Rand Paul took the oath of office as the junior United States Senator from Kentucky in 2011. Before his seat was warm, he began campaigning for the 2016 presidential election. With 2015 just around the corner, he has acquired one of the most skillful campaign teams in recent history. What is most important for a politician is to say the right thing in front of the right crowd. Linguistic skills are paramount when attempting to secure votes from a single-minded audience.
Monday Paul was speaking at a Republican fund raiser in Mississippi. The population of the state is 37 percent black at present, with the number of persons of mixed race on the rise. The Republican Party has an image problem with blacks, Hispanics, women, and the LGBT community. Although GOP leadership is fully aware of this, it has done little to alter the fact.
As Rand was speaking to the crowd, he raised the incident of Eric Garner’s death. He said he was horrified as he watched the video of New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo place a chokehold on Mr. Garner. Garner was heard saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’ Shortly thereafter, Mr. Garner lost his life. His crime was selling untaxed cigarettes. Mr. Garner was a giant of a man and was engaged with more than six policemen who wrestled him to the ground.
Rand fell short of criticizing the grand jury for not indicting officer Pantaleo, but stated that he believed he should be removed from the police force; that he showed poor judgement. He also praised the nation’s policemen and their training, saying they are held to a ‘higher standard’ than most.
Call it linguistics or pandering, Mr. Paul has developed his skills. Listening to his present rhetoric, it is hard to remember the extremist TEA Party darling who was elected in 2010. Don’t be fooled; he’s still there, he just masks it well.
Recent voter ID laws, which have been enacted by several states, are a blatant attempt by red states to diminish the black vote, which is traditionally 90 percent Democratic. In anticipation of an eventual decision by the SCOTUS, Paul and others are not gambling that the laws will be upheld.
The GOP has an image problem with minority voters. However, little efforts have been made to alter the party’s impression.
For more than 40 years Democrats have received a large majority of the black vote. Democrats have fought for social issues, an increase in the minimum wage, and social programs to assist those in the poverty level. Republicans have voted against each issue. In 2009 white households net income averaged $113,149; while blacks’ net worth was $5,700. Their unemployment rate was 14.1percent while whites were at 7.4 percent.
It is difficult for black voters to believe speeches by Republicans. Very few leaders in the Republican Party are men and women of color. They are much more likely to believe the verbiage of a fellow black person.
Mr. Paul is acting less like a member of the GOP than he is a Democrat. While few Republicans reach out to minority communities, Paul is making the effort; at least in speech.
Actions do speak louder than words, and actions by the GOP are frequently seen as racist. It doesn’t help to have a Republican network such as FOX News which continues to belittle the need for true race reform in our nation. It simply cements their belief that Republicans care little for the rights and needs of the black community.
By James Turnage