For Kentucky Senator – and possible presidential candidate – Rand Paul, Ferguson is a sign of deep problems within the American criminal justice system. And he pins the blame on politicians who have, in his view, only made things worse.

“In the search for culpability for the tragedy in Ferguson, I mostly blame politicians,” Paul wrote for Time this week. “Michael Brown’s death and the suffocation of Eric Garner in New York for selling untaxed cigarettes indicate something is wrong with criminal justice in America. The War on Drugs has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation.”

The August shooting death of Brown by a white police officer has given national exposure to deep tensions between a majority-white police force and majority-black population in the St. Louis suburb. Those tensions exploded anew this week when a grand jury failed to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, for Brown’s death. Protests stretched from the streets of Ferguson to nearby St. Louis and many American cities, including New York, Chicago, and Washington.

According to Rand Paul, Ferguson’s divisions are due in large part to government initiatives like the War on Drugs. Their failure has exacerbated those tensions, creating a dangerously volatile environment in too many of America’s urban centers. But he said that the root cause was not just a matter of race, but an even deeper economic divide:

When you look at statistics for the white community alone, you see that we’ve become two separate worlds in which the successful are educated and wait to have children until they are married, and those in poverty are primarily those without higher education and with children outside of marriage.

In an interview Sunday with ABC News, President Barack Obama also touched on larger issues of race and criminal justice. Obama said that the “lack of trust between communities and law enforcement crops up not just in Ferguson but in places all across the country.” On Monday night, following the announcement of the grand jury’s decision, Obama said that for many communities “there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in discriminatory fashion.”

The Kentucky Republican agreed that those disparities need to be addressed, especially when it comes to issues like drug sentences that often hit African Americans disproportionately hard.

In his Time essay, he also offered a more unorthodox solution solution when touching on the more widespread issues of economic and racial justice:

“But my hope is that out of tragedy, a preacher or teacher will arise – one who motivates and inspires all of us to discover traits, ambitions, and moral codes that have slowly eroded and left us empty with despair.”

If that sounds like more of an optimistic silver bullet than practical solution, he also repeated his earlier advice to local communities like Ferguson. Rand Paul told Politico Tuesday that black voters there needed to make their voices heard come election time: “If you don’t like your local government…you need to replace them.”

[photo credit: GabeB]