Casting a Wider Net: Regaining Some of the Black Vote
There was a time when the Republican Party was associated with civil rights for blacks in this country. Of course, the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, had fought a war over ending slavery and issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a Republican Administration that ruled over Reconstruction and passed the Civil War Amendments to the Constitution that granted ex-slaves citizenship and voting rights. Conversely, it was Democratic leaders who opposed these efforts at every step of the way and at every level. Today’s blacks are ignorant of the fact that segregationists like George Wallace, Bull Connor and Lester Maddox were Democrats. Although South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond died a Republican, he was originally a Democratic Governor of South Carolina very much in favor of segregation and ran on the first “segregation first” platform for the Dixiecrats in 1948. Although most historians point to the Nixon “southern strategy” as pushing the black vote into Democratic hands forever, the trend actually started in 1948 with a Democrat. Hence, it was a Democrat who created a fraction in the Democratic Party that pitted generally pro-integration Northern Democrats and Republicans against Southern Democrats who favored segregation.
In fact, it was in 1948 that blacks first reported identification with the Democratic Party rather than Republicans or independents. They were actually identifying with the Truman wing of the party, not the Thurmond wing. However, Republican presidential candidates still garnered a large portion of the black vote under Eisenhower and even Nixon in 1960. It was enough to power Eisenhower into office and probably Nixon if not for some Chicago electoral shenanigans. In June 1963, largely in response to the Birmingham civil rights campaign, Kennedy called for passage of a civil rights act. Before calling for its passage, he made sure that Republican leaders were on board and they were, although they had some reservations about certain aspects of the law as proposed. After the Kennedy assassination, Johnson pushed forth the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, a sober reading of the history here indicates that Johnson did so not out of some moral imperative, but out of political expediency. Since his first election as Congressman from segregationist Texas, Johnson realized the importance of the minority vote. It was Mexican-Americans who pushed him over the top in Texas elections.
Today, Johnson is considered a hero of the civil rights movement in America because he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A true reading of the Jekyl and Hyde nature of Johnson when it came to civil rights is necessary. This was a man that privately referred to blacks as “niggers.” In Congress, he voted against such civil rights measures as bans on lynching, eliminating poll taxes, and defunding segregated public schools. Johnson opposed every one of Truman’s civil rights efforts. When Eisenhower became President, Johnson, when he could not outright kill civil rights efforts, so diluted them that they became unenforceable words. In sum, Johnson was a segregationist southern politician and a diehard Democrat.
Even after the assassination of Kennedy, Democratic opposition to civil rights legislation was very much alive. It was Howard Smith, a Virginia Democrat, who held up the bill in committee in the House. Having made it from there after Smith allowed the bill out of committee to avoid personal political embarrassment, it passed by a vote of 290-130 with many of those 130 “NO” votes coming from Democrats. Even when it went to the Senate, it bypassed the Judiciary Committee headed by James Eastland of Mississippi, a Democrat and opponent of the law, although Mansfield’s maneuver led to a filibuster. And filibuster they did led by 18 Southern Democrats, most notably Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Eventually a compromise bill was passed and that version approved by the House. So as late as 1964, as a Party, the Democrats were more opposed to civil rights legislation than the Republican Party. However, because it and the subsequent Civil Rights Act of 1965 were signed by a Democratic President, black civil rights have since been linked to the Democratic Party. It did not help that the 1964 Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, was officially against the law. Granted, although most of the Democratic opposition to civil rights legislation was centered in the south, Northern Democratic support was more a Reconstructionist “stick it to the South” attitude than a commitment to civil rights. Nowhere is this more evident than with the heavily (at the time) unionized workforce in the North. There, minorities and especially blacks, were specifically and effectually excluded from union membership. Northern Democrats enacted no legislation to address this fact. To illustrate the outright racism of the Democratic Party, blacks were prohibited from attending national conventions until 1924.
Which brings us to the so-called Nixon southern strategy that seems to dominate political discourse when talking about the South. Many analysts correctly point out that this strategy may have won the South’s electoral votes, but it cost Republicans the black vote overall. If that were true- if the southern strategy was racially motivated- then Nixon would have won the South’s votes in 1968, but Wallace took those electoral votes. Instead, Republican gains in the South were due less to racial polarization and more to a rising white upper middle class who more closely aligned their economic views with that of the Republican Party mantra of lower taxes, support of business, and less regulation. In fact, if there was a “southern strategy,” then one would not expect Nixon to get as much as 38% of the black vote in the South in 1968. They could have voted for Humphrey to a greater degree (they were not going to vote for Wallace), but they did not.
Regardless, it is a fact that since 1972, Republican support in the black community and among voters has been in constant decline and Democratic presidential candidates can now expect greater than 90% of the black vote with regularity. Most of this is done through Democratic race-baiting that pits the black community against the Republican brand. The result is nothing short of the collective brainwashing of the black community by the Democratic Party into believing that they have the backs of blacks. They have completely rewritten history to the point that a racist Lyndon Johnson is now hailed as a hero of the civil rights movement and totally ignores the valuable role played by Republican Congressional leaders. In effect, the Democratic Party is the same party of the 1850s that opposed efforts to limit or abolish slavery. Instead of being slaves to white Southern plantation owners, blacks today are slaves to the Democratic-envisioned welfare state created by the federal government. Instead of a hand up, their views are truly a constant hand out because it is bribery for votes. Unfortunately, the black community has fallen for it hook, line and sinker. Today, black Republican leaders like Tim Scott, Alan West and Herman Cain are considered “Oreos-” black on the outside and white on the inside.
