As a presidential contender, I take Rand Paul about as seriously as I do the idea of Iggy Azalea, professor of African American Studies at Howard University. Fortunately for Rand Paul, one doesn’t have to be especially serious to have a legitimate shot at securing the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 – not that Kentucky junior senator isn’t shooting for such a perception all the same. Still, for all his push to get folks to “Stand With Rand,” the more the man talks, the more he trips all over himself. And when it comes to his way of handling issues that affect minorities, the more he switches positions, the frustrated I become with this narrative about Rand Paul, the new outreach king.
Case in point: Him essentially offbeat moonwalking away from the lunch table after he and immigrant-bashing Rep. Steve King were approached by two beneficiaries of the DREAM program.
While Paul and King dined during a fundraiser for King in Iowa (aka “the Mecca for the aspiring presidential candidate”), Erika Andiola said, “My name is Erika. I’m actually a Dreamer myself.” Paul’s aide Sergio Gor reportedly then nodded his head to Paul and Paul proceeded to shimmy on by Andiola and her friend and fellow dreamer. Paul was visibly chewing and left behind his half-eaten hamburger – suggesting that his exit was an abrupt decision. Now he did bring his to go cup with him. I suppose I would want to sip on something, too, after being put on blast in such fashion.
And yet, Gor got defensive about the idea of Paul ducking anyone, claiming that Paul simply had to go talk to the media. Uh huh. As Joan Walsh points out at Salon, if you’re going to parade yourself as someone that is for immigration reform, you needn’t shy away from relatively harmless debate over a hamburger. Others, like TIME’s Michael Scherer, have argued that it was a smart choice, explaining: “His aide wisely advises him to leave his sandwich behind and clear out of the screen — and it’s a good thing he does. King, whose role in the political debate over immigration is basically the opposite of a firefighter’s role at a fire, does not disappoint.”
Therein lies another problem with Rand Paul: him reaching out to groups in the name of widening the Republican electorate and then aligning himself with people and positions that have alienated them to begin with. You know, like Steve King who claim Latino immigrants have developed “calves the size of cantaloupes” as a consequent of functioning as a drug mule.
A few weeks ago, the New York Times published “Rand Paul Stands Out in Courting Black Voters,” which celebrated Congressman Ron Paul’s son for doing what any politician should do: try to reach as many people as possible. To be fair, Paul does deserve some credit for partnering with Eric Holder to work on an overhaul of the federal drug sentencing policy. The same can be said of partnering with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to reform criminal background checks and certain aspects of the juvenile justice system.
But two months before that story ran, another one quoted the obviously running for president for Rand Paul criticizing his party’s stance on voter ID laws: “Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing. I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”
Not long after came the backpeddle in the form of: “At no point did Senator Paul come out against voter ID laws. In terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it’s up to each state to decide that type of issue.”
So just like he’s willing to talk immigration reform, but likes to dine with unabashed bigots, Rand Paul would seemingly like for Black people to consider voting Republican, and in particular him, but he thinks it’s up to the state to decide whether or not those Blacks can even vote? Got it. Now, how grateful should I be right now for someone like Rand Paul and is methodology on minority outreach?
Funny enough, while in Iowa, Rand Paul told a room full of conservatives: “We can’t be the party of hostility towards people who don’t necessarily look like us, who have a different background. We need to welcome people to our country and be a welcoming party. It has to be done lawfully. The policy’s important, but so is the attitude.”
And so is consistency, which Rand Paul most certainly continues to lack. I can only imagine how many times Hillary Clinton has laughed about all of this. Presumably as she picks out the set list for Beyoncé and Katy Perry for her Inauguration events.