Rand’s Racial Outreach

Bouie questions the point of Rand Paul’s speech this week at Howard University, a historically black college:

I’m not sure Paul deserves any praise for his performance. It would be one thing if Paul had gone to Howard eager to listen as well as speak. Instead, he condescended with a dishonest and revisionist history of the GOP. “He didn’t say anything I didn’t expect,” said one student, a senior majoring in sociology and economics. I couldn’t agree more.

I have to say the sheer lack of any grace among some liberal commenters on what was an obvious outreach to African-Americans depresses me. Josh Marshall piles on:

Yesterday morning Sen. Rand Paul went over to Howard University. And it didn’t go terribly well. One might say that’s only to be expected in a case like this – perhaps even the whole point – since the aim is to break the ice between communities either antagonistic to each other or thoroughly out of communication. But it’s more an example of what happens when a staunch conservative steps out of the GOP’s tightly-drawn racial nonsense bubble and hits an audience not dying to be convinced that the GOP’s problems with non-whites are the results of boffo misunderstandings about a Republican party that is actually the best thing that ever happened to black people.

That’s too harsh, in my view. But maybe it’s because I’m a libertarian and see some key grounds for coalition politics with the specific victims of the drug war: disproportionately young black men. Weigel gets it right:

No one applauded until Paul got to some actual policy. “I am working with Democratic senators to make sure that kids who make bad decisions such as nonviolent possession of drugs are not imprisoned for lengthy sentences,” said Paul. “I am working to make sure that first time offenders are put into counseling and not imprisoned with hardened criminals.” Barack Obama and George Bush did drugs, after all, and they turned out okay because they got “lucky.” … When he left the campus, past the students still holding the “White Supremacy” banner and conducting interviews, Paul remained the Republican most likely to reform mandatory minimums. He remained the most prominent Republican supporter of drug law reform.

Freddie takes Chris Hayes to task for mocking Paul’s speech and overlooking Paul’s comments on the drug war:

The drug war, of course, is one of the most damaging weapons that is employed in this country’s ongoing war on black people. It’s also one of the few places where I ever feel genuine optimism about our coming to legislative progress on race and class injustice. I can actually imagine a Republican coalition working with progressive legislators to help gradually decelerate our ruinous, racist, cruel drug policy. I can’t see that happening, though, if prominent liberal voices like that of Hayes are so busy chuckling and snarking on national television that they give up every opportunity to find common cause.

Right on.