BUT first, Alex Seitz-Wald:
Give Rand Paul some credit for attempting to do what several decades of elections have shown is a tall order: Get African-Americans to vote Republican.
Golly, no thanks. Not even if that had actually been what he was trying to do. It doesn't take near as much courage to speak Power to Truth. Especially when you know there's a considerable reward for doing so, and nobody's gonna make you eat your bullshit.
Incidentally, I'll give the man credit. After he makes his "Party of Lincoln" speech across Dixie in 2015.
But let's get to the real fictional adventures of Rand Paul:
It was all going fine
Maybe now would be a good time to define some terms.
until Rand Paul got stuck on a name.
Paul's problem was not a temporary memory lapse we all can relate to. It was, and is, selective amnesia, of a sort none of us should accept. And it had been on display for twenty minutes at this point.
He’d survived the inevitable civic demonstration, when Brian Menifee, a mechanical engineering senior, tried to unfurl a red and black and green banner reading “Howard University Doesn’t Support White Supremacy.”
The "inevitable" civic demonstration, says the guy who tried to downplay that whole Frederick Douglass Republican thing at CPAC.
Menifee, wearing dreadlocks and a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe T-shirt, was yanked out of the room by security as the senator looked on and the audience applauded.
Maybe they just didn't like the shirt.
“How many of you—if I’d said, who do you think the founders of the NAACP are,” asked Paul, “do you think they were Democrats or Republicans, would everybody here know they were all Republicans?”
More shouting, more laughter. Yes! Every Howard student is required to “satisfy an African-American course requirement.” Of course they knew this.Jeez Louise. Mutatis mutants, I could have satisfied Howard's African-American Cluster Requirement, and I don't recall anyone ever bothering to mention which political party W.E.B. Dubois belonged to. Maybe no one needs to tell a group of Howard students which political party Negroes in the first decades of the 20th century belonged to, assuming it was "any", assuming they were able to register to vote. Maybe they know the history a little better than the guy who came to school 'em. Maybe he could have expected that.
And, by the way, it's not like the nascent anti-Jim Crow movement was a joint effort of a few brave African-American educators and the entire Republican party.
The tension cooled, but it never fully thawed. Rand Paul possesses a monk’s confidence in his ability to convert skeptics with his words.
And a Pope's confidence in his own inerrancy.
He makes alliances more easily than some Republicans, finding the libertarian common ground with Democrats on drones, drug policy, or the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Well, as Charlie says, maybe for the first five minutes he does. Otherwise, bosh. He's opposed to the domestic use of drones to "spy" on big agricultural and mining operations; this resonates with Democrats who don't read anything but headlines. His "drug policy" ("Return the issue to the states," which, now that I think of it, is his policy on everything) isn't simply carefully-parsed non-Libertarianism but full bull goose loony. And th' fuck needs his voice on Afghanistan? The whole country gave up on that years ago. President Rand Paul will be to Defense spending what President Ronald Reagan was to Deficit spending.
“When I think of how political enemies often twist and distort my positions,” he said, “I think [of T.S.] Eliot’s words: ‘When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, how should I presume?’ And here I am today at Howard, a historically black college. Here I am, a guy who once presumed to discuss a section of the Civil Rights Act.”
In 2010, Paul had made a spirited, libertarian critique of the Act's implementation, was swiftly accused of racism, and forever changed the way he talks about these things.Yeah, he (and others) now portrays himself as the heroic Libertarian-critiquer who was unfairly accused of racism for daring to discuss the Civil Rights Act.
On Wednesday morning, he was talking past the audience. To a viewer at home—a Fox News viewer, maybe—it was enough that Paul was there and a bonus that he got heckled.
Did we mention the He-Man t-shirt?
BTW, I love it when Weigel simply wishes away the unpleasant faction ("Vast Majority") of his own party.
“Republicans do, indeed, still believe many rights remain with the people and states respectively,” said Paul. “When some people hear that, they tune us out and say: He’s just using code words for the state’s right to discriminate, for the state’s right to segregate and abuse. But that’s simply not true. Many Republicans do believe that decentralization of power is the best policy, that government is more efficient, more just, and more personal when it is smaller and more local.”
There's nothing quite like determining which policy leads to greater justice without ever considering the question of justice. A monk's confidence, I guess.
Republicans don’t understand why this message fails to grip black voters. It didn’t grip the crowd at Howard. Heckler aside,
Him again. I swear, Weigel wrote an entire column about the Frederick Douglass Republican Incident and gave less attention to "the heckler".
the room sat silent as Paul expounded on the Democrats’ pre-1964 record on race, from one obscure bigot to another. No one applauded until Paul got to some actual policy. “I am working with Democratic senators to make sure that kids who make bad decisions such as nonviolent possession of drugs are not imprisoned for lengthy sentences,” said Paul. “I am working to make sure that first time offenders are put into counseling and not imprisoned with hardened criminals.”
Why does everything this guy says sound like it's based on a sound principle he wants credit for while angling not to be held accountable? The great majority of drug arrests are state and local--those folks Rand wants to give complete decision-making power to, as a "solution"--and most people snagged by the Feds are involved in trafficking. To be sure, some may be "kids who make bad decisions", but if that's really the case the utterly draconian Federal laws already give judges an out. I've got nothing against compromise, as a concept, but if you're a United States Senator and a Libertarian, the real problem isn't locking up innocents. It's locking people away for five to ten years for non-violent offenses. Maybe you could at least make some effort in that direction?
Paul was on to something, but it didn’t last. “Some argue with evidence that our drug laws are biased—that they are the new Jim Crow,” he said. “But to simply be against them for that reason misses a larger point. They are unfair to everyone.”
Well, no, no they ain't. Major drug cartels are, generally speaking, really ugly, violent, criminal enterprises. Letting a few "kids" off isn't going to change that. We need the Feds to have a toolbox to fight them until such time as we decriminalize small-scale drug use, possession, and production, and take the profit out of it.
By the way, where'd the history lecture go? While the War on Drugs is probably the shining example of the benefits of Bipartisanship in contemporary America, which party is the real home of Zero Tolerance, Lawn Order, and Unfettered Private Drug Testing?
And here Paul, who wields hyperbole like a pro to campaign against spy drones, was telling people to stop invoking Jim Crow. Paul told one student who fretted about Republican voter ID bills that he “demean[ed] the horror” of poll tests.
Oh, that's where the history lecture went. Funny how demanding your papers before you can vote doesn't bother Mr. Freedom.
But this was savvy. When he left the campus, past the students still holding the “White Supremacy” banner and conducting interviews, Paul remained the Republican most likely to reform mandatory minimums. He remained the most prominent Republican supporter of drug law reform. He wouldn’t apologize for the Republican Party, or for libertarianism, or for that 2010 interview about the Civil Rights Act. “Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent?” he said then. “Should we limit racists from speaking?” Now, he was offering African-Americans some accommodation, from time to time.
Okay, so never say Never. But call Bullshit at every opportunity. It's one thing to get away with the Filibuster game for a single news cycle. It's quite another to get away with it for two and a half years (or four) on the campaign trail. Not everyone is going to blow Rand Paul for Freedomz! Sooner or later he has to talk for more than five minutes. Just like, sooner or later, the Teabaggers revealed themselves as crackpot religious maniacs, and mainstream Republicans. Despite what hip young contrarian reporters tried to tell us.