Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rand Paul Pivots for 2016 & A Not So Special Delivery from UPS

KY Senator and Presidential hopeful Rand Paul
Back in late March of 2013, just over eight weeks after President Obama was sworn into office for a 2nd term following his electoral trouncing of Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race, the Republican party released a 100-page document that analyzed the myriad reasons for the GOP's 2nd straight failed attempt to win back the White House.

At the time, many media pundits and talking heads praised Republicans for the rather frank conclusions contained in their lengthy political policy mea culpa.

But in reality, it was simply a restatement of what many Americans already knew; that the shifting demographics of the US populace would never again elect a presidential candidate from a political party that almost completely alienated African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and young white voters through (in part) their embracing of a rigid exclusionary platform driven by an extremist Tea Party ideology.

Flash forward to today: what did Republicans take from their exhaustive self-analysis? Not much it would seem on the surface. A deeply partisan House led by a GOP majority consumed with bitterness over not being able to capitalize on sweeping mid-term election victories in 2010 decided on a one-policy strategy; oppose anything President Obama wanted or initiated even at the expense of the good of the American people as a whole.

Will the bizarre Republican strategy of filing a frivolous and senseless lawsuit against the President for using his executive powers to take action to pass sweeping health care legislation help the GOP sway some of the 94 percent of black voters who voted for Obama in 2012? Time will tell.

But if recent news is any indicator, at least some of the the message of that 100-page analysis did sink in for some Republican politicians. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has made some rather interesting choices recently that have pivoted his position on some pretty touchy issues.

Even though he's made a variety of unoriginal foreign policy statements including tossing cheap shots at Hillary Clinton for the Benghazi incident of 2012 from the GOP bandwagon, he's taken tentative positions on other issues that are far more Libertarian than Republican. He's supported efforts for individual states to decide on legalizing marijuana and has reached across the aisle to work with Senator Harry Reid to restore voting rights for nonviolent felons in some cases.

As Jeremy W. Peters wrote in the New York Times last Friday July 25th, Paul had the balls to make an appearance at the National Urban League Conference in Cincinnati. Does that makes him some kind of savior? No. But let's remember both Mitt Romney and George W. Bush found lame excuses to duck out of invitations to speak before the National Urban League - and they took political heat for it too.

I have to grant Paul some degree of credit for showing up and addressing his controversial comments back in 2010 about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and talking about disparate treatment of young African-American men by law enforcement when he cited the case of three young men who were arrested while waiting for a bus.

NJ Senator Corey Booker is scheduled to appear on The Brian Lehrer Show on Thursday morning to talk about "block the box" legislation that would seek to help some non-violent felons from having to check off the box on a job application that asks whether they have ever been convicted of a felony. Rand Paul is also working with Senator Booker on that legislation too in an effort to remove a significant barrier to employment for many Americans convicted of non-violent felonies who've served their time and want to work.

So even though Rand Paul's Libertarian party ties still make me a bit uneasy with their "return to the gold standard" talk and their quiet lingering tolerance of kooky racist theories (like those that appeared in newsletters published by his father Ron Paul in the 1990's...) at least he seems to be engaging in some substantive issues that affect many minorities in this country. To his credit, I don't see other Republican presidential hopefuls talking about these issues, or demonstrating a willingness to reach across the aisle and put aside partisan politics on legislation that's good for the nation as a whole. Anyway I'll be interested to hear what Corey Booker has to say about working with Rand Paul tomorrow on the Brian Lehrer Show.

Finally, did you hear about the UPS driver in Georgia who delivered a package to an African-American employee then stood in front of him, fashioned a noose out of some packing material and handed it to him? 
Jen Hayden wrote an interesting piece (click the link above) on The Daily Kos Website about employee David Mitchell's troubling account of an as yet unnamed UPS driver who took the company motto "We Deliver" just a little too seriously.

The incident took place in Forsyth County Georgia, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. Oprah Winfrey did a show from Forsyth County back in 1987 when it had a reputation for being not only segregated, but racist - no black people had lived there for 75 years at the time.

Obviously some attitudes are hard to change, but if the incident is proven to be true UPS has a responsibility to discipline the driver (maybe have him take a sensitivity course of some kind and apologize to David Mitchell) and not just change his route as the company said in a statement.

Changing the guy's route is not getting at the root of the problem.

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