Rand Paul Hits Republicans for Missing with African Americans

The Kentucky Senator continues to address a sensitive topic for the GOP.
Photograph Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Rand Paul has a dream—that the Republican Party will someday learn how to connect with African American voters.  On Sunday, Paul reiterated his belief that the GOP has itself to blame for being viewed skeptically by many blacks. 

"Our brand is broken. I don’t think what we stand for is bad," the Kentucky Republican said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We have a wall, or a barrier, between us and African-American voters."


After pointing out that it was, by and large, the Republican party that is trying to restrict voter access, a tactic that some have argued is a way to disenfranchise blacks, host Bob Schieffer bluntly asked Paul, "What can you really offer African Americans?"

"Well what I've said is that I want more people to vote, not less. Harry Reid and I have a bill together to actually restore voting rights," Paul said. "The number one impediment to voting in our country right now is having a previous felony conviction. So I have a good friend of mine, his brother 30 years ago grew marijuana plants, still can't vote in Kentucky, and when he applies for a job he has to check a box saying he was a convicted felon. I think non-violent felonies from your youth and when you didn't hurt anybody, for goodness sake I think you ought to get your right to vote back."

When pushed, Paul said he was not opposed to voter identification restrictions, but opposed making them a "campaign theme." 

In the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Paul further distinguished himself from those in his party by calling for the demilitarization of police forces, and traveling to the town to meet with civil rights leaders. 

“I am a politician, and I do recognize that [Republicans] haven’t done very well with people who live in cities—primarily African Americans—and I do think we need to do better,” he told the Washington Post in a phone interview from Ferguson. “The thing I found is that you might interview 20 people, and you find that they are not ready to vote for a Republican yet, but they are interested in Republicans competing for their vote and showing up in their communities.”