Finding Out The Hard Way About Rand Paul
Yesterday morning the excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote at The Atlantic’s website about giving Sen. Rand Paul at least some credit for speaking at Howard University last week and summed up Paul’s performance as thus (emphasis mine:)
At this moment, the GOP has a choice. It can embrace the “Gifts” logic of Mitt Romney which holds that black people will never vote for a Republican, or it can make a pitch and compete.
Rand Paul — skeptical of foreign war, skeptical of the drug war, skeptical of mass incarceration — is the most credible Republican to make that pitch. We don’t have any expectations for Steve King. Paul is different, and is being judged accordingly. You don’t get to do something striking and courageous (like Paul’s actual filibuster) and get judged by the standards of cowards.
As a black liberal who lives in Kentucky and is one of Paul’s constituents, I most respectfully and vehemently disagree. Rand Paul has a long and odious trail through the Bluegrass State, and time and time again his idea of to whom and what liberties should apply always seems to turn out to be the category of people that includes Rand Paul, usually at zero-sum expense of those who are not. I do not find him credible in the least, as Ta-Nehisi points out, Rand Paul is a liar.
Paul’s answer to the Civil Rights Act question was deeply damaging. Nothing he did there hurt him more than outright lying. This is 2013. All these kids need do is google Rand Paul and Civil Rights Act to see what Paul actually said. It would be like Obama announcing his support for marriage equality, by claiming he’d always supported it. The worst part is he didn’t even have to lie. A simple “I’ve learned a few things since becoming a senator” would have sufficed. Unforced error. Again, no one around Paul to say, “It’s Howard. A third of SNCC went here. You are going to get this question. You must have a good answer.”
Now keep in mind, this was just a few paragraphs above where Coates is calling Paul “striking and courageous”. This is something I just do not understand. Even when Rand Paul does something I agree with, like co-sponsoring the Justice Safety Valve Act to reduce the awful practice of mandatory sentencing and give judges more leeway, I find I want something like that to succeed in spite of Rand Paul precisely because he has no credibility due to his staggering hypocrisy over liberties and who they should apply to and his outright lies when called out on trying to reconcile his record.
To Coates’s eternal credit, it only took him a few hours to revise his opinion of Sen. Paul in a post yesterday afternoon as he researched Paul’s post-Howard comments on Friday.
Rand Paul went to Howard University, lied, and then got his ass kicked. That’s not so bad. I got my ass kicked regularly at Howard. That was the reason my parents sent me there. But having gotten his ass kicked, his answer is to not to reflect but to make an allegation of racial discrimination.
One of the things I try to do in my work is — in general — take people at their word. It’s very hard to communicate about anything without good faith. This, of course, assumes that communication is the goal. That was my assumption about Rand Paul. I was clearly wrong.
To those of us who have been continuously embarrassed by Rand Paul’s representation of us in the Senate, to whom being his constituent is not an academic exercise in the political calculus of 2016 but unfortunate political reality in 2013, to those of us who have followed his virulent rise to the respectability of only being 95% as insane, bigoted, disingenuous and vitriolic as the rest of the “serious” GOP folks heading into the next election, Rand Paul’s credibility evaporated long ago.
I refuse to give him credit because, as Coates discovered the hard way yesterday, everything Rand Paul does is a cynical calculation to help Rand Paul by trying to pull support from liberals who are willing to give him praise just for showing up to the debate. As someone who voted against him, my criteria and my expectations are much higher, and Rand Paul has failed those expectations every. Single. Time. Period. The siren call of his faux libertarian nonsense is a thin veneer hiding the arch-conservative inside. It didn’t take Coates long to find out the truth of Rand Paul with just cursory research. It should have been apparent long before, which is the most agonizing thing about Rand Paul and his hustle. I understand keenly the need to fix the school-to-prison pipeline. I understand what decades of disproportionate injustice has done to folks who look like me. I understand the need to find just one sliver of hope in someone like Rand Paul who appears to want to do something about it when so many ignore the absolute atrocity of mass incarceration.
Unfortunately he’s just another Republican bigot, my junior senator. Therein lies the problem with the Republican party and its utter lack of credibility to people like me. So yes, as a black liberal in Kentucky I set the bar of expectations to be very high and will continue to do so. Anything less is a disservice. So the next time Rand Paul decides to play his game, please remember what the eventual outcome always is with him, yes?
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