Paul's right, GOP must reach out to minorities

Paul's right, GOP must reach out to minorities

February 18th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., turned 51 years old last month and can be expected to live another 26.4 years, give or take.

He said last week if Republicans don't change, they might not win another presidential election in his lifetime.

Imagine for a moment the country, following Barack Obama, being governed by a Democrat president for the next six terms. Hello, Western Europe.

Paul said during the interview with conservative radio host Glenn Beck the GOP must become "a new Republican Party. And it has to be a transformation. Not a little tweaking at the edges."

Ah, there's the rub.

The problem to be considered is what transformation the party would undergo: to follow its establishment wing and be Democrats lite; to follow its conservative, my-way-or-the-highway wing; or to follow Paul's more libertarian leanings.

Whatever transformation the party makes, it must do as the Kentucky senator suggests and take its message to blacks and Hispanics.

Paul said big government, among other things "has had a racial outcome. It's disproportionately affected the poor and the black and brown among us."

To cite just one telling statistic, overall federal and state welfare spending, adjusted for inflation, is 16 times greater than it was in 1964. Yet overall poverty has remained relatively unchanged since the mid-1960s.

Republicans have to take this message directly to these groups and help them understand how Democrats desire to retain their power over them by keeping them dependent on government.

Paul also said the GOP should offer a message of criminal justice reform, including changes in the "war on drugs" and on sentencing laws. To young people, he would stress an opposition to excessive government surveillance and a respect for personal privacy.

"There are many people who are open among all these disaffected groups, who really aren't steadfast supporters of Obama or an ideology," he said. "I think they're open to listening, but we have to have a better message and a better presentation of it."

Unlike many of the establishment Republicans, Paul is not afraid of the differences within the party. Indeed, he says he relishes them.

"There is a struggle going on within the Republican Party," he said. "I tell people it's not new, and I'm not ashamed of it. I'm proud of the fact that there is a struggle. And I will struggle to make the Republican Party a different party, a bigger party, a more diverse party and a party that can win national elections again."

Paul compared the inner-party struggle with Ronald Reagan's 1976 GOP primary fight with President Gerald Ford, a fight he ultimately lost but which set the stage for his successful 1980 run.

"Everybody told Reagan to sit back and shut up," he said. "They told him it wasn't his time, and it wasn't going to be his time."

Paul may be overstating the case a bit about losing elections because the GOP will probably retain its U.S. House majority in the fall and has at least a shot to take back the U.S. Senate, setting the stage for the 2016 presidential election.

Of course, the party also thought that about the Senate in 2010 and 2012.

But this year, New York investment banker and major GOP donor Jeffrey Berenson said in Politico, Senate Democrats must defend seats in five of the 10 states where Obama is most unpopular. Plus, the party appears poised to nominate winning candidates, unlike some of those who lost relatively safe Republican seats two and four years ago.

Before the smoke clears and candidates declare for president in 2016, know this: Obama got 3.5 million fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008, and Mitt Romney got almost 1 million more votes in 2012 than John McCain did in 2008. And no other Democrat candidate in the near future is likely to top Obama's 52.9 percent of the vote in 2008.

The Democrats' best bet for 2016 is Hillary Clinton, who can't point to any accomplishment as Secretary of State in Obama's first term (except a lot of frequent flier points) and as a candidate would surely be bloodied by her Benghazi committee hearings meltdown -- "What difference at this point does it make (why four Americans died)?"

The party's next best hope? Joe Biden. Stop laughing.

For Republicans, Paul may be on a lot of lists, but he says it's "too early" to make a decision. Others, of course, include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Arkansas governor and TV talk-show host Mike Huckabee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

One name not on any lists but one that would make sense is former Chattanooga mayor and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker. A sound and wealthy businessman (and not a lawyer), an accomplished mayor, a tough negotiator and a man of plain talk, he would bring a different perspective to the race.

Whoever is nominated, though, must make an authentic pitch to minorities in order to broaden the party.