Daniel Doherty

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul recently wrapped up his speech (and a Q&A session) at Howard University in Washington, D.C. wherein he discussed “the importance of outreach to younger voters, as well as minority groups.” In particular, among other things, he touched on the benefits of federalism, school choice, and de-criminalizing certain drugs laws -- the latter topic garnering him thunderous applause in an otherwise relatively subdued auditorium.

But perhaps the primary objective of his public appearance at Howard -- as evidenced by his willingness to speak at the historically black college -- was to show (a) how Republican policies can and will serve as the antidote to unsustainable debt and deficits, and (b) how many Americans are slipping into poverty and hopelessness under the policies of the current administration:

The Democrat promise is tangible and puts food on the table, but too often doesn’t lead to jobs or meaningful success.

The Republican promise is for policies that create economic growth. Republicans believe lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budgets, a solvent Social Security and Medicare will stimulate economic growth.

Republicans point to the Reagan years when the economy grew at nearly 7% and millions upon millions of jobs were created.

Today, after four years of the current policies, one in six Americans live in poverty, more than at any other time in the past several decades.

In fact, the poor have grown poorer in the past four years. Black unemployment is at 14%, nearly twice the national average. This is unacceptable.

But far more importantly, Paul discussed how historical revisionism has hurt the GOP’s image in the eyes of many, if not most, African-Americans. For example, the vast majority of those living in the Deep South during the late nineteenth and early-to-mid twentieth centuries -- namely, those whom supported black voter suppression, poll taxes, literacy tests, and the like -- were Democrats. Republicans, by contrast, have a long and oft-ignored history of supporting equality under the law and black empowerment. Admittedly, Paul argued, Republicans have done a terrible job raising awareness about this important and rich part of our national history, but that doesn’t mean it never happened. He said,

The Republican Party’s history is rich and chock full of emancipation and black history.

Republicans still prize the sense of justice that MLK spoke of when he said that “an unjust law is any law the majority enforces on a minority but does not make binding upon itself.”

Republicans have never stopped believing that minorities, whether they derive from the color of their skin or shade of their ideology should warrant equal protection. …

I think what happened during the Great Depression was that African Americans understood that Republicans championed citizenship and voting rights but they became impatient for economic emancipation.

African Americans languished below white Americans in every measure of economic success and the Depression was especially harsh for those at the lowest rung of poverty.

The Democrats promised equalizing outcomes through unlimited federal assistance while Republicans offered something that seemed less tangible-the promise of equalizing opportunity through free markets.

Now, Republicans face a daunting task. Several generations of black voters have never voted Republican and are not very open to even considering the option.

When asked by a student later on, in effect, if Paul associated with or subscribed to the views of the Party of Lincoln or the Party of Reagan (thus implying that the GOP had somehow “evolved” over the course of the last 150 years), the Kentucky Senator sought to convince him that “both” parties were indeed inseparable and one in the same. Therein, he said, is the biggest challenge facing the GOP today: convincing minority groups over time that Republicans have never abandoned their core principles of liberty, equality, and opportunity for all. This will be an uphill battle of persuasion, to be sure, but I think it’s safe to say that Senator Paul’s speech is a very good first step -- and will hopefully move the conversation forward in a positive way.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography