOP supporters to embrace diversity and outreach if they want to take the White House in 2016, the Courier-Journal in Louisville reports.

“We need to be like the rest of America,” Paul said. “We’re going to win when we look like America. We need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to be with tattoos, without tattoos, with ponytails, without ponytails, with beards, without.”

Paul urged New Hampshire Republicans to reshape their party’s image and become the “party of opportunity.”

“We need to be that party that can express it in a way that shows that we care about people,” Paul said, according to the Concord Monitor. “We need to care about people even if they are on government assistance.”

Paul may be playing coy about his plans for a presidential run, but there’s no doubt at all about his plans to influence the Republican Party’s national chances for the highest office in some way. In addition to his high-profile and principled filibuster of drone attacks on Americans in March (principles that he seemed to have walked back a bit in April), Paul has also caught the press’s attention visiting Howard University,  the storied “Black Harvard” located in Washington, D.C.,  and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he spoke in favor of amnesty for undocumented workers in some cases  in opposition to his own position pre-Election 2012. Paul has been putting quite a bit more sweat into outreach to non-Republican demographics than any of his peers since, maybe, Jack Kemp in the 1980s.

So why is it almost certain that Paul will fail? It’s not just that he’s dealing with the Sisyphean task of making the Grand Old White People’s Party attractive to young multiculturals. I mean, that’s a difficult enough task, for sure, especially given the way the party’s hardcore rank-and-filers and its most visible politicians are able to undo all Paul’s efforts with just a little bit of  talk about the issues that matter most to Paul’s alleged target audiences (if his audience isn’t actually just more moderate white independents), and the way many on the right resist threats of outreach as betrayal of fundamental principles. No, I think Paul is going to fail unless he finds another way of talking about his aspirations for the party–and to really try to understand if his aspirations for the party are genuinely appealing to non-Republican groups. It’s one thing to want more diversity in the party; it’s another thing entirely to know how to build it. You do not build diversity by making speeches that scream how little you understand the audience you’re trying to appeal to.

The Republican Party as it is now can kiss the African American vote goodbye for eternity. Paul’s speech to the Howard audience did not help one iota. It’s breathtaking in its cluelessness and cringe-worthiness–disjointed, bereft of  nuance, cloyingly simplistic, as though intended for an audience of children with ADHD:

Some people have asked if I’m nervous about speaking at Howard. They say “You know, some of the students and faculty may be Democrats.” They didn’t tell me you’d all be black.

My response is that my trip will be a success if the Hilltop will simply print that a Republican came to Howard but he came in peace and left with all his pieces.

My wife Kelley asked me last week, “Do you ever have doubts about trying to advance a message for an entire country?”

The truth is, sometimes. When I do have doubts, I think of a line from T.S. Eliot, “How should I presume to spit out all the butt ends of my days and ways, and how should I presume.” That is from a poem. It’s like a rap without the music.

All of the above is verbatim. And the speech just got worse. Paul thought he could sneak past the Howard audience the weak old ploy of right-wingers in Internet forums who try to catch a free ride away from the racism charge on the backs of the abolitionists who founded the party and the Northeastern and Western moderates who voted for Civil Rights and against a bloc of Dixiecrats in the 1950s and 1960s. He completely ignored Pat Buchanan and Dick Nixon’s Southern strategy, which  turned the foundational Republican ideals on its head so the Party could build its base of white “George Wallace” Democrats alienated by the social liberalism of the Kennedy’s and Lyndon Johnson.

William Warley was a black Republican in Louisville [Paul said midway though].  He was born toward the end of the nineteenth century. That was a long time ago. Do you know about it? Because the Republican Party’s history is rich and chock full of emancipation and black history. We are rich and chock full.

Republicans still prize the sense of justice that MLK spoke of when he said that “an unjust law is any law the majority enforces on a minority but does not make binding upon itself.” It is one of our favorite prizes. We award it whenever we talk to people like you.

Republicans have never stopped believing in minorities, whether they derive from the color of their skin or shade of their ideology we believe they warrant equal protection. We believe in you. I think our retelling of the Civil Rights era does not give enough credit to the heroism of civil disobedience. We need to tell this story with more Republican heroes.

But Republicans face a daunting task.  Several generations of black voters have never voted Republican and are not very open to even considering the option. Democrats still promise unlimited federal assistance, which I know you all need, and Republicans promise free markets, low taxes, and less regulations that we believe will create more jobs.

Can you imagine telling an audience of college students you know they “all” need “unlimited federal assistance?”  Is it not apparent that anyone who would say that to anyone else, while proudly claiming to stand for “free markets, low taxes and less regulations,” is telegraphing his contempt for his audience? Paul seems to do this every time he talks about appealing to black people–or poor people, which he seems to conflate. The problem is not with the Republican message or program, he clearly believes, but with black people themselves. The problem, Paul (and many of his fellow Grand Old White People)  seems to believe, is to somehow convince black people and other Democratic groups to stop wanting “free stuff” and to want to be responsible people like Rand Paul and the Republicans instead.

Paul had a similar message about people on unemployment and other government assistance for the  New Hampshire audience:

“We need to be that party of opportunity. We need to be that party that can express it in a way that shows that we care about people,” Paul told a crowd of about 500 Republicans. “We need to care about people even if they are on government assistance. People on unemployment aren’t bad people. People who are on welfare aren’t bad people. We need to be able to express that we’re the party that’s going to give them the opportunity to join the rest of us in the middle class.”

So we see that Paul, the kind of anti-government, anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-entitlement libertarian his father is, believes the key to diversifying is finding a way to express that you don’t need the government (for unemployment or welfare benefits, student loans, emergency management, worker’s compensation, protection from creditors, protection from polluters, etc., etc., etc.) in such as way that doesn’t sound mean, but sounds, instead, more like the “free stuff” those alien Democrat populations seem to love so much. And if that doesn’t work, maybe throwing in a lot of references to abolitionists, rap music, and Jaime Escalante and Pablo Neruda (as he did in the HCOC speech) will convince some of those people that you actually care about them as people, unlike your fellow Republicans who still speak disdainfully of of “welfare queens” and “illegals.”

I may be wrong but it looks like Paul has a lot of naivete and ignorance to shed if he’s serious about this goal of his, and he has only four years in which to do it. You don’t go from cold-hearted, anti-Civil Rights  libertarian to man of the people overnight.

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3 thoughts on “Memo to Rand Paul: Condescension Won’t Win You the Hearts of the “Rest of America”

  1. I still can’t get over the fact that this assclown awarded himself a Doctorate from his own so-called “University.” What sort of self-serving, sociopathic lunatic would do such a thing?

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