With Sarah Palin as the nominee, this virtually assures a John McCain victory. Of course, this also assures that 95% of black America will suffer a crushing defeat that it will take as a personal rejection from white America. Conservatives will get their man, most women will get their vice president (and the rest will get a certain Hillary Clinton) and blacks will get nothing but the guy who not only crushed their dreams but also whose policies they generally oppose and whose party generally ignores them and their issues. Worst of all, this was after these same blacks had to witness not only an ugly Democratic primary but also its aftermath: the unprecedented spectacle of a huge organized movement by lifelong to defeat the nominee of their own party who JUST HAPPENS to be black. Will the result be rioting in the streets? No. A far more likely outcome is that a huge number of black Americans will simply become so frustrated and disillusioned with this nation’s politics, or more accurately the nation itself! Some will join fringe and radical political movements, but most will simply tune out and drop out. This is not because they would regard America to be a wretched place for blacks to live. (If blacks actually felt that way, there would still be riots as there were in the 1960s and “let’s go back to Africa” movements as there were prior to the civil rights era.) Instead, blacks would simply give up on the idea that America will ever treat them fairly.
Would this be a good thing? After all, fewer black voters mean fewer Democratic voters, and that means more victories for Republicans and conservatives right? If so, that is a cynical attitude. Would Republicans rather have defeated and dejected blacks skulking back into their own enclaves because of their conviction that America will always view them as unwelcome interlopers and second class citizens, or would conservatives rather have motivated blacks with a positive outlook on America fighting on their side? If the answer is the latter, how do conservatives make it happen? First, conservatives may need to adjust their attitudes towards blacks. It is true that white liberal guilt has poorly served both blacks and this country. It is equally true that the conservative response of completely ignoring what blacks want and need has done the same. There is no point in denying it: in general terms white conservatives could care less about what blacks think or why. Instead, such conservatives presume that a government and society that responds to their needs and wishes will help everyone, blacks included.
Is this in fact the case? Will free markets, a strong defense, and a moral culture based on families and individual responsibility help everyone, including blacks? Conservatives have not considered the hard reality that blacks not only do not see this to be the case, but they have a valid reason for it! The reason is simple: our own national past. The pre – 1960s America was a much more conservative place in every respect. And quite frankly, that place was not a positive one for most blacks to live in. No matter how few the regulations, low the taxes, or booming the economy, virtually no blacks so much as owned homes or found stable employment, much less received promotions or owned businesses. Now matter how high the support for law and order, the police were far better at (and far more interested in) terrorizing innocent blacks than protecting them from criminals. The family unit has always been a fragile thing in black America, as illegitimacy and divorce rates have always been far higher than in the white community. The military was strong, but also segregated and with no blacks of high rank. And as far as individual responsibility goes: Carter G. Woodson, the creator of black history month, wrote “The Mis – Education Of The Negro” in response to the phenomenon of blacks frustrated and angry because they were receiving excellent educations at our best universities only to discover that no one would hire them. His solution: blacks should accommodate this racism by receiving vocational training instead. It was not so much because he felt that racism – or accommodation to it for that matter – was morally right, but rather his conviction that blacks had no other viable options available to them because whites were never going to change.
By contrast, look at the advances made by blacks since the 1960s when this nation incontrovertibly became more liberal! Now conservatives tend to focus on black pathology, especially criminal behavior and educational failure, and in its proper context that is very appropriate. But what conservatives fail to realize is that for the very large number of blacks that avoid and reject this pathology, their lives are incontrovertibly better today than it was when this country was more conservative. Perhaps the best example of this is the “black flight” phenomenon, where blacks with the means to do so leave impoverished rural areas and inner cities for white suburbs. To the extent that conservatives even notice this phenomenon, they claim that blacks leaving dysfunctional liberal cities (especially those run by blacks) for the conservative suburbs constitutes a victory for conservatism (and vindication for the “white flight” that took place two decades prior).
