My colleague Garlin Gilchrist has put together features an interview with Cliff Schecter, author of The Real McCain: why conservatives don’t trust him, why independents shouldn’t, the first interview of the Black on Black Thought series. Gilchrist’s interview with Schecter can be found here and, unfortunately, its contents aren’t encouraging vis-à-vis John McCain’s record on ‘black issues.’
From McCain’s flip-flop on the Confederate Flag in South Carolina in 2000 — first decrying it as a symbol of racism, then seeming to accept the “southern heritage” argument proffered by white southerners defending the flag’s continued presence in several southern State Flags — to his concerted effort to ensure that the people of Arizona would never celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (going so far as to support stripping federal funds from the MLK Day Commission at one point), McCain’s record on black issues ain’t pretty.
Of all the things to flip-flop on, McCain chooses the Confederate Flag
But that’s not much of a surprise. After a 2000 Republican Convention that often looked more like a Rainbow/PUSH coalition meeting, it appeared that the Republicans were ready to make the case for conservatism to the black community.
But, here we are eight years later and blacks are as alienated from the Republican Party as they ever were. The government’s bumbling response to Hurricane Katrina didn’t help matters. And with a black man capturing the Democratic nomination, after enjoying 90+% support from black people (once they saw in Iowa that Obama could actually win; prior to that a majority of blacks were supporters of Hillary), it doesn’t look like the Republicans are going to make a play for the black vote until 2012 at the absolute earliest.
But Grover Norquist has noted that the fastest growing group in America aren’t the Millenials, or the Hispanics, or even retiring Baby Boomers — it’s the Shareholders. When Ronald Reagan was elected, Norquist has said, only 20% of Americans owned stock. Today 60% do. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, believes that the GOP could appeal to such voters on the basis of their pocketbooks. If, every time Barack Obama spoke of “getting tough” on oil companies, people took that to mean “my 401K will shrink,” there’d be a lot less room for the center-Left agenda to fund itself.
The problem is, Republicans have gone off-script in the Bush era. It’s no longer true that Republicans hold the line on spending while the Democrats want to tax away your paycheck; the only thing that changes with Republicans is whose hand goes into the cookie jar, not the existence of the cookie jar.
When you heard “Republican” fifteen years ago, you understood them as maybe a tad too grumpy, but you respected their scruples. Today there are no scruples. When people think of Republicans they hear “Enron” and “Halliburton” and the Bridge to Nowhere and sex scandals and hypocrisy.
By 2012 the door to the black community might be closed to the GOP forever. Republicans, historically, haven’t had to care about the black vote because, frankly, there have been enough old (and oftentimes wealthy) white men around to keep the party afloat. Much easier to pursue “southern strategies” and talk in booming tones about the importance of “law and order” than address themselves to the needs and concerns of a rightly skeptical demographic.
There’s always some good talk from the GOP, in presidential election years, about “outreach” to black and Hispanics, but the follow-through is never there. Much easier to pursue “southern strategies” and talk in booming tones about the importance of “law and order” than address themselves to the needs and concerns of a rightly skeptical demographic.
Problem for the GOP is that people like Gilchrist and myself are part of the second largest generation in American history, the Millenials (~1980-present). 40% of us are non-white. Many of us couldn’t vote in 2000 and are casting ballots for the first or second time in 2008.
And very few of us want to be identified with the Party of Old Rich White Men. We’ve seen eight years of Rovian politics, where the issues don’t matter but the ability to sling mud does, and we’re not impressed. And we can’t imagine turning back this opportunity to try something different in favor of a 72 year old white man with the agenda of a 72 year old white man. Again, not pretty.
Detroit-based consulting firm, Deloitte, has put together a Fact Sheet on the Millenials — who we are and what sets us apart. OUT are things like “one size fits all” thinking; IN is the “customized and targeted message.” OUT is “slow and unwieldy,” IN is “do it because it makes sense.” And most importantly, OUT is “intolerance.” IN is “open-minded, integrated.” Our characteristics include being “Hopeful,” “independent,” interested in “pulling together,” “inclusive,” and “diverse.”
Look at the two campaigns being run and tell me who gives the Millenials more Hope.