By Alexander Bolton - 10/29/14 04:26 PM EDT
DETROIT — Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulHow low is the bar for presidential candidates, anyway? Lawmaker seeks to investigate Obama's foreign tax compliance law Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (R-Ky.) acknowledged Wednesday a problem that many Republicans admit only privately: their party brand “sucks.”
The weakness, Paul added, is particularly serious when it comes to appealing to black voters.
“Remember Domino’s Pizza? They admitted, ‘Hey, our pizza crust sucks.’ The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans,” he said.
“Why? Because of a perception,” he said. “The problem is the perception is that no one in the Republican Party cares.”
For some time, he has been trying to shift perceptions by repeatedly speaking to African-American audiences and touting his proposals to reform the criminal justice program and rebuild blighted inner city neighborhoods.
“We’re also fighting 40 years of us doing a crappy job, of Republicans not trying at all for 40 years, so it’s a lot of overcoming,” he said. “You got to show up, you got to have something to say and really we just have to emphasize that we’re trying to do something different.”
Paul has sponsored six bills that seem especially relevant to concerns within the African-American community about issues such as the criminal justice system.
One of those bills is the Redeem Act, which would help juveniles with criminal records get jobs and avoid reoffending. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), the Senate’s only black Democrat.
Another bill sponsored by Paul would give federal judges greater flexibility in sentencing. A third would eliminate the disparity between punishments for cocaine- and crack-related crimes.
“We look at incarceration and we see a disproportionate number of people of color in jail and then when we see statistics on drug use, it seems to be about equal among all the different races,” he said. “Blacks and Hispanics seem to populate our jails more.”
Paul said the country “went too far in the war on drugs.”
He cited a report in Rolling Stone about a nurse who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for illegally buying 60 pills of Lortab, a mild painkiller.
He talked about a friend’s brother who sold marijuana plants in college years ago and still can’t vote in Kentucky.
Paul argued that Republican proposals to give more support to charter schools would give kids in poor inner-city neighborhoods more educational options. He also talked about the promise of remote learning through the Internet.
The Kentuckian has made outreach to black voters a top priority. He met with civil rights leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this month. The town became a symbol of national racial tensions this summer after a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager, sparking riots.