Fortunately for the Republican Party, it has been proven that one can lose more than 90% of the black vote yet still win a state’s electoral votes. That is because despite the fact that blacks make up a large portion of the population of certain states, or certain parts of other states, they still cannot overcome other constituencies. In fact, that is part and parcel of the Democratic strategy with respect to Hispanics. By putting the same yoke of slavery around the necks of Hispanics, they can join with the blacks to potentially overcome Republican dominance in certain states and change the balance in electoral politics. This is obvious in swing states like Florida and, increasingly, Georgia and Virginia. These states have large existing black populations and growing Hispanic populations.
Having looked at the genesis of this problem and where it stands today, the first remedial step is to realize that the Republican Party will never garner a majority of the black vote even if a black is the Republican Presidential candidate. Instead, the goal needs to be merely making inroads into the currently large existing gap. If the GOP could get anywhere near the 38% of the black vote Nixon received in 1968 or 1972, then it would be a huge success. Simply dropping Democratic support into the low-80% range is a success! That is good since it allows for slow, incremental change.
The first plank has to be a re-education of the black community. For 40 years now, the black vote has been monolithically Democratic. In those 40 years, there have certainly been advances by blacks. But, have Democratic policies and programs led to black equality? Even under a black Democratic President, unemployment in the black community is double the national rate and black household income has fallen greater than that of others. It is simply a reiteration of that old adage: the Democratic Party gives blacks a fish so they can eat for the day (or four years in political time); the Republican Party offers the tools to fish for a lifetime. Every black needs to look inwards and ask themselves honestly whether they are any better off under Obama, or even Carter or Clinton for that matter.
That is because Republicans have essentially internalized the dream of Martin Luther King’s color blind society while Democrats continue a policy of racial polarization. They do so because the more vocal voices in the black community has fallen for the quick fix of a government hand out. Without prodding from Republicans and Newt Gingrich, does anyone really believe Clinton would have enacted welfare reform? Even here, Democrats show their racism. Whenever welfare reform is mentioned, Democrats in knee jerk fashion yell “racism” as if blacks and only blacks are the recipients of government largesse. Cut that largesse and you are branded racist. Again, to the extent this is true, it is because of the Democratic strategy of enslaving the black community to that government largesse in the first place. The fact is that blacks are more inclined to listen to black leaders. The problem for the GOP is that there simply is not enough black leaders to get the message out. Black conservative voices like Alan West, Herman Cain, Clarence Thomas, Tim Scott, Mia Love and Condi Rice can only do and say too much. They are also more cerebral in their communication. What the Republican Party needs is a conservative Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton who appeal not only to the minds of blacks, but to their hearts and souls. The closest one comes is Alan West.
That is because if we look at the treatment of black conservative voices, the Democrats assert that the Republican Party simply does not like blacks. Failing that line of attack, which is rather successful regardless, they then pull down the speaker through personal attack and paint them as outside the black mainstream. Additionally, to a certain extent, the GOP plays into the hands of Democrats by sometimes wrongly asserting that racism does not exist. Of course, it does exist and avoiding speaking to groups like the NAACP, despite the expected chorus of boos, does not enhance the image of Republicans. And it is always an easier strategy to simply yell “racism” then watch the accused squirm out of the accusation. Relentlessly getting out the conservative message while principled ignorance of the racism charges is a must.
And although there is certainly a need for more Republican, conservative black voices, in the interim white conservative leaders should not shy away from addressing the black community. However, there is that de facto fear- somewhat substantiated- that they will simply be ignored. But if we start with the supposition that we only need win over a small amount of the black community, then I argue that winning over two blacks with any speech is better than avoiding that speech and winning over no one. Instead, the Republican Party and conservatives hope that blacks will drift back. Given the amount of interference from the other side, that is not happening. Outreach is a must, although it will be resisted at every step of the way.
The fact remains that the majority of the black community is ideologically in step with conservative principles. One will not hear sermons in traditional black churches in support of abortion on demand or gay marriage. Most blacks do not believe in open borders. They do believe in school choice. Those were black students who received the most benefit in Washington DC before Obama pulled the plug on that program thus enslaving a new generation of black children. And most blacks are opposed to crime in their communities and drug sales on street corners where their kids have to wait for school buses everyday. That is why a conservative message to the black community through outreach that stresses traditional socially conservative values, educational reform that guarantees true choice to parents, law and order, and laying the groundwork for a truly entrepreneurial society where everyone succeeds is a winning message. Along the way, Democrats will run as much interference as possible through the promise of favoritism and bribery to insure slavery. Conservatives will be accused of racism and using racist code words.
Unlike the Democratic Party which views blacks as preprogrammed automatons who will pull the Democratic lever every four years, I have a higher view of the black community as a whole that if they receive the full message, they will make the logical realization that their lot in life will be better served by conservative ideology and, by extension, the Republican Party. Things are looking up. This year, of 209 Republican incumbents running for reelection, 94.7% are white and a mere 1.4% black. However, of the 212 Republican challengers, 7.1% are black, so there is a stable of black conservative voices rising in the GOP. Compared to the 270 Democratic challengers, the GOP compares favorably as only 8.1% Democratic challengers are black. Of course, greater than 20% of their incumbents seeking reelection are black, so they naturally begin with a head start. Part of the blame for that head start is attributable to the Republican Party itself who for too long simply conceded the black vote.
Whether Romney wins or loses in November, this strategy needs to become reality lest the GOP falls for the Democratic strategy of racial polarization. It is a strategy that has worked well for them, but not for the black community when all is said and done. It will not be easy and there will be resistance based on Democratic brainwashing, lies, bribery and name-calling. But the rewards will greatly benefit the conservative movement and create a firewall against Democratic pandering to the Hispanic community which uses these very same tactics.