What Senator Rand Paul’s visit to Motown means for Republicans

Rand Paul is making significant strides in the black community. Photo: Paul in Detroit/ AP

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2013 — Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who has become the Libertarian voice of Congress, found himself in Detroit on Thursday, December 6, to meet with Detroit community leaders to honor the opening of the Michigan GOP’s new African-American Engagement Office. So what’s the catch? 

That depends on whether you’re Republican or a Detroiter. In a city that is majority African-American and which just elected its first white mayor in four decades, perhaps there is finally hope for Paul’s message. But, if you are a Detroiter raised in the habits of Motown and marinated in Democratic machine politics since the days of Jimmy Hoffa, then Rand Paul’s visit could pose a major threat.

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Rand Paul, whether you like him or not, has already made significant strides in the black community. Earlier this year, he took it upon himself to visit Howard University, a Historically Black University, and attempted to make real inroads with the student body. Some community leaders considered this a step in the right direction for the Republicans, especially highlighting the economic woes and fiscal challenges of surviving black colleges.

At a time when Republicans are attempting to rebrand themselves as a party that is friendly to blacks, Paul is now willing to come to visit a city that is 82.7 percent black and 100 percent dominated by the United Auto Workers, AFL-CIO and other labor unions. His visit may not be covered positively in the press.

Michigan GOP Communications Director Darren Littell remarked, “Senator Paul’s visit reflects the GOP’s commitment to keeping Detroit moving forward through free market solutions.” He also said, “The Michigan GOP’s field office in the heart of Detroit is another sign of our commitment to this great city, and another step in the process ofengaging the community, listening, connecting on issues in common, and hopefully earning the trust of the people.”

So what’s expected from the senator’s Detroit visit? Paul is first expected to address the Detroit Economic Club, in his effort to “unravel” his new legislation to remove bankruptcy from Detroit’s future. Following the speech, Paul will take a trip to the Michigan GOP’s new Detroit field office, located on 19280 Livernois Avenue on the city’s West side. The senator will most likely see burned out buildings, liquor stores on every corner, and a glimpse of the problems from years of corruption and failed liberal policies. Paul is one of few conservatives who opposed the federal bailout for Detroit. He’s now prepared to offer metro-Detroiters real economic solutions, which are expected to be a catalyst for changes to come.

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Speaking of fiscal mismanagement, most Americans are quite aware of Detroit’s economic woes over the last four decades. Some of them are due to the failures of Detroit’s mayors, like Kwame Kilpatrick, and their fiscal legacies. Others are the product of decades of pay to play politics with union bosses. Unsustainable financial decisions have led to Detroit’s overall blight.

So now, following decades of government mismanagement, Senator Paul and the leadership of the Michigan GOP have finally taken the torch of getting government out of the way and providing new opportunities by going directly to voters. The senator’s heart is in the right place, but it remains to be seen whether he can stand above the fray of local politics and still get anything useful done in Detroit. If he can, this may be the start of a national theme of recovery.

Most important initiatives tend to elicit unfair criticism. As Paul attempts to do what’s right, he’ll run into a political band saw. Perhaps critics will see this effort as an opening shot in a Paul campaign for the White House. Others will point out that Louisville and other economically challenged cities in his own home state of Kentucky need to be freed from those same shackles of big government and high unemployment, not just Detroit.

Regardless of the outcome, the Michigan GOP’s attempts deserve kudos for finally making the necessary attempt to court urban neighborhoods. It’s time Republicans made efforts at outreach that will last beyond an election year. This is an effort that should be fully embraced and financed for many years to come.

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