Senator Rand Paul said he was either “brave or crazy” for venturing to historically black Howard University to talk about Republican values today. The real purpose of the speech he delivered this morning, though, was to open a dialogue between the GOP and the African-American community, which have long been estranged.
In doing so, the Kentucky senator made the case for African Americans to ally themselves with the GOP, explaining, “the Republican party has always been the party of civil rights and voting rights.” He argued that African Americans should, by contrast, be wary of Democrats and the federal government. “The Democrat promise is tangible and puts food on the table, but too often doesn’t lead to jobs or meaningful success,” he said, ”I would argue that the objective evidence shows that big government is not a friend to African Americans.”
Pointing to history, Paul told the audience, “Big and oppressive government has long been the enemy of freedom, something black Americans know all too well.”
Paul also used his remarks as an opportunity to close the book on controversial remarks he made about the Civil Rights Act during his 2010 campaign, when he suggested that private businesses should not have to serve minorities. “No Republican questions or disputes the Civil Rights Act,” he said. “I’ve never been against the Civil Rights Act.”
Protesters holding a banner bearing the words “Howard University doesn’t support white supremacy” were removed during the senator’s remarks.
Paul, a potential 2016 GOP contender, gained prominence and popularity in the wake of a 13-hour filibuster on the Obama administration’s drone policy.
In his remarks, he also defended the GOP’s push for voter-identification laws in a number of states, arguing that the comparisons often drawn by opponents between ID laws and the historical discrimination perpetrated through poll taxes and tests diminishes the horror of that discrimination.