Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) earned some progressive praise over the last few days, following comments that put some distance between himself and his party’s voter-suppression tactics.
“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter-ID thing,” Paul told the New York Times on Friday. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”
The plaudits from the left may have been a little premature. Late yesterday, the director of Rand Paul’s political action committee issued a statement, clarifying matters.
“Senator Paul was having a larger discussion about criminal justice reform and restoration of voting rights, two issues he has been speaking about around the country and pushing for in state and federal legislation.“In the course of that discussion, he reiterated a point he has made before that while there may be some instances of voter fraud, it should not be a defining issue of the Republican Party, as it is an issue that is perhaps perceived in a way it is not intended. At no point did Senator Paul come out against voter ID laws. In terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it’s up to each state to decide that type of issue.”
When the Republican senator used the word “crazy” (twice) in reference to the “voter-ID thing,” it led some to believe Paul had become a critic of his party’s favorite voter-suppression tactic.
But the truth is more complicated.
The reversal of sorts shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. As we talked about yesterday, it was just last year, that the Kentucky Republican dismissed voting-rights concerns out of hand, saying he hadn’t seen any “objective evidence” of discrimination, despite all the objective evidence.
Indeed, even in his Friday comments that progressives liked, Paul didn’t acknowledge the substantive problems with voter-ID laws; he simply said they’re “offending people.” (When a major political party systemically tries to block voting access on a scale unseen since Jim Crow, it does, in fact, tend to “offend” people.)
What we’re left with, in other words, is a GOP senator and likely presidential candidate who has no problem with his party imposing new voting restrictions on voters they don’t like, just so long as Republicans don’t “go too crazy on this issue.”