Politics Mondays: Republicans Extend Invite to the Party by Armstrong Williams
“We have a great opportunity to make gains with black votes,” proclaimed RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie on the eve of the Republican National Convention. “We know it’s not in our inertest to have black Americans vote Democrat 90 percent of the time. But it’s also not in the inertest of black Americans to vote Democrat 90% of the time.”
And indeed, the tendency of black Americans to reflexively vote democrat has helped ensure that they get virtually nothing in return for their support. After all, what incentive is there for the Democrats to go out on a limb for blacks, if it is taken for granted that they will vote Democrat no matter what?
By contrast, President Bush has done far more to address the everyday concerns of black Americans than any president of recent memory. Bush’s education reforms—specifically his support of vouchers--could help ensure that poor people—mostly of color—no longer remain trapped in schools that are failing their needs. This change could be the single most important factor in redressing the achievement gap between the races. Additionally, President Bush has pushed programs aimed at facilitating home ownership, welfare reform and faith-based initiatives—all issues that ate amongst the chief concerns of the black voting populace. And let’s not forget that no Democrat in this country’s history has ever put a black man in charge of worldwide diplomacy or a black woman in charge of keeping us secure. President Bush did that. That is profound.
These facts are not lost on the growing number of moderate and conservative black political leaders around the country, who coming to grips with the fact that liberalism will not solve all of our problems. Elected leaders like Cory Booker, Harold Ford, Jr., Kwame Kilpatrick and others in articulating a new vision and agenda. These new leaders are more conservative than the old guard. They tend to be less certain that racism is the prime reason for the lack of progress among many blacks. Most oppose racially based affirmative action. Unlike the old guard, they do not see America as being fundamentally flawed because of its unfortunate racial history, or its capitalist economic system. They are more inclined to encourage choice and market based approaches, such as school vouchers, or black entrepreneurship.
The new leaders are not just elected. They are leaders of corporate America, academia and other parts of society. They are non-traditional leaders who have emerged despite the color of their skin. They are young intellectuals like John McWhorter, who is challenging the major litmus test imposed by the liberal black establishment around affirmative action. They are young writers like Debra Dickerson, whose latest book, “The End of Blackness,” questions the continued validity of black people organizing around race.
They are black ministers like Reverend Rivers in Boston, who is questioning the black liberal orthodoxy with regard to abortion, gay marriage, and connecting to the president’s faith-based initiatives. The new leaders are not promoting the so-called Black agenda. They are laying out a new roadmap that will help us achieve the American dream.
Unfortunately, none of these local black Republican leaders have broken onto the national scene yet. That‘s of critical importance, because until black people can look at the Republican party and see themselves reflected back, they won’t feel like they're welcome.
Gillespie gets that, and he aims to help the party get over its color problem beginning with the convention. “We are going to have the most diverse convention ever,” said Gillespie. “If we can highlight that we have more minority representation on stage at New York, maybe we can bring in more black elected officials at our next convention. I don’t think its going to be a slow change. The dam is about to break. I believe you’ll see a large number of black voters jump to the Republican party in one cycle. I think we’re close.”
It’s a nice idea. Especially when you consider that large majorities of the black voting populace actually poll conservative. The problem is that there haven’t been any compelling black Republican leaders on the national scene, capable of extending a meaningful invitation to those black Americans who agree with republican policies. Republicans needed a figure that would say I’m going to take these policies that you agree with on paper and take it to you in person. Until that happens, it is unlikely that either side will be guilty of taking too close a look at each other.
Armstrong Williams can be contacted via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, August 30, 2004