After meeting with African-American leaders in Ferguson, likely Republican president candidate Rand Paul, senator from Kentucky, said the biggest mistake the Republican Party has made in the last several decades is not going into the African-American community.
Rand said if Republicans don’t make more of an effort to appeal to African Americans and other voters of color, “we won’t ever win again.”
“If Republicans don’t go out and compete for African-American votes, Hispanic votes, Asian votes, we wont ever win again,” he said in an interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. “We are a very diverse country but we can’t have one party monopolize the various ethnic groups’ votes.”
Paul, who has frequently shown a willingness to engage African-American audiences, met with NAACP leaders in Ferguson in the wake of yet another police killing of a Black male teen, Vonderrick Myers Jr. Police said Myers, 18, fired three shots at the still-unidentified officer who killed him, though local residents say the teen was unarmed and carrying only a sandwich.
“I don’t want to characterize how everybody else feels about what I said, but I think it was a good opening to the conversation,” Paul said of the meeting. “I think in the Republican Party, the biggest mistake we’ve made in the last several decades is we haven’t gone into the African American community, to the NAACP, and say you know what, we are concerned about what’s going on in your cities and we have plans. They may be different than the Democrats, but we do have plans and we do want to help.”
“Beginning that conversation will change the country if both parties are competing for votes, if both parties are bringing alternative ideas to cities,” Paul said. “Maybe some good will happen.”
When Blitzer asked Paul why the GOP hasn’t connected with African Americans up to this point, Paul said, “They haven’t tried hard enough.”
“There are those in the party beginning to try harder, trying to bring the conversation to new constituencies,” he said. “For me, it’s pretty easy. I believe passionately the war on drugs has had a racial outcome. I don’t think it’s intentional but I think we’ve locked up thousands and thousands of people of color who would be much more productive if we gave them job training in prison and getting them back out of prison or maybe never getting them in prison to begin with.”
Paul said the tensions and unease he felt in Missouri “goes beyond just the shootings.”
“I think the shooting has brought this to the surface, but there’s a sense of unease in the country,” he said. “Black unemployment is twice white unemployment and has been for decade after decade. I know this president cares about trying to improve it but it hasn’t gotten better.”
Paul has taken some heat in his own party for his calls to demilitarize the police, which he expounded on with Blitzer.
“We have no use for 30-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protection vehicles in our cities,” he said. “It leads to inappropriate behaior. When FEMA gives out these tanks, they say specifically they are not to be used for riot control; they’re for terrorism.”