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Rand Paul to blacks: Give GOP a second look
Kentucky senator pitches libertarian agenda at D.C.’s Howard University
Sen. Rand Paul urged a predominantly black crowd at Howard University on Wednesday to give the Republican Party a second look, saying the big government agenda that Democrats have pursued over the past four years has stunted economic growth and led to staggering levels of unemployment in the black community.
The Kentucky lawmaker, a tea party favorite and 2016 White House hopeful, admitted his party faces a “daunting” challenge in pulling more black voters into their camp, but he said he hopes his libertarian brand of Republicanism will help them start to see the GOP as a potential political home.
“I hope that some of you will be open to the Republican message that favors choice in education, a less aggressive foreign policy, more compassion regarding nonviolent crime and encourages opportunity in employment,” Mr. Paul said. “And when the time is right, I hope that African-Americans will again look to the party of emancipation, civil liberty and individual freedom.”
The appearance also provided the senator with another chance to try to dispel the notion that he has been reluctant to embrace the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — a story line that caused him headaches during his 2010 Senate campaign and could come back to haunt him should be decide to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
“I have never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act,” Mr. Paul told the Howard University students. “The dispute, if there is one, has always been about how much of the remedy should come under federal or state or private purview.”
The visit to one of the nation’s top historically black universities follows a 2012 presidential election in which President Obama outperformed the GOP’s Mitt Romney by a 93 percent to 6 percent margin among black voters and by a 60 percent to 35 percent margin among voters ages 18 to 24.
“Republicans face a daunting task. Several generations of black voters have never voted Republican and are not very open to even considering the option,” Mr. Paul said Wednesday — a point that was driven home when a student had to be pushed out of the room after holding a sign that read “Howard University Doesn’t Support White Supremacy.”
Mr. Paul chugged along, stressing his opposition to military adventurism and his advocacy for expanding school choice, plus his desire to ease the “heavy-handed and arbitrary” federal mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes.
“We should stand and loudly proclaim enough is enough,” Mr. Paul said. “We should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence. That’s why I have introduced a bill to repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences. We should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community.”
Mr. Paul raised his national profile last month by leading a 13-hour filibuster of the nomination of John O. Brennan to be CIA director, threatening to block the confirmation vote until the Obama administration clarified that it will not use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil.
The episode served as a showcase for Mr. Paul’s libertarian views and his broader critique of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, which he says have trampled the U.S. Constitution in their prosecution of the war on terrorism.
Mr. Paul told the Howard students that the old “moss-covered variety” of Republican mistakes “war for defense” and forgets that former President Reagan argued for “peace through strength, not war through strength.”
“I want you to know that all Republicans do not clamor for war, that many Republicans believe in a strong national defense that serves to preserve the peace,” Mr. Paul said.
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