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“I’m Glad The Train Didn’t Stop”: So Much For Rand Paul’s Minority Outreach

There’s an interesting Eli Stokels piece at Politico up today about Rand Paul’s less-than-sympathetic initial reaction to the trajectory of the Baltimore protests, which Team Paul folk are frantically suggesting was just a “gaffe,” even as most observers believe he’s bending to the inevitable pressures of running for president as a Republican:

On Tuesday, as Baltimore burned in the wake of the latest episode surrounding the alleged use of deadly excessive force, Paul’s response was notably off-key. “I came through the train on Baltimore last night,” Paul told host Laura Ingraham. “I’m glad the train didn’t stop.”

The senator’s breezy response came just before he blamed the violent uprising there on “the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society.” He also expressed his sympathy for “the plight of police,” all without speaking to the circumstances surrounding the troubling death of Freddie Gray in the custody of Baltimore Police.

His camp now acknowledges the lost chance.

“We recognize how it may have sounded to some people,” said Elroy Sailor, a senior adviser to Paul who has helped orchestrate more than two years of sustained outreach by Paul to the African-American community. “We’re listening and learning every day and we learned from this. We’re also leading this conversation.”

As if. Sailor’s implying that Paul “owns” the criminal justice reform debate. But even if you buy that, it doesn’t mean Paul is even on the same page as African-Americans when it comes to police reform, a parallel but hardly identical issue.

Stokels notes the Baltimore “gaffe” was by no mean unprecedented.

The day after his early April campaign launch, as attention focused on South Carolina — where a video showed a local police officer shoot an unarmed black man as he tried to flee — Paul took the stage in New Hampshire and said, “Today we sit atop a powder keg.” He was talking, though, about the national debt.

Asked later that day about the shooting of Walter Scott — after he didn’t weigh in on his own — Paul steered clear of addressing the outrage from many African-Americans, instead noting that “98, 99 percent of police are are doing their job on a day-to-day basis and aren’t doing things like this.” The following day, at a campaign event just 20 miles from where Scott has been killed, Paul didn’t mention it at all.

You can he said/she said this thing to death, but in reality, Paul’s priorities right now are obvious. Nobody, I hope, seriously believes that a Rand Paul-led Republican Party is going to suddenly start attracting a large African-American vote. Perhaps his gestures could open the door to some future Republican leader making inroads, and maybe burnish his image among white swing voters. But Rand stands first and foremost for fiscal policies that would largely trash the social safety net and shirk the needs of urban communities, and for monetary policies that would likely plunge the country back into a major recession. He opposes absolutely every accomplishment of the Obama administration, with the possible partial exception of the opening to Cuba. And then there’s his own and his father’s history of association with racists and neo-Confederates.

So on the one hand you have a rather fantastic speculative future appeal to African-Americans, and on the other the present reality of a Republican nominating contest in which virtually no African-Americans are going to participate. What do you think matters most to Team Paul right now?

It’s true Paul’s alleged party-broadening powers are an important part of his electability argument to Republican voters, along with the idea that dope-smoking, NSA-hating kids will vote for him against HRC. But without any question, Republicans want the maximum of general election odds with the absolute minimum of compromise on issues–which is why Scott Walker’s Wisconsin record is so seductive to them. And with the foul odor of racial politics in the air, Paul will have to show his solidarity with conservative white voters appalled once again at the bad behavior of those people. If he doesn’t, I’ll be genuinely impressed, even as I downgrade Paul’s odds of winning the nomination another ten or twenty points.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 1, 2015

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Minority Outreach, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“When Baltimore Burned”: There Are Crucial Underlying Inequities That Demand Attention

Conservatives have sometimes been too quick to excuse police violence. And liberals have sometimes been too quick to excuse rioter violence.

It’s outrageous when officers use excessive force against young, unarmed African-American men, who are 21 times as likely to be shot dead by the police as young white men. It’s also outrageous when rioters loot shops or attack officers.

So bravo to Toya Graham, the Baltimore mom captured on video grabbing her teenage son from the streets and frog-marching him home. The boy wilted: It must be humiliating to be a “badass” rioter one moment and then to be savagely scolded in front of your peers and sent to your room.

“That’s my only son, and at the end of the day I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray,” Graham later told CBS News. It was of course Gray’s death, after an injury at the hands of the police, that set off the rioting.

On social media, there were plenty of people making excuses for rioters — a common refrain was “nothing else works to get attention.” But to their great credit, African-American leaders provided firm moral guidance and emphasized that street violence was unconscionable.

President Obama set just the right tone.

“When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot. They’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing,” Obama said. “When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities.”

Or as Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks basketball star who grew up in Baltimore and has invested in a youth center there, put it: “We need to protect our city, not destroy it.”

Yet as Obama, Anthony and other leaders also noted, there are crucial underlying inequities that demand attention. The rioting distracts from those inequities, which are the far larger burden on America’s cities.

That also represents a failure on our part in the American news media. We focus television cameras on the drama of a burning CVS store but ignore the systemic catastrophe of broken schools, joblessness, fatherless kids, heroin, oppressive policing — and, maybe the worst kind of poverty of all, hopelessness.

The injustices suffered by Freddie Gray began early. As a little boy he suffered lead poisoning (as do 535,000 American children ages 1 to 5), which has been linked to lifelong mental impairments and higher crime rates.

In Gray’s neighborhood, one-third of adults lack a high school degree. A majority of those aged 16 to 64 are unemployed.

And Baltimore’s African-American residents have often encountered not only crime and insecurity but also law enforcement that is unjust and racist. Michael A. Fletcher, an African-American reporter who lived for many years in the city, wrote in The Washington Post that when his wife’s car was stolen, a Baltimore policeman bluntly explained the department’s strategy for recovering vehicles: “If we see a group of young black guys in a car, we pull them over.”

Likewise, the Baltimore jail was notorious for corruption and gang rule. A federal investigation found that one gang leader in the jail fathered five children by four female guards.

Wretched conditions are found to some degree in parts of many cities, and Shirley Franklin, the former mayor of Atlanta, told me that when we tolerate them, we tolerate a combustible mix.

“It’s not just about the police use of force,” she said. “It’s about a system that is not addressing young people’s needs. They’re frankly lashing out, and the police force issue is just a catalyst for their expression of frustration at being left out.”

Whites sometimes comment snidely on a “culture of grievance” among blacks. Really? When tycoons like Stephen Schwarzman squawked that the elimination of tax loopholes was like Hitler’s invasion of Poland, now that’s a culture of grievance.

If wealthy white parents found their children damaged by lead poisoning, consigned to dismal schools, denied any opportunity to get ahead, more likely to end up in prison than college, harassed and occasionally killed by the police — why, then we’d hear roars of grievance. And they’d be right to roar: Parents of any color should protest, peacefully but loudly, about such injustices.

We’ve had months of police incidents touching on a delicate subtext of race, but it’s not clear that we’re learning lessons. Once again, I suggest that it’s time for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to step back and explore racial inequity in America.

The real crisis isn’t one night of young men in the street rioting. It’s something perhaps even more inexcusable — our own complacency at the systematic long-term denial of equal opportunity to people based on their skin color and ZIP code.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Police Abuse, Racial Justice | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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