Rand Paul Howard University Speech: Senator Reinforces GOP Reputation By Getting Mean

Now is the time for the GOP to get a face lift.

In recent years, the party’s identity has fallen into a stigma of being outdated, wealthy, uncompromising, uncaring, and, to put it bluntly, mean. We felt it last September when Mitt Romney labeled 47% of all Americans "entitled victims"; we felt it last spring when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a "slut"; and we felt it almost every time this woman offered her opinion on Twitter.

And, unfortunately, we felt it again on Wednesday at Howard University, when Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reminded us of his "unwavering support" of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

During his senatorial candidacy back in 2010, the then-emerging symbol of the Republican Tea Party appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and, after a prolonged discussion with the liberal host, affirmed his belief that government should not have the right to force private businesses to abide by the Fourteenth Amendment. Only after the overnight controversy sparked by his comments ensued and his Tea Party advocates distanced themselves from him did the senatorial candidate began to pull back from his remarks. But this stint of risky racial politics resurfaced for the southern senator this week during a speech he conducted at  Howard. 

The potential candidate for the republican 2016 presidential bid’s presence at the historically black school probably didn’t go over as hoped. While reminding the audience of his convoluted position on the Civil Rights Act and endorsing the GOP’s recent push to require voters to provide identification at the polls — a controversial claim most Democrats suggest is geared toward suppressing the minority vote — student protesters with picket signs outlining the words “white supremacy” were escorted from the auditorium. Definitely not the smoothest effort to reach out the young and minority voters who have eluded the GOP in recent elections.

And it’s a shame, really.

Hidden behind these surface level tensions and controversies of the Republican Party lie efficient economic reforms aimed at cutting public deficit and debt, free market politics to encourage small business growth, and emphases on individual freedoms. But without a marketing rebranding of the party, most of these potentially beneficial guides to the country will pale beneath the shadow of democratic votes.

It seems that the conservative party has forgotten what its idol, Ronald Reagan, once insisted: conservatism has to be packaged as a positive force, as an argument about how to expand the global rights of individuals and make all American families more secure, or as he labeled it, “compassionate conservatism” The party has instead buried itself into a growing notorious national reputation of "hating Hispanics, women, blacks, and poor," which, in large part, has led to its losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections to the Democratic Party.

All of this convoluted, backwards, flirting with liberalism while maintaining a conservative core needs to stop. Paul’s recent concession of having never wavered in support of the Civil Rights Act epitomizes the problems facing the GOP today. Without congruency, without empathy, and without diversity, the Republican Party will fall victim to the Democrats for many elections to come. Something has to change now.