Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Rand Paul gave a speech today at Howard University. The text of the speech is here.

Politicians regularly address audiences that share a racial, ethnic, or cultural bond. It's typical in these speeches to throw in a reference or two to famous group members or prominent moments in the group's history. You can usually tell that these references were unfamiliar to the pol until they showed up in the speech, and the speechwriters didn't know them until they began doing research. But no one minds, because these drop-ins are meant to inspire. They're meant to highlight admirable members of the group or admirable moments in the group's history.

Paul and his writers clearly did a lot of research for his Howard University speech, which contains a lot of stuff he obviously didn't know a few months ago -- but the historic bits are meant to flatter Republican white people, not Paul's African-American audience. And so they come off as self-righteous finger-wagging. Paul doesn't ingratiate himself with the audience so much as ask why the audience won't ingratiate itself with him.
... The story of emancipation, voting rights and citizenship, from Fredrick Douglass until the modern civil rights era, is in fact the history of the Republican Party.

How did the party that elected the first black U.S. Senator, the party that elected the first 20 African American Congressmen become a party that now loses 95 percent of the black vote?

How did the Republican Party, the party of the great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?

From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, for a century, most black Americans voted Republican. How did we lose that vote?
(Spoiler alert: Rand isn't going to say the GOP itself deserves any of the blame.)
... In Kentucky, the history of black voting rights is inseparable from the Republican Party. Virtually all African Americans became Republicans.

Democrats in Louisville were led by Courier-Journal editor Henry Watterson and were implacably opposed to blacks voting.

Watterson wrote that his opposition to blacks voting was “founded upon a conviction that their habits of life and general condition disqualify them from the judicious exercise of suffrage."

... Meanwhile, Kentucky's Democrat-controlled legislature voted against the 13th, the 14th, and the 15th amendments.

William Warley was a black Republican in Louisville. He was born toward the end of the nineteenth century.

... Warley bought a house in the white section in defiance of a city segregation law. The case, Buchanan v. Warley, was finally decided in 1917 and the Supreme Court held unanimously that Kentucky law could not forbid the sale of a house based on race.

The Republican Party's history is rich and chock full of emancipation and black history....
After the speech, BuzzFeed political reporter Rosie Gray tweeted:

Paul eventually segues into an attack on the New Deal era, an implicit defense of the gold standard ("Printing money out of thin air leads to higher prices"), an attack on public schools. "I defy anyone to watch Waiting for Superman and honestly argue against school choice," he says -- to an audience presumably full of people who've seen the movie and are perfectly willing to make that argument. Ahhh, but he's against mandatory minimums for drugs and he's not a hawk, so it's all good regarding the economic libertarianism, right?

Another reporter's tweet, from (I think) the subsequent Q&A:

I'll say it again: If you want to win over a group of people who are skeptical of you, try throwing in a few positive statements about them. Try being deprecating about yourself.

Not the other way around.


Anonymous said...

Sure, but as he says, at least he tried. Not a lot of whites or white Republicans, let alone white libertarian-minded Tea Party Republicans who questioned the Civil Rights Act, lining up to speak at Howard.

Rand Paul's sort of obtuse, esoteric style, with a lot of literary references, sounds odd to me. But maybe hazy language works when you're trying to bridge a gap between disparate groups, or appear to.

Victor said...

I'm starting to wonder if maybe Ol' Ron isn't gay, and he and his partner, Jim Imhofe, didn't home-school Rand?

What a feckin' idjit!!!

Julia Grey said...

What was Rand's "explanation" for the mass disaffection of blacks from the Republican party, then?

I mean, SOMETHING must have happened....

I wonder if he mentioned what he thought that SOMETHING was?

Superfluous Man said...

I can't wait to hear him address an audience of women at, say, Bryn Mawr.

Ten Bears said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Hilton said...

I think the word "whitesplaining" can now be retired from the language, as Rand Paul has provided an example that can never again be topped.