Black leaders divided on whether to view Rand Paul as friend or foeSubmitted by ron_paul_is_awesome on Thu, 05/15/2014 - 23:54
by Perry Bacon Jr. | May 15, 2014 at 1:35 PM
Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) aggressive outreach to the black community over the last several months is dividing African-American leaders, with some excited that a prominent conservative Republican is embracing their causes, while others argue that working with the Kentucky senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate is a mistake.
Paul, openly acknowledging the Republican Party’s longtime struggles with black voters, is giving speeches at black colleges and meeting with key African-American pastors and leaders across the country. He is also taking stances, such as urging the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons and reducing the use of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, that are unusual for a Republican.
“It’s extremely significant and I think quite encouraging for Senator Paul to just not raise these issues, but also to be such a passionate advocate,” said Jotaka Eaddy, a senior director at the NAACP. She added, “It’s always positive when you have unexpected voices that are advocating around these principles.”
But Gerald Neal, one of Kentucky’s two black state senators, says that Paul is using this black outreach to cast himself as a different kind of Republican in preparation for his near-certain presidential run, while doing little to actually change policy. Paul is also a strong critic of President Obama, who remains deeply popular among blacks.
African-Americans who work with Paul “give an unnecessary and unwarranted pass to an individual whose actions are antithetical to the interests of the black community,” Neal said in an interview. “He is using you to his benefit.”