In an interview with Politico, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) claimed that the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 could capture one-third or more of the Black vote by pushing the following issues: criminal-justice reform, school choice and economic empowerment. He left out the part in which such a feat is even more achievable when you factor in that between his party and our Supreme Court, there may only be four or five Blacks actually available to vote in 2016 anyway — and only two of them will have proper ID ID. However, Paul’s assertion would be taken more seriously if said efforts were coupled with the elimination of the Republican pastime known as racism.
Case in point, the National Republican Congressional Committee and their new “Nikko” ad that ties the Democratic candidate in an Omaha Congressional race to Nikko Jenkins, who the Washington Post lists as “a former inmate who was released early from jail and went on to get convicted for murdering four people.” Moreover, the Democrat in question, state Senator Brad Ashford, lent his support to Oklahoma’s “good time” law, which enables inmates to reduce sentences.
It doesn’t take much to figure out what the GOP is getting at in this ad.
As you can tell from the spooky music, the images of a scary Black man with face tattoos, and the haunting voice of the spooked White woman who serves as narrator, Republicans want to remind White voters of one very important fact: Negroes are out here killing people and it’s all the Democrats’ fault. This ad could only be more pronounced in its racist sentiments if it included the following caption “BOOGIE, BOOGIE, BLACK BRUT!” in a Halloween-themed font.
The ad has been described as a “Hail Mary” for the incumbent, GOP Rep. Lee Terry, who is currently down in the polls. In essence, when in doubt and down in the polls, just put the image of a scary Black man out and watch your numbers rise at the same level of White anxiety. On Tuesday, the DCCC issued a statement calling on the NRCC to take the ad down, claiming that this “repellent, race-baiting ad has no place in America.” And as Post writer Greg Sargent notes, even some conservative media outlets are “surprised” by the tone of the ad, with some calling it “risky.”
That’s cute: playing in to racial fears of White people to secure votes is a “risky” move in America, but it’s a pretty successful scheme, which is why Republicans have often played their own version of the race card. Democrats will play to the stereotypes of working Whites (and Whites in general) when it suits their own interests too.
Hey, hey, Hillary Clinton in 2008.
In an interview with the Post, GOP strategist Rick Wilson essentially condemned the ad as out of touch, explaining, “If we were smarter, we would be talking to African Americans about reforming the criminal justice system. But I don’t think this ad is a step in that direction. African Americans actually do respond to messages about crime. This is a lost opportunity.”
Wilson gets it, and frankly, to a degree, so does Rand Paul who is actually already working on reforming sentencing laws with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). Even so, Rand Paul is trying to secure the nomination of a party who in the wake of calls for immigration reform, denies said requests and even allows some of its most racist members in Congress to gain national attention. A party, who continues to denigrate women by continuing to assault their rights to decide what to do with their own bodies. And yes, a party, who knows that minorities’ voices are only getting stronger with time, but still will release an ad like that starring Nikko Jenkins.
So, as much as I want to believe Rand Paul and his efforts to secure Black votes, the truth is he has to start with his own party who clearly still operate from the position that our support doesn’t matter.