In the wake of his speech at Howard University, Rand Paul (R-KY) is justifiably getting a lot of heat for his denial that he ever questioned or opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
He clearly questioned it and has been reluctant to support it.
But people are just mostly smirking at how the junior senator from Kentucky took pains to point out that his party was the party of Lincoln. This has become the go-to move for conservatives, as if people are unaware of the fact and it will lead the 90 percent of African-Americans who voted for the party of Barack Obama to suddenly switch sides.
“How did the Republican Party, the party of the Great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?” Paul asked the crowd, rhetorically.
His answer wasn’t particularly satisfying, and it also neglected that much of his party’s problem when it comes to race can summed up by many conservatives’ persistent antipathy toward Abraham Lincoln.
It’s true that Rand has never gone as far as his father Ron, who called the Civil War a “senseless” bloodbath that was the result of Lincoln’s desire to “enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic.”
But Rand has nodded to those who made similar scathing critiques of Lincoln.
In the wake of his disastrous interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, where he refused to support the Civil Rights Act, he published an editorial that cited Lerone Bennett’s searing critique of Abraham Lincoln, signaling that he accepts the hatred of Lincoln shared by many in the movement who supported (and subscribed to the newsletter of) his father.
Indeed, a post on a pro-Ron Paul website that appeared just hours after Rand’s speech said that he “did a disservice to African-Americans” by calling the man who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and willed the 13th Amendment into being “the great emancipator.” The post then quotes Lincoln before the Civil War, echoing the racism of his time.
Of course, Lincoln “evolved” on slavery, but his historical record on emancipation isn’t in doubt to most of the students of Howard University — or those outside the “states’ rights” movement.
Pretending that slavery could have been ended by war is as useless as judging Lincoln for the racism he overcame or pointing out that the racists who moved to the Republican Party after the Civil Rights Act used to be Democrats. These are not meaningful arguments to anyone except those who are looking for a reason for African-Americans to vote Republican when so few exist.
Rand Paul intended to be brave and savvy by confronting the suspicions about his views on civil rights by speaking at a historically black college. But it ended up raising more questions than it answered.
For beneath his filibustering stands against an overreaching federal government and his defenses of private property, there’s a constant suspicion that what he resents is a government with the power to wage a war to free human beings from bondage; a government that sees rights as something even property owners have to respect; a government of all the people, by all the people and for all the people.
AP Photo/Aron Heller, File