Republican Senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Rand Paul (R-KY) gets a lot of credit from the media for allegedly reaching out to black voters, but when it comes to Republican voter suppression measures, Rand is still a good ol’ boy at heart. In an interview following a roundtable discussion with black leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, Paul had this to say about the Supreme Court’s temporary blocking of Wisconsin’s new voter ID law (emphasis mine):
Paul said he had not read the Supreme Court’s Thursday decision that blocks Wisconsin from implementing a tough new voter ID law in next month’s election.
“In general, unless there is a clear cut indication they’re trying to discriminate or suppress votes, states can decide these things,” Paul said afterward. “The perception among many people is that the voter ID laws are to suppress the vote. I don’t think they are. I think there are people who truly want to have an accurate vote.”
As Politico points out, Paul has had his difficulties on this issue, running into trouble with Republicans when he told the New York Times that Republicans were “wrong” to “go crazy” on voter ID, but later explained that he just meant they shouldn’t “emphasize” the measures because the blacks are so sensitive about it. He also goes around telling audiences at historically black universities that they are demeaning the civil rights movement. Paul, like many Republicans, also dishonestly tries to characterize voter suppression efforts as a simple requirement for identification when they’re really a never-ending supply of voting restriction spaghetti that they throw at Democratic constituencies to see if they’ll stick. Even the narrow category of I.D. laws includes contortions that allow gun permits, but not college ID cards.
What makes this latest outburst notable is its Reese’s Cup combination of white denial and self-contradiction. Paul is explicitly arguing that unkess there is “clear-cut” racial intent, he’s fine with states implementing these measures. Apparently, none of this is “clear-cut” enough for him:
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the county Republican Party and elections board member who voted against weekend hours, in an email to The Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
But even if you ignore the Republicans who keep saying out loud what the intent of the law is, Senator Paul is on record usurping the states’ authority on the basis of disparate racial impact, not intent, on a different issue:
“It has a racial outcome, I think is a better way to put it. I don’t think, I think it’s inadvertent.”
Paul supports criminal justice reform while specifically ruling out discriminatory intent, which conveniently lets him simultaneously avoid the Republican red cape of racism, while flacking for the number one libertarian hobby horse, the war on The War On Drugs. When face with overwhelming racial disparities in voting laws like cutting early voting hours and voter ID, however, Paul insists on “clear-cut” evidence of discriminatory intent. Then, apparently, he ignores it.