THE BLOG
11/24/2014 03:32 am ET Updated Jan 24, 2015

I Applaud Hillary for Visiting Ferguson and Meeting Al Sharpton. Oh Wait, That Was Rand Paul.

Before the Hillary machine steamrolls towards the Democratic nomination, it isn't sacrilege to question the sincerity of our 2016 frontrunner. At least one nanosecond of thought should be placed to see if she's the right choice for president, or... gasp...if someone in another political party could be a better choice. If you think it won't be Hillary Clinton against the eventual GOP challenger for president in 2016, then you probably don't know that since 1999, Clinton has raised $328,742,879. That money didn't help in 2008, but she did become Secretary of State and the hundreds of millions will handily defeat someone like Elizabeth Warren with less momentum, money, and publicity.

That being said, I urge Democrats everywhere to demand honesty of the Clinton campaign. This much-needed sincerity doesn't mean "evolving" on gay marriage when it's convenient or being outright against decriminalization of marijuana. Marriage equality and marijuana legalization could have progressed far sooner had Hillary Clinton worked towards these causes when they weren't popular, rather than hoard as much precious political capital as possible, as if it were Frodo's ring.

It makes little sense to simply assume that Hillary will toe the party line on issues that grass-roots organizations like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and GLAAD have worked on for years to bring to everyone's attention. Mind you, gay rights groups could have used the support of Hillary Clinton when Karl Rove was pushing the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 2004; a successful political stunt that catered to the GOP's anti-gay element and cemented Bush's eventual victory. Clinton's voice back then would have been epic, but would have cost votes even within the Democratic Party, so Hillary's Machiavellian silence worked well enough to make the words on this page seem blasphemous to many readers.

But of course, let's never bring this up, lest we be accused of having a nefarious "agenda" (the tweet mentioned was a reference to Ralph Nader hating Hillary, not me). Truth be told, if a Democrat has to "evolve" on issues that have always been popular among liberals, then political expediency is the reason, not a set value system. On the topic of domestic spying, The Nation published an article this year titled, On the NSA, Hillary Clinton is Either a Fool or a Liar. So, I'd appreciate an end to any accusation that I have a personal "agenda" against Hillary, especially when one of the most progressive publications on the planet writes that type of headline.

Sorry, even Dick Cheney "evolved" on gay marriage and giving Clinton a free pass on this issue makes us only a tiny bit better than the GOP. Waiting for the public to side with you on cherished values before combating conservatives to defend those values makes one an opportunist, not a liberal icon. Speaking of Dick Cheney, both Hillary Clinton and Cheney share similar views on war and foreign policy, but alas, progressives today have parted ways with the Vietnam protesters of the '60s.

I've heard the phrase, "You'd vote for Rand Paul just because of war?" enough times to make me question my faith in humanity. Read Why We Lost if you think perpetual wars are good for America. It's almost as if nobody cares that the president just sent over 3,000 soldiers back to Iraq, even after close to 7,000 have died in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and close to one million Americans were injured in both wars. For today's liberals, the 2016 vote for president is unfortunately tied to many social issues that Hillary Clinton once opposed or stayed silent on; issues that can't be addressed unilaterally by a president.

Or, we act upon fears promoted by a media that lumps good candidates alongside extremists within their party, which is why voting for Rand Paul is heretical to most Democrats. For a quick civics lesson, only Congress, state legislatures, courts and public opinion polls move legislation and social issues, not unilateral decisions by the man or woman in the White House. Yes, President Obama rightfully acted on immigration, but he had a public mandate to do so and the political will was evident in recent years. There's no public mandate, or widespread agreement among most Americans that the EPA should be abolished, or that civil rights laws be rolled back, or any other irrational fear linked to voting for Rand over Hillary.

Rand over Hillary? I must be a gullible, naïve, fool. Perhaps, but at least I took a stand on the issue of Ferguson, even though I have zero influence in the political arena. I wrote about the issue of killing unarmed black men and claiming self-defense, what would have taken place had Trayvon, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown been white, and the economics behind Ferguson. No, I didn't wait 19 days to make a statement, I raised my tiny, little voice when it mattered. Had Clinton raised her $328,742,879 voice during the Ferguson protests, the world would have noticed.

The fact is that only one of the candidates for president in 2016 (not Hillary, Jeb, or anyone else) visited Ferguson and discussed the issues of race and militarized police. It should have been Hillary Clinton, but it was Rand Paul who visited Ferguson, and his actions speak louder than any assumption that Clinton is automatically a better choice on civil rights. Before the indignant Twitter barrages and emails to this lowly writer, please ask yourself why Hillary Clinton has not once visited Ferguson, or why it took 19 days for her to make her first statement?

Regarding Clinton's later than expected commentary on Ferguson, Marc Lamont Hill stated, "Hillary Clinton's statement reflects careful triangulation and calculation driven by political interest rather than genuine feeling." Doesn't this sentiment warrant further discussion? The Morehouse College professor and CNN commentator also stated another important point, which was, "Hillary Clinton offers a statement on Michael Brown and Ferguson. 19 days later...Next she'll offer her thoughts on Rodney King and Vietnam."