These blacks, however, would say that they have always had the desire to leave poverty, pathology, and dysfunction behind, but lacked the means. What provided them the means, in their minds, was the fair employment laws (and affirmative action policies) that allowed them to get jobs, fair lending laws that forced banks that in the past exercised their freedom of contract to refuse to lend to blacks to approve their mortgages, fair housing laws that forced realtors to sell them homes and homeowners’ associations to allow them to buy, and hate crimes laws (and media pressure campaigns from civil rights groups) that forced the police to punish those who expressed their opposition to blacks’ moving into their neighborhood with crimes ranging from vandalism to serious assault. In summary, in the minds of blacks the “conservative victory and vindication” of black flight was made possible by the liberal measures that not only did not exist in conservative America, but measures that conservative leaders – namely Barry Goldwater and those that picked up his mantle including Ronald Reagan – generally opposed, Goldwater in particular on federalist and libertarian grounds.
Consider the hero of conservatives of sorts, Bill Cosby. Cosby at no point has in any sense advocated a return to the more conservative pre – 1960s America. (This is due in no small part to the fact that Cosby grew up in that America and wants no part of it.) No, Cosby criticizes blacks for their failure to capitalize on the more liberal post – 1960s America that he and his generation created. Cosby’s message: “In the 1960s we defeated the conservatives that withheld opportunity from us in order to create a more liberal America that gives us more opportunity, and you all are throwing it away!” How many conservatives even recognize the irony?
The upshot is that conservatives need to cast off the fictitious thinking that the Democratic Party and civil rights leaders are holding blacks captive on the plantation. The truth is that these blacks are on the plantation because they want to be. The tactics of the Democratic Party and civil rights leaders is not to scare blacks away from becoming Republican. Why? Because the truth is that most blacks rarely consider even VOTING for Republicans, let alone becoming them. Truthfully, their tactics are designed to drive up black turnout. Their battle has practically never been getting blacks to choose Democrats over Republicans, but rather getting blacks to choose Democrats over tuning out, dropping out, and staying at home!
Yes, that even explains the attacks on Clarence Thomas and other black conservatives. There has never at any time been all these blacks fascinated with following Clarence Thomas that required Jesse Jackson to come beat them off with a stick. Analyze this: why should there be? Clarence Thomas holds the same views as does, say, Antonin Scalia and as did William Rehnquist. If blacks rejected those views when they were held by Scalia and Rehnquist, why should they accept them when held by Clarence Thomas? Because Clarence Thomas is black? Is not that the very definition of racism? Now had blacks generally known and respected Clarence Thomas prior to his elevation to the Supreme Court, his views might have received more consideration. After all, blacks are willing to consider the views of people that they perceive have earned their ear. As it was most blacks had never heard of Thomas before he was placed on the Supreme Court by a president that they already did not support and immediately began to advance views that they already did not support. (Conservatives need to abandon the nonsense that blacks should listen to Thomas because he rose from poverty to great success … plenty of blacks have done the same AND MOST OF THEM ARE LIBERAL. As a matter of fact, it greatly offends blacks when conservatives only acknowledge the accomplishments of conservative blacks while not only ignoring but at times even belittling and begrudging the success of blacks that are not politically useful to them.) So Jesse Jackson does not even need to prevent blacks from following Clarence Thomas, they weren’t going to anyway. Jesse Jackson only needs to remind blacks that they strongly dislike Thomas and his views and to get them to vote not so much FOR the Democrats but AGAINST the Republicans.
When you think about it, this context explains the huge black attachment to affirmative action. Before affirmative action, it was virtually impossible for blacks to get desirable jobs and promotions. Why? Racism and discrimination. After affirmative action, it became attainable. Blacks are convinced that were affirmative action to be removed, whites would start back discriminating and blacks will be right back where they were in 1965. Before you say “the civil rights act would prevent that”, please know that pervasive discrimination in hiring and promotions continued long after the civil rights act. It was in fact the hated quotas, timetables, goals, etc. along with sanctions for employers and managers that refused to comply that were mandated by liberals in government that created a situation where a black person could actually have a reasonable expectation of getting a job that he was qualified for or receiving a promotion that he earned. This had never existed in the history of America prior to affirmative action, and blacks are unwilling to place themselves at the mercy of white people and simply trust that they will treat blacks fairly without being compelled to do so in the future. (Before you get offended, please ackowledge that most whites similarly doubt the ability of blacks to treat them fairly.)
