Political Animal


April 16, 2013 10:04 AM Paul’s Magical History Tour

By Ed Kilgore

So following up on his visit to Howard University to explain the political history of civil rights, Rand Paul took himself to another historically-black school (Simmons College) back in Kentucky, and apparently did the same number, offering listeners a little whine on the side:

Paul acknowledged criticism for the speech he gave at Howard University Wednesday, saying, “I think some think a white person is not allowed to talk about black history … which I think is unfair.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ responds:

I guess I should point out here that white persons have been allowed to talk about black history for as long as there has been black history. Over the centuries much of that talk has been regrettable.

More immediately, those of us who wondered whether Paul in going to Howard was engaged in legitimate “minority outreach” or just playing to the white galleries, have a lot more reason to suspect the latter motive now that he’s openly posing as a victim of racism against white folks. Plus his protestations of innocence don’t much ring true:

At Simmons, he talked about how blacks once registered in large numbers as Republicans, how Democrats in Kentucky opposed constitutional amendments that gave African Americans expanded rights and how Henry Watterson, editor of The Courier-Journal from its creation in 1868 until 1919, opposed letting black people vote.
“Much of the public doesn’t know that anymore, and part of my reason for bringing it out was that so people know Republicans aren’t hostile to civil rights or somehow to African Americans,” he said.

So what if I ran around the Deep South speaking to conservative white audiences and explaining to them that their great-grandparents all used to be Democrats, and that those Republicans they love so much now were the perpetrators of Reconstruction, that outrage to southern white dignity they may have learned about in school from Daughters-of-the-Confederacy approved textbooks? Half the audiences would say, “We know all about that,” and the other half would say, “So what?” Those particularly in touch with history or with their own family memories might say, “Yeah, the two parties switched sides, and so did my great-grandparents.”

Paul seems to be peddling the highly revisionist take on civil rights history laid out last year in National Review by Kevin Williamson, which holds that Republicans always were and always will be the party of civil rights while Democrats have consciously switched their white supremacist tactics from Jim Crow to “plantation” socialism. It’s a hallucinatory approach to developments too recent and too well known to fool people about, and for that reason, it’s a line of argument that tends to offend people, particularly those being told they are fools for voting Democratic.

Maybe Rand Paul will give it a rest, but if he continues this Magical History Tour of African-American campuses, he needs to lay off the misplaced self-pity or students who don’t want to be part of his passion play will probably just not show up.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mark_NC on April 16, 2013 10:16 AM:

    I've watched so many Repugnant Ones peddle stupid themes that I no longer know if it's just pure ignorance, willful lying, or if they genuinely believe their on BS.

    I don't like any of the possible choices.

  • Barbara on April 16, 2013 10:21 AM:

    Paul is "allowed" to talk about anything he wants and the rest of us are "allowed" to disagree in blunt terms. Recasting "disagreement" as "censorship" is a conservative trick that is quite in keeping with and just as tiresome as claiming victim mentality anytime longstanding privilege or rank is questioned (e.g., like questioning opening prayers at graduation ceremonies somehow turns Christianity into a persecuted sect).

  • c u n d gulag on April 16, 2013 10:21 AM:

    If Paul keeps going around to "Blah" colleges doing his "outreach" tour, he's libale set off a bidding war between HBO and BET for his very own hour-long comedy special.

    And yes, let's let Obama tour Liberty and all of those good Conservative Christian schools, and let him tell the students and the parents that it was the Republicans who freed the slaves, and fought hardest for the Civil Rights Acts, and that that's why they should vote Democratic.

    How does anyone think THAT will work out?

  • joe corso on April 16, 2013 10:25 AM:

    Insofar as Paul is playing to the GOP primary voting base, he ain't gonna get off this routine until his "heroic" right-wing sister souljah in reverse game has penetrated the id's of all the racial resentment "we're the real victims" fans in GOPland have gotten the message.

    He's just peddling a more polished version of his dad's racism. Like they say, the apple never falls far from the tree...but sometimes it falls right in the toilet.

  • biggerbox on April 16, 2013 10:36 AM:

    It's not white people talking about black history that's the problem, it's ignorant crackers lecturing smart people like they were third-graders that has a tendency to get folks riled up. Especially when the ignorant cracker obviously knows less about the subject than those being lectured to.

    I mean, heck, if you're planning to name-check one of a college's distinguished graduates, you should at least make sure you get his name right. Sheesh.

    Was Paul being sincere? I don't know. Maybe he's just too stupid to know how to do it without being insulting. Or maybe he's been around Republicans so long he doesn't actually understand the concept of "outreach".

  • Peter C on April 16, 2013 10:45 AM:

    This is just lying practice. Rand is being tested about how easily he lies to potential unfriendly audiences. That's important for a Republican; they push policies which harm many and benefit only a few. They can't get elected unless they are charming as they steal your lunch money. Reagan was really good at it. Bush smirked a bit too much. Romney couldn't pull it off.

  • esaud on April 16, 2013 10:59 AM:

    Like all Republicans (or at least those who want to run for office again), for Rand Paul there is zero distance between himself and repulsive racist gasbags like Rush Limbaugh.

    I'll believe they are serious about outreach when they stop exploiting racism for political gain.

    For all the "introspection" Republicans are supposedly going through, I don't think one of them acknowledges the mileage they get out of Limbaugh. They have given a seat at the table to the worst society has to offer, and our braindead media consistently refuses to exercize any real watch dog functioning there.

  • Ron Byers on April 16, 2013 11:01 AM:

    I don't see what anybody sees in Rand Paul. He is profoundly ignorant. It is as though his education stopped in junior high. He is self important. He whines all the time. His voice is particularly suited for whining. He generally doesn't appear to like anybody. He comes across as stupid.

