So Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) went to Howard University to do a little outreach to a demographic that has, for some reason, stayed away from the GOP for the last fifty years or so.
Paul devoted almost none of his speech Wednesday at the historically black college in Washington, D.C., to explaining the GOP’s thorny relationship with black voters over the last fifty years, and most of it arguing that “the Republican Party has always been the party of civil rights and voting rights.” His history lecture focused almost entirely on the period before 1964, when the GOP began to champion the states rights arguments of southern whites. Echoing a popular conservative talking point, Paul repeatedly reminded the audience that Democrats passed Jim Crow laws in the south and that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, as were the first black legislators and the founders of the NAACP.
“Would everyone know here they were all Republicans?” he said at one point, referring to the NAACP’s founders.
“Yes!” came the booming response from nearly the entire audience, who appeared offended Paul would even raise the question.
He drew laughs and jeers at another point for bungling the name of the first popularly elected black senator, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, whom he called “Edwin.”
Thus went Paul’s earnest, yet awkward, attempt at minority outreach at one of the nation’s most prestigious black colleges.
He also denied that he had ever opposed the Civil Rights Acts, which is demonstrably false.
It is true that the Republicans were the leaders in working to get African-Americans civil rights. In the 19th century. As anyone who has been paying attention knows, the Democrats and the Republicans basically switched places on civil rights starting as far back as FDR, followed by the Dixiecrats and Strom Thurmond in 1948, and culminating with the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Yes, Republicans sponsored civil rights laws and voted for them… about the same time that Nikita Khrushchev left the Kremlin. And, as Charles Blow explains, they’ve been losing it ever since.
The Republican Party has a tarnished brand in the eyes of the African-American community, largely because of its own actions and rhetoric. That can’t be glossed over by painting the present party with the laurels of the distant past.
Well, at least he didn’t call them “you people.”