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.
Paul only got to it when asked by a student whether he was from the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln or "post-1968 Republican party — Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan." Paul disagreed that there was any difference between the Lincoln party and the Reagan one. "People perceive those as being completely different parties," Paul said. He explained:
"The argument that I'm trying to make is that we haven't changed. We don't talk about it... 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."
There is a difference! Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 general election campaign near Philadelphia, Mississippi, a place that is solely famous for being the site of three civil rights murders. Reagan invented "welfare queens." In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich said he would crack down on crime by building emergency prisons and advertising longer sentences on "MTV and rap radio." Rand Paul's father Ron Paul made millions of dollars selling newsletters that warned of a looming "race war." This is not disputed history. Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman apologized for the Southern Strategy in 2005.
It is great that Paul wants to reach out to new voters. It is fantastic that the GOP wants to compete for black voters. These are obviously good things. But voters deserve a little bit of honesty about very recent history. Paul seemed surprised when Howard students were better versed in black GOP history than he was. Paul tried to explain that the first black senator was a Republican — but stumbled when he was "blanking on his name." The crowd shouted that it was Edward Brooke. Paul tried another fact. "If I would have said, 'Who do you think the founders of the NAACP were? Do you think they were Republicans or Democrats?' Would everybody in here have known they were all Republicans?" "Yes!" the crowd shouted. "Alright, alright," Paul admitted, "you know more than I know."