Rand Paul Depression comments echo Romney's 'gifts' gaffe

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com  |  April 11, 2013 at 3:58 PM
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At a speech to students at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., Republican Senator Rand Paul offered an unusual interpretation of his party's history with minorities.

Paul, pointing to party luminaries from the pre-Civil Rights era, said African Americans' natural affiliation was with the GOP, but were lured to the Democratic Party during the Great Depression through handouts.

"I think what happened during the Great Depression was that African Americans understood that Republicans championed citizenship and voting rights but they became impatient for economic emancipation."

“African Americans languished below white Americans in every measure of economic success and the Depression was especially harsh for those at the lowest rung of poverty."

“The Democrats promised equalizing outcomes through unlimited federal assistance while Republicans offered something that seemed less tangible -- the promise of equalizing opportunity through free markets."

If his reasoning sounds familiar, it's because his point is similar to the one Mitt Romney made at a private party last year, secretly videotaped and widely considered a shifting point in the 2012 presidential contest, and his post-election explanation.

"The president's campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift," Romney said in a heavily criticized call November 14.

Paul said the Grand Old Party is still the same as the one Abraham Lincoln belonged to. Responding to a student asking if he belonged to Lincoln's party or the "post-1968 Republican party -- Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan," Paul dismissed the choice.

"The argument that I'm trying to make is that we haven't changed," he said. "There are some of us who haven't changed, who are part of that party that you liked, who truly believe that Reagan was still part of that. Who don't see an abrupt difference."

According to FactCheck.org, African Americans switched from voting mostly for Republican candidates to mostly Democrats in the 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but not until Harry Truman ordered the desegregation of the military did more blacks identify themselves as Democrats.

No Republican candidate for president has earned more than 15 percent of the black vote since Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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