by Reggie Fullwood
For the past half dozen election cycles, Republicans have “said” that they want to attract more blacks to their party. It’s almost like that strange schoolmate that you rarely even said hello to, inviting you to his graduation party. Your first thought is hmmm… is this some kind of setup?
We have nothing in common, except the school we attend, but you are inviting me to a party. Sorry, I’ll pass.
The GOP collation makes it hard for African Americans to seriously consider changing alliances. Think about it – it’s a conglomeration of big business, Christian Right/Life Movement, those who say that they are fiscally conservative, southern conservatives (code for racist), white nationalists (code for clansmen that feel the country is being taken over my minorities) and a few other conservative leaning groups.
Of course, we can’t forget about the good old gun carrying members of the NRA that pour millions of dollars into campaigns against gun restriction laws.
And although I hate doing this – let me give my disclaimer: when I speak about Republicans, I am certainly not talking about all of them. Some of my closest friends are Republicans (I know – sounds cliché). So when I speak in broad terms about R’s, I am mostly talking about GOP leadership and those who influence conservative politics, not the average middle class Republican who is just like most of us trying to make a living and take care of their kids.
The political conflict between blacks and the Republican Party has been evident for decades now. In fact, most African Americans feel that the GOP is totally out of touch with normal black folk.
Sure there are conservative African Americans – Condi Rice (As I like to call her), Herman Cain, Michael Steele, Allen West, Clarence Thomas, Collin Powell, and even crazy Ben Carson.
And yes, I said it – Ben Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon, but with all of his radical comments on the presidential trail, he has clearly lost his mind. Which is sad because his rags to riches story is inspiring.
He escaped a childhood of poverty in Detroit to graduate from Yale University, study medicine at the University of Michigan, and become one of the most acclaimed neurosurgeons of our time. But now, he says all kinds of crazy nonsense like if the Jews had guns in their homes they could have stopped the Holocaust. Ummm….. no way!
Back to the GOP in general – here’s the fundamental problem. Republicans want black votes, but don’t want to understand, embrace, or support the issues that are important to African Americans.
Republicans hoped that Colin Powell’s announcement back in 1995 that he was a Republican would be the catalyst for a movement among blacks back toward the Party of Lincoln.
By the way, the “Party of Lincoln” marketing scheme was supposed to attract blacks by associating President Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves with the modern Republican Party. Sensible people saw through that because just as time changes all things, both the Republican and Democratic parties have changed drastically over the years.
The GOP also hoped that the election of the second black Republican to Congress, J.C. Watts of Oklahoma in the 90s would have helped as well. Think again.
In 1996, in a Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies National Opinion Survey of African Americans , 8.7 percent identified themselves as either Republicans (4 percent) or leaning toward the Republican Party (4.7 percent). Despite efforts to attract African Americans, black Republican numbers have not changed much over the past twenty years.
In 2013, Gallup released a poll that said just 2% of Republicans are black, and 6% are Hispanic.
I will give another disclaimer – I know several black Republicans that are grounded and truly have the best interest of African Americans at heart. But I know more black Republicans that are self-centered and totally out of touch with the issues effecting minority communities (e.g. Allen West, Clarence Thomas).
In fact, some blacks choose to be Republicans so that they can benefit politically or economically. And if that’s your decision so be it – I am not judging you – just don’t drink too much of the Kool Aid.
And guess what black people – Republicans don’t seem to be losing any sleep over their mediocre black recruitment efforts. They are now focusing resources on courting Latino voters, which is the fastest growing voting block in the nation.
But thanks to Donald Trump and a few other GOP presidential candidates I don’t think that Hispanics will be flocking to the Republican party in large numbers either.
So until Republicans put forth a sincere effort to engage and understand the black community, the vast majority of blacks will continue to be Democrats.
As Tavis Smiley once said, when it comes to black issues there’s nothing to be conservative about. What Tavis means is that blacks are already playing catch-up in this country, so when it comes to the concerns of our communities, a conservative solution is often times not the answer.
Signing off from the Supervisor of Elections Office,