Justifiably confident going into the election cycle, Republicans have announced they hope to win 25 percent of the black vote. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has great expectations. “If we get African-American votes, [the Democrats] are in deep trouble,” he told The Washington Post. Not just any trouble. Deep trouble, he says.
Columnist Jonetta Rose Barras agrees, citing black voters’ growing dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party that resulted in Arnold Schwarzenegger winning 17 percent of the vote and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg garnering 22 percent.
The statistics portend good things for Republicans. According to the oft-cited Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies 2002 political survey, 63 percent of blacks self-identified themselves as Democrats (down from 74 percent in 2000), 24 percent self-identified as Independents (up from 20 percent in 2000) and 10 percent self-identified as Republicans (up from 4 percent in 2000).
Regardless of how blacks self-identify, however, Democrats consistently get 90 percent of their vote. Why? Years of damage from liberal ideology and misinformation pumped into the black community for the past 25 years. Memo to Republicans: Popping up in black church services and doing sound bites on urban radio won’t cut it.
Blacks have been lied to about the history of the Republican Party and civil rights. Historically, blacks voted for Republicans because Democrats were blatantly anti-civil rights (and in some ways still are). For example, “radical” Republicans of the 1860s supported slavery’s end in America, the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1964 were opposed by Democrats (Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia participated in a filibuster of the latter) and Jim Crow was a creation of Democrats.
In the 1960s, Democrats blocked school doorways while Republicans pushed desegregation legislation. In 2004, Democrats continue to block school doorways while Republicans push school choice, the only hope many black parents have to ensure their kids get a decent education.
So why did blacks switch from voting for Republicans in large numbers to voting for Democrats? Some say it was President John F. Kennedy’s perceived sensitivity to the oppression of minorities that endeared him and the party to black Americans, and they’ve been voting for Democrats in droves ever since.
Aside from revisionist history, a more fundamental rift exists between blacks and Republicans. The concept of limited government — a core Republican principle — is anathema to most blacks, even wealthy, well-educated ones. Thanks to the handiwork of Southern Democrats, blacks continue to turn to the federal government for redress of the slightest racial grievance.
Conservatives have a healthy distrust of the federal government and believe its powers should be limited to only those enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. To most blacks, however, limited government brings to mind “states’ rights,” which in turn evokes images of Southern whites and their resentment of federal intervention in local affairs during desegregation.
The rights of the states are at the heart of a good constitutional republic, but blacks won’t easily forget it was the federal government that enforced their civil rights after Reconstruction, got them jobs under the New Deal and protected them from billy clubs, dogs and water hoses in the 1960s. Do you blame them for believing a bloated, central bureaucracy is still savior even in 2004?
Republicans should keep emphasizing that the federal government is not supposed to have this much control over the people. The U.S. Supreme Court most recently usurped the will of the people by finding a nonexistent constitutional basis for continued race discrimination, although it was legally abolished in 1964. In 1973, the court usurped the will of the people by discovering a nonexistent “right to privacy” to kill unborn babies.
Favoring a strong, forceful central government was once a matter of survival for blacks generations ago, but no longer.
Given this elemental divide between blacks and Republicans, courting blacks won’t be easy. But the most important advantage Republicans have over Democrats is that Republicans can win elections without the black vote; Democrats can’t.
In the meantime, Republicans should continue doing what they do best: defend the country, support policies that foster economic growth, fight for the sanctity of the family, the unborn and the dignity of the individual.
Once blacks are fed up with liberal lies, fear, resentment and mistrust (and being passed over for leadership positions), perhaps they’ll return to the party that set them free. And once they get a taste of real freedom, Democrats will be in trouble. Deep trouble.
Ms. Barber is a Washington-based writer and may be contacted at barbersview @yahoo.com, or https://lashawnbarber. blogspot.com.