What Rand Paul thinks is the 'biggest mistake' for GOP

Rand Paul: GOP needs to help African Americans
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Story highlights

  • Rand Paul talked to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about his meeting in Ferguson, Missouri with the NAACP.
  • He said Republicans have made a big mistake by not reaching out to black voters.
  • Paul believes that local police forces have become too militarized.
  • He also says he has solutions to help decrease "racial outcomes" in the war on drugs.
After meeting with NAACP leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, Sen. Rand Paul told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the Republicans Party's biggest mistake in recent decades has been not reaching out to African-American voters.
The Kentucky Republican, who said his meeting went "very well," said he laid out his views on demilitarizing police, reforming the criminal justice system and boosting urban economies.
"I don't want to characterize how everybody else feels about what I said, but I think it was a good opening to the conversation," Paul said in an interview set to air Friday. "I think in the Republican Party, the biggest mistake we've made in the last several decades is we haven't gone into the African American community, into the NAACP and say you know what, we are concerned about what's going on in your cities and we have plans. They may be different than the Democrats, but we do have plans and we do want to help."
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According to his office, participants in the meeting included members of the NAACP, the Urban League and several local business and church leaders.
Paul was one of the most outspoken Republicans about the police response to protests that followed the August shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson.
Angry demonstrations erupted this week in St. Louis after another black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer. Supporters of Brown were set to begin a weekend of marches and civil disobedience on Friday, dubbed the "Weekend of Resistance."
"There's a sense of tension and unease that goes beyond just the shootings. I think the shooting has brought this to the surface, but there's a sense of unease in the country," Paul told Blitzer.
"Black unemployment is twice white unemployment and has been for decade after decade," he added. "I know this president cares about trying to improve it but it hasn't gotten better."
Paul, who's seriously considering a run for president, discouraged violent reactions to the shootings, saying "violence gets nowhere, and it actually sends us backwards." He instead encouraged people to channel any anger into registering voters.
"Then you could have constructive change in the community," he continued, adding that the leaders of the community "realize that."
Asked by Blitzer if Paul thinks he could garner African American support in a run for president, Paul said Republicans "won't ever win again" unless they start competing for minority voters.
"We will not win again in our country because the country is a diverse country now," he said. "And we can't have one party that monopolizes the various ethnic group votes."
Paul said in the meeting he proposed his "economic freedom zones" plan, which would aim to give tax incentives and financial breaks to depressed areas and neighborhoods in large cities, with the ultimate goal of stimulating the economy and drawing in more business.
"By dramatically lowering taxes in a city like Ferguson, you would have more job opportunities, less tension, and less of sort of this problem that develops from crime," he said.
The first-term senator stressed that his libertarian-leanings on the war on drugs makes it "pretty easy" for him to speak out on the issue.
He also highlighted legislation he's proposed that would reform drug sentences and restore voting fights for felons convicted of nonviolent drug crimes.
The senator has also been actively fighting against a Defense Department program that that provides military equipment to local police forces, emphasizing that the use of such equipment has gotten out of hand — especially when it comes to the war on drugs.
"We've got no business having no-knock raids at one in the morning, scaring the bejeezus out of people and getting them frightened," he said. "Drugs are a scourge. We need to keep our young people from using them...But we need not to be filling up our prisons with these kids. We need not to be breaking down doors at two in the morning looking for drugs, sometimes in the wrong house."
His outreach to African-Americans comes after he was criticized in 2010 for questioning a portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act dealing with the rights of private property owners to turn certain people away.
Paul argued earlier this week in an interview that he was "just a physician in a small town" at the time of his comments.
"Do you learn more about issues over time? Sure, but I was never against the Civil Rights Act," he said.
John Gaskin III, spokesman for St. Louis County NAACP, said in a statement that Paul had called the local leaders to have a meeting.
"We were honored to have an informative discussion about the Senator regarding ways that he can help to assist our civil rights agenda in Washington and help to end police militarization," Gaskin said.