Artur Davis: Rand Paul "Did No More Than Repeat a Narrative that Neither Black Nor White Conservatives Have Managed…

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 12 2013 3:46 PM

Artur Davis: Rand Paul "Did No More Than Repeat a Narrative that Neither Black Nor White Conservatives Have Managed to Sell to Black Audiences."

The most convincing, and convincingly frustrated, take on Rand Paul's speech to Howard University comes from former congressman Artur Davis. In 2010, Davis -- then a Democratic congressman -- ran for governor of Alabama, hoping to become the state's first black chief executive. He lost the primary and started on a journey into the GOP and the conservative movement, speaking at CPAC and the RNC and the National Review summit and at multiple stops for Mitt Romney. He's a compelling speaker with a rare story: How many black Democrats have served at high levels of elected office then switched to the GOP?

And he was not impressed by Rand Paul's speech. Read the whole thing; here's an excerpt.

I wish that Paul had understood history better himself, at least enough to know why African Americans resist a rhetorical vocabulary that depicts government as a threat to liberty. Howard’s undergraduates know that line from their textbooks, and they know it in the worst morally plausible context, that of segregationists trying to twist the constitution into a line of defense for Jim Crow. Paul would have done well to blast that misuse of the concept of liberty, and to spend time explaining that he knows events have made an absurdity out of it. The admission would have separated his libertarianism from the ugliness that preceded it.
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Davis tells me that Paul's "tone" simply didn't fit the audience. Few black conservatives have come out and said that. Deneen Borelli, who's African-American and who runs outreach for FreedomWorks, issued a statement right after the speech praising Paul, saying that "the need for economic prosperity is especially critical in the black community where unemployment is disproportionately high, incomes are down and public schools are failing children." And to white conservatives -- you know, the people who will decide who the GOP nominates for any given office -- Paul did just fine.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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