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.
My recent reading about Hoover made the word "impatient" virtually glow in the middle of the page. If Sen. Paul's answer proves unsatisfactory to blacks, that may be because it's really a more general statement than an account of their own particular circumstances. The Republican lament from 1932 forward could well be that all (or most) Americans grew too impatient with the free market thanks to generations of Democratic promises of accelerated recovery through government action. Paul recognizes that these promises aren't entirely insubstantial. "The Democrat promise is tangible and puts food on the table," he admitted, "but too often doesn’t lead to jobs or meaningful success." So what does a Republican say if someone argues that patience doesn't put food on the table? If the free market works more efficiently than any other economic system, why must its apologists appeal so often, explicitly or implicitly, to patience during hard times? The answer is probably because the free market is like democracy in Churchill's characterization: the worst system except for all the others. The champions of the free market are idealists but not utopians; they'll never promise that free markets will abolish adversity. Rather, they seem to believe that a certain attitude toward adversity, including that precious patience, is necessary if free markets are to provide those benefits actually within their power. Free markets are not command economies, and "I must live" or "Everyone must live" is a command that takes on an especially impatient tone in tough times. Yet it is as implicit an element in our political discourse as the conservative (or libertarian) appeal to patience. Historical conservatives can point to a time -- this was still true about a century ago -- when many people actually did seem to prefer patient endurance of adversity to the shame of asking for help from the government. They look with perplexity (if not contempt) when a Howard student told Paul yesterday that, yes, he did want the government to help him. If people have grown more impatient with the economy over the last century, it may be because they value their own lives more. Wouldn't it be a paradox if Americans repudiated Republicanism at key points in modern history because they, the people, had become more selfish in some sense of the word? But it was more likely a loss of some faith in markets, or the people who make them, that alone could make the patience Republicans plead for seem like a reasonable option. Rand Paul believes that the evidence proves faith in government misplaced, but that alone doesn't prove faith in markets justified. He may also believe that patience in adversity is a moral imperative regardless of where you place your faith. If so, he might have spent his time at Howard better explaining the morality that requires patience of the poor during hard times. It might not have won over any more students, but it might have given us a better sense of what makes the Kentuckian tick.