  • c u n d gulag on April 16, 2013 11:05 AM:

    When you describe Rand, you DO realize you're describing THE perfect Republican Presidential candidate for 2016, don't you? :-)

  • June on April 16, 2013 11:14 AM:

    Instead of pointing to events that happened a hundred years or so before either Paul or his audience was born, how is it that Rand Paul cannot point to any vote in his brief political career that championed legislation which might speak to the interests of African-Americans and other brown folk. He's against education funding, healthcare reform, the Civil Rights Act (despite his and his supporters parsing of his statements on the topic, can anyone remotely imagine Rand Paul voting for the Civil Rights Act were it up for passage today?). And then he stands up there complaining that African-Americans are just not as willing to be played for fools as his consultants led him to believe. Better get your money back, Paul.

  • emjayay on April 16, 2013 11:44 AM:

    In case anyone missed it, Paul's position on the Civil Rights Act is that he's all for almost all of it except the teeny little bit about private businesses. You know, like Woolworth's lunch counters and all other restaurants, hotels, motels, hospitals, doctor's offices, employers other than government, private gyms, private pools, private schools, and private proms.

    This is the part he has been basically lying about. You know, just one little bitty thing he might have sort of said once in a real long interview with millions of other questions and answers. Which was unfortunately recorded.

    If his version of the Civil Rights Act had been passed I think pretty much every state and local government service in the South would have been subcontracted out to private companies, leaving governmental units totalling about ten or twenty employees per state.

    I'm surprised that students attending his don't focus on this stuff, what LBJ said, Nixon's Southern Strategy (taped quotes available) etc. with their questions and forget the rest. Except the insane Black Muslim former student guy of course.

  • MuddyLee on April 16, 2013 11:47 AM:

    Why do so many conservatives with medical degrees think they are smart when it comes to history, economics, politics, tax policy etc etc etc? Rand: you are showing your ignorance. Be careful - can't you see what over-exposure has done for Michele Bachmann?

  • boatboy_srq on April 16, 2013 12:30 PM:

    @MuddyLee: anyone studying for a medical degree is automatically imparted Omniscience™ by virtue of the ability to cut someone apart and stitch them back together correctly after 30 hours of nonstop work. It's hardly a "conservative" perspective - more like any physician's. We see it more from the conservative side because more conservative physicians seem to find their way into politics.


    Was Paul being sincere? I don't know. Maybe he's just too stupid to know how to do it without being insulting.

    We're talking about a "medical professional" who couldn't be arsed to obtain certification from the official governing body of his profession, so he made his own cert up out of whole cloth. Higher education is something to hang on the wall: people who go to university to learn are automatically "pointy-headed nerds" out to sap the Energy and Innovation of Teh Ahmurrcan People™ with their Big Gubmint Soshulism™. (/snark)

    Rand Paul is so cute for thinking just because he's forged his own credentials that makes him fit to mingle with people who are actually studying real subjects.


    From what little I've been able to hear and see (before the desire to throw something at the TV/radio kicked in), Paul really does think he's bringing the New Libertarian Gospel to the Great Unwashed Masses. And he's clearly convinced that he holds Ultimate Truth in this matter, and is woefully unprepared for an informed, literate audience. It would help him considerably if he took the time to discover why it is that the old political parties no longer have meaning in the modern discourse: as emjayjay pointed out, the GOP was indeed the party of expanded franchise, suffrage, minority and women's rights and a host of other at-that-time progressive efforts, but has swerved dramatically Rightward beginning with LBJ's Presidency and Nixon's Southern Strategy - though while that obviously informs current political affiliations it seems to be lost on the Distinguished Gentleman.

    One further factor is the ravings of the RWNM: there's a far-from-small portion of the electorate who are convinced that the Right has not changed, and it's the Left who has deviated from the national consensus. Paul appears to believe that modern Democrats are Bolsheviks in new clothing, and that the path his Republicans are treading is ruler-straight. The reality that this is as far from the truth as the Inquisition is from Tolerance has obviously not occurred to him. The adjoining concept - that universities are propagating the same Great Evil of Leftism as the Democrats - is clearly in the forefront of Paul's mind as well, and his appearances are no doubt in part to teach the students the Way Things Really Are™ and not the Way The Professors Are Teaching™.

  • digitusmedius on April 16, 2013 12:36 PM:

    Do republicans (and rightwingers in general) really think they can convince African-Americans that it's still 1871?

  • Bokonon on April 16, 2013 3:30 PM:

    It is amazing that the GOP's version of "outreach" to the black community starts off with telling them that they are ignorant and misinformed both about American history and their own true interests - and that the GOP is the real victim in all this.

    It is a strategy called "pissing on someone's leg and telling them it is raining." And I suppose revisionist straddles like this are necessary when you can't actually repudiate your party's recent history. Like, for example, Ronald Reagan's 1980 speach in Philadelphia, Mississippi, praising states' rights. You know, the one the GOP likes to claim never happened or didn't really mean what it seemed to mean at the time, and in context.

    But I think the most distasteful part of these condescending lectures - whether it is Rand Paul today, or Mitt Romney's nasty little appearance before the NAACP last year - is that it treats the black people in the audience like they are just props. Or chumps. They are being DARED to be uncivil to the outreach being provided to them by the speaker.

    And the substance of what the politicians says betrays the actual insincerity of the entire exercise. As an institution, the GOP has no interest in real truth telling or outreach or apologies. They don't intend to change a thing. They expect black people to change their views the GOP's direction - or to hell with them. And the actual intended audience is the white people who are watching - who actually believe the revisionism.

  • buddy66 on April 16, 2013 6:06 PM:

    I suppose one could search out the number of GOPpers in Congress who voted for LBJ's 1965 civil rights legislation.