Rand Paul is the progressive kid of the family.
No, I don’t mean progressive as in the political ideology.
I’m talking about his broad minded approach to reaching Americans outside the GOP base.
When the rest of the GOP family is sticking to who they know, Rand is moving past the familiar family circles. He’s seen the benefits of meeting new people, and the problems of sticking with the same environment for too long.
His family is out of touch with the rest of the neighborhood.
The family’s got good ideas, but they lack the know-how to relate them to the neighbors.
But they’re unwilling to recognize this inadequacy and fix it. So they just stick to their normal routines and friend circles, never venturing off the beaten path.
This is basically what the GOP has become.
A sheltered family that can’t relate their views to others to save their lives (or the country for that matter).
Rand is at least trying to rectify this problem.
Which is why he’s the perfect candidate for learning how to interact and engage new audiences.
If you want to reach out to Americans, you can learn a thing or two from Rand Paul.
His efforts to reach out to the black community are something very few republicans have attempted to do.
He’s even reached out to Hispanics, not to mention gotten some respect from democrats.
If any republican is capable of giving you pointers on how to reach out to your fellow Americans, Rand’s the man for the job (or the job if you catch my drift).
To Do Outreach Right, You’ve got to…
Meet ‘em Where They Are
In Rand Paul’s efforts to reach out to black voters, he’s made a point of speaking at events like the National Urban League (a nonpartisan civil rights group), and Howard University.
He’s also visited minority communities in Atlanta, Ferguson, Detroit, and Missouri.
This kind of tactic is surprising for a republican. Especially since very few republicans try to reach out to black voters.
But this tactic is a good reminder for your own personal outreach.
Meet your target audience where they are.
This is true, regardless whether it’s online or offline.
Offline means going to the regions where your target audience lives, works, and plays. If your target audience happens to be Silicon Valley liberals, then you need to move to California. If they’re minorities, find the places they live. Talk to them in those familiar areas.
Online means visiting the communities, websites, and social networks that your target audience spends their time on. It also means taking the initiative and searching for these people on whatever social network you happen to be on. If you’re looking for teenage democrats on Twitter, look for the groups they interact with. If you’re looking for adult progressives on Google+, find a community and follow a few of them.
These people won’t come to you, so you’ve got to come to them.
Address the Issues They Care About
For the past few decades, Republicans have used the issue of economic freedom to address the black community.
Unfortunately, this tactic hasn’t proved useful. Which is why Rand is taking a different approach.
Criminal justice and police abuse.
Rand knows the issues that matter to the black community. He’s not dillydallying around with talk of economic prosperity, he’s addressing the elephant in the room.
In his address to the National Urban League, Rand had this to say about the justice system…
“Our prisons are bursting with young men of color and our communities are full of broken families. I won’t sit idly by and watch our criminal justice system continue to consume, confine, and define our young men.”
The issue that matters the most to your constituency is the issue you address.
Whether they care about social security, drug abuse, or police violence, you address it. You focus on it. You care about it.
Don’t Run Away from Your Principles
The Civil Rights Act’s provision prohibiting businesses from discriminating based on race.
With Rand’s libertarian-ish views (yes, I know he’s not a libertarian, calm down) it’s not a shocker that sooner or later this issue would come up.
Now, Rand could’ve sidestepped the issue. Or, he could’ve said he supports it (for brownie points).
But he didn’t.
He acknowledges that he doesn’t support federal education and welfare programs. Programs that are popular among black voters. And yes, he’s said he doesn’t agree with forcing businesses to serve everyone.
His views are based on a much larger principle. A principle he isn’t willing to run away from.
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” -Thomas Jefferson
When you run up against hard questions that could cost you support, you know what you need to do.
Stick to your principles. It might not gain you a lot of support, but it’ll gain you respect (depending on what your principles are, of course).
Be Passionate About What You Care About
Rand has gone out of his way to attack the NSA.
He’s filibustered, he’s spoken at conferences, and jabbed fellow republicans for their support of domestic spying policies.
There’s no doubt that he’s against the NSA and other such domestic spying agencies. He’s passionate about it.
Find the issue that hits you to the core, and focus on it. Fight for it, and make it known that this is your focus. It’s your fight.
That passion attracts people. And it’ll attract a loyal following.
Be Willing to Walk Across the Aisle
Rand has worked with democrats such as Harry Reid of Nevada, and Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey to craft legislation that would allow non-violent ex-felons to vote and reduce mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.
This shows democrats that Rand can work with them to accomplish reforms that both parties like. It also shows that Rand is serious about helping the African American community (who are affected the most by these laws).
If you want to change America, you’re gonna have to make friends with democrats to get things done. Running some exclusive political party won’t get you far.
Plus, there’s a lot of issues that both parties can work together on (like, more than you think).
Be Ready to Fail Often
Rand’s outreach doesn’t always work. Especially since he’s one of the few republicans doing anything like this. Of course he’s not going to strike a home run on his first try.
He’s been criticized by both republicans and the black community. He’s even said some stuff that was less than helpful to his plight.
Like this comment during his April 2013 speech at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“His address became awkward when he asked his audience if they knew that the founders of the NAACP were Republican; they replied that they did. ‘You know more than I know. And I don’t mean that to be insulting. I don’t know what you know, I mean, I’m trying to find out what the connection is. But the thing is, is that I think … the Republican Party hasn’t talked enough about the great history and interaction between the Republican Party and black history and voting rights in our country,’”
Now that’s an awkward turtle right there.
You’re going to trip, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to say something stupid. Reaching out to those around you isn’t easy, and you’re bound to make mistakes once in a while. Just like Rand Paul does.
Always Keep At It
But despite Rand’s mishaps while reaching out to minorities, he still gets back up and does it again.
He’s not giving up.
Which I think is the important part to all of this.
So you brainstorm a few ideas on how to interact with them. You want them to trust and respect you. You want a decent conversation with them about politics and economics.
You’ve got the “target” (for lack of a better word), and some ideas on how to engage them. So you see if it works.
Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they respect you and you have one of the best political discussions ever!
Or…maybe they block you on twitter.
Whatever scenario occurs, you’ve got to stick with it.
Keep engaging, discussing, and interacting with them.
It’s just trial and error.
Which is awesome, because you’ll become better at this the longer you do it. I’ve only been focusing on it for a year, and I’ve noticed results in how I interact and how others interact with me.
There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll do the same.
Which is why I’m going to be starting a 30 day challenge in a few days to really focus on this concept of reaching out to someone in your social circle.
It’s going to focus on online interaction first, but an offline version will be coming soon after.
I’ll be writing up a little post explaining it all in the next few days. If you don’t want to miss it, you can sign up to my newsletter, The Informer. You’ll be kept up to date on the whole challenge there.