Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made one of the boldest and most memorable statements on the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., going a place members of his party wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
Now, he's literally gone to the place -- as in, Ferguson -- where he's meeting with the NAACP, the Urban League and other church and business leaders about criminal justice.
A cynic would say that Paul, a likely 2016 presidential contender, is simply trying to expand his appeal.
That cynic wouldn't be entirely wrong.
Look, Rand Paul seems genuinely baffled as to why black voters vote Democratic, in the same way that Rep. Paul Ryan seems genuinely baffled as to why poor people vote Democratic. There are some problems that Paul admits still exist, namely the black cradle to prison pipeline, but like Paul Ryan, Rand Paul's solutions actually would make things even worse.
“I am a politician, and I do recognize that [Republicans] haven’t done very well with people who live in cities -- primarily African Americans -- and I do think we need to do better,” he said in a phone interview from Ferguson. “The thing I found is that you might interview 20 people, and you find that they are not ready to vote for a Republican yet, but they are interested in Republicans competing for their vote and showing up in their communities.”
Paul has been on something of an urban America tour, meeting with leaders all over the country. He is the closest thing the GOP has to a race man, unafraid to put himself in the shoes of African Americans and to talk about disparities
But at the same time, this is a relatively new effort for him. And for a guy who in his first campaign struggled with questions about the Civil Rights Act, the discovery does coincide with his increasing national political ambitions.
"I think I’ve discovered more of urban America from being elected than not being elected. I grew up in a small rural town, so from a firsthand experience, I wasn't as aware," he said. "But as a senator ... I’ve tried to learn about problems that I frankly didn’t know as much about. And as I met with community leaders, I’ve discovered that there were things like … many people didn’t have the right to vote, and I wasn’t aware of that. And since that time, I’ve become more active in those issues."
The thing is that the standard in the GOP, that is that belief that the 90% plus of black America that votes Democratic are nothing but stupid, savage animals who live on government largess, is so unrelentingly awful and incredibly racist that Rand Paul's slightly less insulting approach of relatively cynical pandering comes across as making him look like a "civil rights leader" by comparison. It's like trying to tend poison ivy as the only living thing in a field of blackened, scorched, and salted earth and telling your friends how awesome your garden is. Here's where Henderson really makes a complete fool out of herself.
But in steadily talking about race, about hopelessness and a sense of powerlessness -- as well as what the federal government can do to help -- Paul is up to something entirely different. He is becoming the closest thing the Republicans have to an Al Sharpton or a Jesse Jackson, a comparison that prompted laughter from the man himself.
"I will leave that to others I don’t know," he said. "I am trying very hard to show that Republicans do have policies and plans and do care about trying to fix problems in our nation's cities."
Look, just because Rand Paul admits that black Democratic voters are actual human beings, putting him several steps ahead of your average Republican, people are fawning all over the guy. It's great that Rand Paul admits black Democratic voters may in fact be actual human beings. If that's your bar for why we should vote Republican, please kindly go screw yourself.