Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called his Friday trip to Ferguson, Mo., to meet with the NAACP “a beginning of the conversation” about race and Republicans.
“And I think in the Republican Party, the biggest mistake we’ve made in the last several decades is we haven’t gone into the African American community, into the NAACP and say you know what, we are concerned about what’s going on in your cities and we have plans. They may be different than the Democrats, but we do have plans and we do want to help,” Paul told CNN on Friday.
“And I think beginning that conversation will change the country if those parties are competing for votes and both parties are bringing alternative ideas to the cities, then maybe some good will happen.”
Paul, who was out supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) re-election effort Sunday in his home state, said Republicans “haven’t tried hard enough” to court black voters.
“I think frankly for me it’s pretty easy because I believe passionately that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome,” he said. “I don’t think it’s intentional, but I think we’ve locked up thousands and thousands of people of color who would be much more productive if we were giving them job training in prison and getting them back out of prison or maybe never getting them in prison to begin with.”
The senator said he does believe the Republican National Committee understands the importance of outreach, as chairman Reince Priebus was recently at the Urban League with Paul.
“I want to be part of trying to let people across the country know the Republican Party is interested in people who live in difficult circumstances,” Paul said.
If the GOP doesn’t start winning minority votes, the senator predicted, “we won’t ever win again.”
“We’re a very diverse country. But if Republicans don’t go out and compete for African-American votes, don’t go out and compete for Hispanic votes, Asian-American votes, we will not win again in our country because the country is a diverse country now. And we can’t have one party that monopolizes the various ethnic group votes,” Paul continued. “So we do have to compete and if I do it, I plan on competing for all votes.”
When asked if he was qualified to be president, the senator replied, “I think other people have to make that judgment.”
“But what I would say is that what we need is somebody who has wisdom, somebody who thinks about issues, who isn’t entirely beholden to partisanship on one — from one party or the other,” Paul said. “And we need somebody who ultimately, if they were in charge of our nuclear arsenal, would not be rash, reckless or eager for war.”