In addition, Al Sharpton made the following assessment of Hillary Clinton's initial silence on Ferguson, in the following MSNBC article titled Hillary Clinton finally speaks out on Ferguson:

Clinton has come under fire from civil rights leaders and others for remaining silent on Ferguson. "Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, don't get laryngitis on this issue," the Rev. Al Sharpton, who hosts an MSNBC show in addition to leading the National Action Network, said at a rally. Despite the calls, a Clinton spokesperson declined several requests for comment from msnbc, and Clinton herself dodged reporters' questions on Ferguson at a book signing last weekend.

Therefore, I think it's fair to ask if Hillary is taking the same approach she initially took on gay marriage with the issues surrounding Ferguson.

So you'd vote for Rand Paul, a Republican who doesn't share our values on civil rights, simply because the Clinton campaign is hypocritical, or slow to act because of political reasons?

Well, yes, specifically because I think actions speak louder than a weird interview about his libertarian views on business. Rand Paul's words and actions on the subject of militarized police and Michael Brown's shooting speak volumes. In a Time op-ed titled We Must Demilitarize the Police, Sen. Paul writes about the dangers of a highly armed police force, and how this frightening reality affected Ferguson:

If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn't have expected to be shot...

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury--national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture--we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands...

Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.

Is there serious contender for president in 2016 speaking about "racial disparities in our criminal justice system" or the sentiment that many African-Americans feel pertaining to being targeted by police? These are poignant words and they speak to me. They speak to my concept of justice and where this country is going, and I don't care if they were written by a Republican.

The fact that Paul wrote, "I might have smarted off...But, I wouldn't have expected to be shot" is something Clinton would never have touched, in a million years, with even a one hundred foot pole. This sentence actually touches upon the heart of the Ferguson issue by highlighting how police forces in this day and age aren't only militarized, but also fast to pull the trigger. All one has to do is read about the tragedy of the latest unarmed man shot by police to realize the severity of this issue. As a result, Paul's Time article is an enormous distancing from the mainstream GOP view of Ferguson and represents such a wide chasm in sentiment that even Hillary Clinton took 19 days to craft a measured response.

But Paul's faking it, just to get the black community to vote for him!

Alright, then Hillary Clinton should do the same, instead of expecting 93% of the black vote, emboldening her to remain silent about a topic the entire country was debating. Politicians taking a voting block for granted is dangerous and doesn't help anyone. Simply expecting Hillary Clinton to defend the interests of African-Americans, when Rand Paul is addressing issues like reforming criminal justice with Sen. Cory Booker and visiting a polarizing spot like Ferguson is something that should be noticed, not simply dismissed as publicity stunts.

Does Paul share my views on immigration? No, but President Obama's recent order, even though I vehemently support his latest executive action on immigration, is only temporary. Congress will ultimately decide on immigration reform. The separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches is one reason that a Paul presidency doesn't frighten me the way it might most other liberals who think he'd do this to government programs. I also respect the fact he met with Al Sharpton to discuss crime issues, as highlighted in a recent POLITICO article:

"We talked about his position on dealing with some criminal justice issues that I am concerned about," Sharpton said in a statement from the National Action Network, where he serves as president.

"We also discussed mandatory sentencing that he and Senator Cory Booker are proposing," the statement continued. "It was a very candid and courteous conversation."

It would have been nice if Hillary Clinton also met with Al Sharpton, but she was busy with other matters.

But global warming will kill more people than American military adventures in the Middle East!

True, but Paul stated the following to Bill Maher:

And I'm not against regulation. I think the environment has been cleaned up dramatically through regulations on emissions as well as clean water over the last 40 or 50 years.

Also, the sun isn't going to send your grandkids into a war against the fifth rebranding of al-Qaeda; that hooded man in 2045 who beheads an American to lure us into our 5th Iraq War. Ending perpetual wars in the Middle East, the war on drugs, domestic spying (before the gleeful accusations, Rand Paul recently voted against a Ted Cruz co-sponsored bill that would have extended the PATRIOT Act until 2017), militarized police, corporate welfare, and reforming criminal justice should be atop anyone's priority list, but apparently I'm in the minority on this interpretation of progressive politics. Paul isn't a pacifist, but he's spoken repeatedly about ending prolonged and unsuccessful American wars in the Middle East. He's spoken so much about ending such conflicts that he now has to prove he's not an isolationist to GOP war hawks.

If Hillary Clinton had championed issues that directly correlate to presidential authority, like ending perpetual wars or curtailing domestic spying, I probably wouldn't be considering Rand Paul in 2016. Then again, had she visited Ferguson, she would have potentially alienated possible swing voters in 2016, so like gay marriage, Clinton has placed calculated strategy above bold stances. If people like Ralph Nader and Bill Maher are open to voting for Rand Paul, it's not blasphemy to consider a Republican for president. Sen. Paul urging Congress to declare war against ISIS, a move that would force the president to defer to Congress on this matter and force a genuine debate on the issue of war in the Middle East, is another reason to like the Kentucky Senator.