Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has a theory about the Republican Party's African-American outreach effort: The squeaky wheel will get the grease. And he also hopes that his pitch is one that will be heard in minority communities across the nation, but particularly in urban areas.
After Republicans lost yet another presidential election in 2012, Paul sounded an alarm. If the party doesn't expand its base, he warned, it would no longer be a national party.
"We have to take our message to every community in the country. The interesting thing about the red/blue map is virtually all rural areas are red, but if you look at all the big cities, they're almost all blue," Paul said in an interview with BET.com. "So for us to be competitive in states like Illinois, Ohio, California and New York, we have to figure out how to attract people who live in the city, and particularly people of color."
Economic empowerment, school choice, criminal justice and right to privacy are key issues on which African-Americans and the GOP see eye to eye, he added. Paul believes that the war on drugs has been particularly cruel to Blacks and Latinos and has introduced legislation that would give judges more discretion on mandatory minimum sentences and restore voting rights for non-violent felons who've served their sentences. It also would make some felonies misdemeanor crimes.
"I think there are a lot things in our message that haven't been heard that once people hear it they'll be asking 'Why haven't the Democrats done any of this in the past? Why am I hearing it from Republicans?'" Paul said. "I think at that point some people will say maybe [it's time to] give the Republican Party another chance."
Paul shared similar sentiments when he participated in the opening ceremony for the GOP's African-American outreach office in Detroit last Friday.
"Today's opening of this office is the beginning of a new Republican Party. This is going to be a Republican Party that is in big cities and small cities, in the countryside, in the city," he said. "It's going to be about bringing a message that is popular no matter where you're from, whether you're rich or poor, whether you're Black, white or brown."
Before the event, Paul told BET.com that the GOP doesn't need to change its message, but it must show up to make its case.
But what would African-Americans, whose unemployment rate has consistently been double the national rate, make of Paul's stand to limit unemployment benefits to 26 weeks as Congress prepares to debate an extension of a federal provision that provides benefits for the longtime unemployed?
“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” Paul said Sunday in an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “And while it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you’re trying to help.”
He added that he doesn't "doubt the president's motives," but the Black unemployment rate "hasn't budged" during Obama's time in the White House.
“A lot of African-Americans voted for him, but I don’t think it’s worked. I don’t think his policies work," Paul said.
BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)