This is why blacks reject the conservative argument “racism cannot exist in the free market” because it has been proven to be demonstrably false. Racism and a thriving free market existed side by side in America until very recently. (Remember the thesis of Carter G. Woodson’s “The Miseducation of the Negro”?) More explicitly, blacks remember how not a few business owners shut down rather than comply with court orders to hire and serve blacks. Not only did such people refuse whatever benefits of black labor and commerce prior to civil rights enforcement, but they willingly forfeited ALL benefits of ALL labor and commerce in the face of it. This explains why blacks roundly reject conservatives that extol the virtues of the very private sector that discriminated against blacks in the past in favor of liberals who advocate a government that not only forced the private sector to treat blacks more fairly, but also employs a disproportionate percentage of black Americans.
Attacks on the failures of liberalism simply do not work. For instance, railing against the failures of the Great Society generally falls on deaf ears because A) most blacks have never received a welfare check (a shocking percentage of white conservatives are either unaware of this or for some reason pretend that they are unaware) and B) most blacks are of the opinion that conditions in black America BEFORE the Great Society weren’t so hot either. For every description of the squalor and crime in public housing projects, you can open any black history book and see how massive numbers of black Americans in our inner cities lived in TENTS … huge tent cities with no heat, plumbing, or electricity as depicted in the movie “Devil In A Blue Dress” (whose setting was not in the south but rather Los Angeles!) and come to the conclusion that Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green projects, which at least offered plumbing, electricity, AND A FLOOR AND A ROOF might not be so bad after all.
Most blacks reject a conservative present and future for this country because the conservative past was very unfair and disagreeable to black America. Before conservatives can reach any appreciable number of black Americans, they must answer a two part challenge. 1) Convince black Americans that where our conservative past was unfair to blacks, a conservative future will be fair. 2) Convince blacks that this fair conservative future will be better for them than any liberal future. Now of course, 2) is very necessary. Blacks are very willing to accept the unfairness of, say, affirmative action, because they perceive that it benefits them. (Before you point a finger at blacks for having this attitude, please realize that whites never gave a second thought to benefitting from pervasive segregation and discrimination that existed prior to the post civil rights era, and indeed would have been greatly offended at the very idea that they took a job or college spot from a more deserving black person.) How can conservatives make this case? And who will be the conservatives to make it?
These are answers that the conservative movement must begin to come up with shortly after the McCain victory in November, because as much as conservatives have been notoriously resistant, even hostile, to this line of thinking, future conservative victories depend on it. Like it or not, McCain will owe his victory in large part to being able to credibly claim that he is not a typical Republican and this claim is in large part due to his not being very conservative. It is not so much that other Republicans will be hard pressed to replicate McCain’s feat as it is if they do the inevitable result will be a party that moves to the left. The reason for this is that the white population is not only getting smaller in terms of percentage of the overall population, but it is also getting more liberal. For instance, where a state measure to ban gay marriage would have easily passed 15 years ago in liberal Massachusetts (where if you recall Mitt Romney actually tried to run to the left of Ted Kennedy on the gay rights issue) four years ago it failed in conservative Arizona. Any suggestions that it is acceptable for conservatives to refuse to rise up and meet this pressing challenge and instead continue the failed strategy of the past 40 years of placing the blame for the failure to accept the conservative message on the moral and intellectual failings of blacks would be committing an act no different from that of blacks to get so disgusted, frustrated, and dispirited by an Obama loss that no amount of Clarence Thomas – bashing by Jesse Jackson will ever get them to believe enough in the possibility of an America that will treat them fairly to get them to the polls again.