A Post Where I – Again – Talk about Black Republicans.

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(cross-posted from U.S. of J.)

Ericka Andersen:

I continue to hear — from politicians and their constituents — that Republicans must start connecting with voters on a cultural level or they are screwed. It was reiterated again this morning by Saul Anuzis, the Michigan Republican Party Chairman running for Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

He had a story for us: On a bus ride, he struck up a conversation with two African-American women who’d just come from a church event in the city. He said they spoke of traditional values and many conservative principles they all shared. When Anuzis asked them what it was like to be black Republicans, they were taken aback. They weren’t Republicans, they said. It was clear to Anuzis that the women possessed principles of the Republican Party but that Party had not reached out to them on a level they related to.

“You can’t ignore groups of people and expect them to vote for you,” he said. Republicans have not done a good job with African-American voters, as we’ve seen. Culture has been put to the side in favor of political agenda but now there is an opportunity to change that.

Frankly, this is (or should be) obvious to anyone who has actually taken the time to analyze African-American political views.  The plain fact is that there is – always has been – a natural constituency in the African-American community for conservative ideologies.  And I’m not only referencing gay marriage or abortion here.  Despite high rates of single motherhood within the African-American community, plenty of black people – I’d say most – are really committed to the idea of two parents and a stable marriage.  Indeed, our history almost dictates that we should be; one of the great injustices of slavery was the refusal on part of slave owners to recognize slave marriage vows.  What’s more, slave owners purposefully tore slaves apart, sending husbands, wives and children to separate plantations.  As such, when the opportunity to marry freely came, blacks cherished it and still do as a community.

It is also worth adding that there is a strain within African-American thought which can be accurately called “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” conservatism, where “yourself” refers to the black community as a whole.  Until the 1930s, blacks (at least those that could vote) were a fairly reliable Republican constituency and in the early 20th century, men like Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey had wide followings.  Even the “Black Power” movement was focused – mainly – on black empowerment and black self-sufficiency.  Hell, the famous Malcolm X image “By Any Means Necessary” could stand as an advertisement for the NRA if you simply replaced Malcolm’s image with a slightly heavy-set white guy.

Ericka says that if the GOP wants to attract African-Americans in significant numbers, it needs to adopt a new tone.  And on some level, I agree.  Republicans lost African-Americans for good in the 1960s, when Nixon responded to black support for the Democratic Party by embracing Southern (and for that matter, Northern) whites embittered by the Civil Rights movement.  As we all know, Nixon ran against blacks using coded language couched in issues like busing and “law & order.”  Ronald Reagan continued this proud tradition, by again running against blacks, this time decrying “welfare queens” and the like.

An improved tone would help; African-Americans would feel more comfortable voting for Republicans if they didn’t believe that Republicans were either A) vicious racists or B) pretending not to be vicious racists (this is only a slight exaggeration).  But an improved tone is a little superficial.  If the Republican Party is serious about contesting the black vote, it needs to offer policies which address the problems in the African-American community.  A good deal of political science literature (”linked-fate” theory, to be precise) suggests that African-Americans don’t vote for individual interest as much as they vote for group interest, and since Reconstruction, have support the party which they believe will benefit African-American interests as a whole.  Blacks were Republicans for so long because Republicans – at least until the beginning of the 20th century – were actually interested in improving the conditions of blacks.  Republicans proposed civil rights and anti-lynching legislation, and directed the federal government to assist black efforts to establish economically successful communities.

I don’t want to diminish the importance of an improved tone; simply repudiating the racist element of the Republican Party (and this election reminded us that it is there) would help a good deal.  This – however – is really an effort which local Republican organizations will have to pursue.  For national Republicans, pursuing good policy  – and framing it in a way that shows its benefits for African-Americans – is vital if they want to contest the Democratic hold on the black vote.

(I apologize if this was a little rambly)

5 thoughts on “A Post Where I – Again – Talk about Black Republicans.

  1. WestIndianArchie December 10, 2008 at 8:17 pm Reply

    My concerns

    – Republicans don’t have a lock on 2 parent families nor being self-sufficient. No democrat advocates that there should be more single parent families and handouts are the answer for everything (and if you think about the bail-out, or tax cuts….but I digress)

    – The other parts of the Republican platform, don’t seem to make sense. Well, rephrase – it’s not that they don’t make sense – but black folks like many white folks do not see the intelligence in “trickle down” economics or “drill baby drill”. How are those things supposed to work?

    Before attracting black folks, aside from the black religious right contingent, they need to clean up their ideas and make them sound.

    And if they were really about less government, i’d appreciate seeing less cops patrol the safe ass area of NW DC that I live in. Cats finna get robbed @ whole foods? Really?

  2. G.D. December 11, 2008 at 4:16 pm Reply

    Any inroads Republicans were making with black folks, at least on a national level (Bush improved his showing slightly with Negroes in ’04), had to be put on hold, if not demolished, with Obama’s win. I just don’t think a party that has had such crappy history with black folks can improve their standings, even with smarter appeals and better policy, when the other party ran the first black president.

  3. ladyfresshh December 12, 2008 at 12:03 am Reply

    let me preface with i am not a republican fan. i’m a child of the 80’s and reagan and it left a very bitter taste in my mouth even as a youth.

    with that
    i don’t think we are being fair about this with regards to obama being president. I suspected that condi and collin would not be getting their fair due after this win and frankly they are not. they paved the way if at the very least by subliminally imprinting american minds with blacks in major heads of state positions and for the most part carrying their office with dignity…i’d love to say respect but i’ve had my moments and i think a few others have as well. though on second thought the lack of respect maybe more on our end than a reflection of misconduct on theirs (bush not included).

    with that

    the republican party did what the democratic party failed to do until now by placing them in those very high positions. the democratic party almost had no choice BUT to put up or shut up at this point.

    i think the republican party unfortunately reached the limit of how far they were willing to go in that regard, with those two and clarence thomas, and it was a mistake. i think they felt they have done more than the other party, did all they needed to prove and patted themselves on the back and assumed racism as a issue was over. clearly it is not the case.

    the unfortunate irony of placing those three people in those positions to represent their party(and someone ‘they’ could relate to) as opposed to a person(s) relating to the larger black segment of the country is they did not count in our minds as true representatives. also unfortunately they showed very little inclination to relate in that regard…but i’m still not completely comfortable with completely disregarding them in this way as this discussion seems to be doing
    correct me if i’m wrong

  4. the black scientist December 15, 2008 at 9:16 pm Reply

    tokens are tokens. i feel like we can all recognize a token. maybe tokens open up doors, maybe they don’t. it’s difficult to say, in my opinion. tokens make way for more tokens, certainly, but what is their significance for people of their race/group who are making their own path…? i’m typing out loud…

  5. […] Contributor Jamelle, originally published at Postbougie and the U.S. of […]

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