Whatever you are selling, Sen. Rand Paul, I’m not buying—and I hope that no one of sound mind, regardless of color, buys it either.
It is profoundly irresponsible on the part of the New York Times and the Washington Post to treat Paul’s manifestly phony efforts to promote himself as the new Jack Kemp as anything but shameless political posturing. Paul—who made clear his loathing for civil rights when he ran for the US Senate four years ago—is trying to wear a mask of tolerance these days, but it’s a gimmick, just as George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” was.
Obviously, Sen. Paul’s not really trying to attract blacks—not when his party is trying to stop blacks (and other Democratic-leaning constituencies) from voting, as Brad Friedman has noted for the last decade. So what’s the real angle here?
Back in the summer of 2000, I listened to then-Boston talk radio star Jay Severin’s analysis of that year’s Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. The convention attempted to cast the GOP as a party that embraced racial and ethnic diversity, and Severin’s right-wing callers repeatedly asked why the GOP—the anti-affirmative-action party—was putting on a diversity show.
Severin, a former GOP political consultant, explained that Republicans were not trying to attract black votes, since they knew that Democratic nominee Al Gore would yield 90 percent of the black vote. Rather, the real goal was to attract female voters, particularly moderate white women, who supposedly were in favor of George W. Bush’s tax-cut proposals but who were uncomfortable voting for an openly racist and reactionary party. If the GOP looks like it embraces diversity, Severin declared, it will have a better chance of wooing the (moderate white) female vote.
Although Gore secured the majority of the female vote in the 2000 presidential election, it appears that Paul is resurrecting the 2000 GOP strategy of trying to appear racially tolerant in order to create the impression that he is, to use Bush’s old catchphrase, a “different kind of Republican.” Women didn’t fall for the phony GOP shtick then. Why would they fall for it now?
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