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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Why Rand Paul Should Come To New York

“Nobody can give you equality or justice. If you’re a man, you take it.” Rand Paul, quoting Malcolm X, at, strangely enough, the National Urban League Conference.

Rand Paul's studious courting of African-American voters is getting the chattering classes talking. And why should it not? It is not every day that a senior member in good standing of the Grand Old Party -- a party that increasingly over the last few Presidential cycles has appealed to older, whiter voters -- extends the olive branch to a demographic that is so entrenched within the Democrat party. "After Mitt Romney received just 6 percent of the black vote in 2012, the Republican Party said that it could no longer afford to ignore African-Americans," writes Jeremy Peters in the paper of record. “'We are never going to win over voters who are not asked for their support,' (GOP leaders) wrote in a candid election post-mortem." A part of Paul's courting of voters of color is his venture outside of the comfort zone, his base, into the National Urban League Conference. Further, Paul takes immigration seriously and is trying to use his influence among the paleoconservatives to end the stalemate. It has yet to be established if Paul has the standing or the seniority and political skill to convince enough of the hard right to go along with him.

Senator Paul, clearly, has Presidential ambitions, like his father. Also, not unlike like his father, a lot of those ambitions are tied to furthering the Libertarian agenda. Libertarianism is a family affair for the Pauls; the concerns of the Republican party, it seems, run a close second. The Pauls, arguably the first family of American Libertarianism, have political principles that are curiously in synch with young people -- pro-drug legalization, pro LBGT, very live-and-let-live -- as well as being attractive to people of color in very, very blue New York City. Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky, would probably be a welcome presence among the brown majority in NYC right about now, if only for his lengthy record of battling the lengthening shadow of police state on all fronts. "Paul has been talking for a while about how his conception of tyranny extends to long, draconian prison sentences for mostly poor and black offenders," writes Emily Brazelon in Slate. "Now he is introducing a bill that would restore voting rights to nonviolent ex-felons in federal elections."

Quite interesting.

New York City: The Great Laboratory

Rand Paul would find NYC The Great Laboratory in terms of the diversity of voters, income and political receptiveness to his independent, somewhat unorthodox ideas. New York has the largest percentage of Asian populations in any US City; the Puerto Rican population is the largest outside of Puerto Rico proper; New York is the largest home of Jewish people outside of Israel. 36% of the population is foreign born -- so any attempts to solve the immigration problem would be received with more than a smattering of applause in this city. The median age in NYC is 34, well within the libertarian purview. Further, NYC is 25% African-American, 27% Latino, roughly 12% Asian and 44% white, according to the most recent Census. A would-be President would do well to practice speaking in front of such a culturally diverse crowd. It is, after a fashion, one of the best stages to capture the imagination of different voting blocks, voting blocks alien to the GOP of late. Why is this important?

Mitt Romney Agonistes

Mitt Romney aimed for and got an incredible amount of the white vote. He got 59%, one percentage point smaller than his target of 60%. In previous elections this would have been enough but Romney, temperamentally quite conservative, did not intuit the shifting demographic trends of these United States. The electorate is no longer as white as it was when Reagan or even Bush the Younger were President. The problem was that Romney was demographically out-data'd by the Obamaites, who ran away with all the other demographics. "Obama won the Latino vote, 71 to 27," wrote Tom Scocca in Slate as a postmortem. "He also won the Asian vote, 73 to 26. Those voters all look the same to the losers. That's why they're the losers."

And elections in the foreseeable future are only going to get browner and browner ... Rand Paul, and to a degree Paul Ryan (in his new language on the subject of poverty) and even Chris Christie see this as the key to appealing to a larger audience in the general election.

Principles Above Party

Why would Rand Paul actively push in the United States Senate for laws that would put the Republican Party at a disadvantage (re: voting rights and criminal sentences for people of color)? African-Americans -- and, more broadly, people of color -- break wildly for the Democrats, obviously. "'Even if Republicans don’t get more votes, we feel like we’ve done the right thing,' Paul told Politico. This sounds like Paul’s (qualified) support for immigration reform: He’s behind it even though in the short term, it’s probably a loser for Republicans," writes Brazelon.

Ron Paul, like him or loathe him, stands up for principles that extend far beyond the often provincial conservatism of his party, or at the very least the party that Romney in 2012 and the tea party in subsequent elections represents. Libertarianism, a philosophy, is not just entrenched positions about wealth and the race of the aging white electorate that has essentially sunk the Republican Party in the most recent Presidential elections. Libertarianism -- in its critique of big government, the lengthening shadow of the police state, a healthy skepticism over national security issues, a live-and-let live with regards to drugs, sexuality and the consensual behavior of adults is perhaps the perfect blueprint for a dying party.

The Demographic Reality

If the Republican Party wants to be the party of older white conservative voters with a high school diploma, that is their prerogative. However, in the last two Presidential elections that been a losing strategy, it should be noted.  Further, in 2012, eligible African-American voters outvoted, percentagewise, white voters. 2012 was also a landmark year for all voters of color. " The highest turnout of blacks, in addition to the growing number of Hispanics and Asians, could also explain Obama's success in defeating Romney, wrote at the time. "According to CNN exit polls, 93% of African-Americans, 71% of Hispanics and 73% of Asians supported Obama over Romney."

Rand Paul knows this. New York knows this. And now, as the issue of police brutality rises with the barometer, is the perfect time for Rand Paul to give a speech, in the city, tying his concerns about national security and the national security state and police overreach (quite literally in the form of illegal chokeholds). I believe that Senator Rand Paul, for a Republican from Kentucky, would find an alarmingly receptive audience of color in this city if he chose to make that much needed speech.

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