Will Black Voters Buy What Sen. Rand Paul is Selling?

black votersThe Washington Times reports that Sen. Rand Paul is trying to reach out to black voters. He also presented a receptive message in a TIME essay: the “militarization” of local police. Sen. Paul has criticized the so-called war on drugs, and he supports voting rights for felons–both receptive messages. An excerpt:

But whether the senator from Kentucky can leverage his libertarian conservative views and anti-government message into a presidential electoral advantage depends on factors that may extend beyond his control.

Will black Americans’ frustration with President Obama translate into more Republican voters? Will Mr. Paul’s GOP rivals play the race card aggressively? Will the whole effort devolve in the press simply into a debate over limited government versus social engineering?

Generally, libertarians believe individuals should be free to do personally and economically what they want to do, as long as they don’t infringe on anyone else’s rights. For conservatives, there are limits. For example, some (most?) want to end on-demand abortion and retain the definition of marriage to mean one man and one woman. Libertarians tend to be pro-abortion and pro-homosexual “marriage.” We’ve all heard that blacks generally are more conservative than their voting patterns reveal. According to some sources, Sen. Paul is pro-life.

The Heritage Foundation’s Hans A. von Spakovsky implies the senator is wasting his time.

“Sen. Paul is overriding his principles in a mistaken belief that it is necessary to somehow reach black voters…Paul has been giving speeches about [voting rights for felons] because he is under the mistaken belief induced by left-wing civil rights groups that this is a big issue for black voters.”

So what is a big issue for black voters? Is it education, reduction in crime, more government programs, more jobs, or a combination of these? Sen. Paul definitely is saying things they want to hear.

“Anyone who thinks race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention,” he wrote in TIME.

Here’s where Sen. Paul’s libertarian views might work against him: he believes private business owners should have the freedom to serve whomever they want, without regard to race, sex, etc. “I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant, but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.”

Of course, this view isn’t limited to libertarians, although they might be more willing to publicly express it.

The problem with conservative politicians “reaching out” to black voters is they might be tempted to water down their principles. If you can’t interest more black voters based on a limited-government, lower-taxes, traditional-values platform, what can you do? How will the GOP convince black voters to choose them over Democrats? Or is it a problem of venue?

Photo credit: David Goehring (Creative Commons) Some Rights Reserved

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