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The GOP's Race Problem

This article really made me mad:

GOP’s trouble is not with color, it’s with kind

The GOP doesn’t have a problem with black. Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, Allen West, Mia Love, Vernon Parker and many others are respected conservatives of color. The issue is the kind of black that Republicans prefer.

If the party of Lincoln is going to survive, it must learn how to engage black people who aren’t partisan lapdogs. Black apologists, “house Negroes,” “Uncle Toms,” and their ilk went out of style in the black community when the first slaves tasted freedom.

I've met Allen West and I worked on Mia Love's campaign. I could not imagine two more independent thinkers in America today, regardless of race. Slamming them for having the temerity to leave the Democrat plantation should offend all Americans.

But after I got over my anger at the blatantly racist labeling of Black Republicans, I realized that the author is right. No, not in being as blatantly racist as he was. But he has a point insofar as these wise, independent and strong black conservative leaders still struggle with their perception in the black community.

Look, we Conservatives know that the Republican message is the right message for minorities. Heck, the Republican Party was FOUNDED on the idea that emancipation could not wait any longer. We have always been the champion of the dignity of the black man, while the Democrats hold the opposite view and push welfare policies that make him virtually irrelevant in the home.

Remember the debates about the minimum wage? Milton Friedman famously said that the minimum wage was the most anti-black thing you could do. Even the lionized Jack Kennedy held the prevailing Democrat view of black workers being bad for whites:

Forty years ago, the politicians who pushed for the increased minimum wage did not hide their motives.  Nor, in an era of state-sanctioned segregation, did they feel the need to hide their knowledge of who the intended victims of minimum-wage legislation would be.  In a 1957 Senate hearing, minimum-wage advocate Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who just four years later would be President of the United States, stated,

Of course, having on the market a rather large source of cheap labor depresses wages outside of that group, too – the wages of the white worker who has to compete.  And when an employer can substitute a colored worker at a lower wage – and there are, as you pointed out, these hundreds of thousands looking for decent work – it affects the whole wage structure of an area, doesn’t it?

And that gets me to a large component of how Mitt Romney lost the election, and failed to make inroads in minority communities. Mitt Romney's message, we all would agree, SHOULD have resonated with black and latino voters. These communities tend to be religious, socially conservative and entrepreneurial. The message at the RNC Convention was all about minority business owners who came here from somewhere else on the globe because America is the land of freedom and opportunity. How is it that this message could fail to inspire ANYONE?

Because nobody believed it coming from Mitt Romney. Romney failed to get enough voters to trust him enough to trust his message. And this gets us to the real problem with the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party. Equally detrimental as the moderate message are the moderate tactics. Wealthy Republicans are perceived as insular and unwilling to step outside their comfort zone and talk to common folk. The message from Mitt was designed for the CEO, not the blue collar worker. The Romney campaign failed to realize that this was a hurdle they had to overcome to connect with the vast swath of voters who aren't CEOs - white, black, latino or other.

When confronted with this liability, particularly in minority communities, the campaign dismissed the problem. I spoke with a prominent black Republican who is a leader in his community in Portland, who told me that he voted for Obama. He did so because he reached out to the Romney campaign to help them reach into the black community, and was thoroughly rebuffed. Regardless of your view of whether identity politics is a worthy method - and we can likely agree that it isn't - you cannot be so insular and isolated that you reject an entire community out of hand.

It's that old saying - people never remember what you said, but they will always remember how you make them feel. If you make them feel like you truly do care, you will earn their trust. We conservatives MUST get out of our comfort zones and echo chambers and reach out into communities to sell our message. We know it's the right message, we know that most people agree with it, and yet it was rejected at the polls in 2012. As insular as our communities tend to be, we must remember that other communities are equally insular. We can't win if we don't start proactively reaching into these areas and have conversations with the voters who should be with us. People tend to be insulted by being taken for granted.

So yes, despite its blatant racism, the first article I cited is correct - the GOP has an engagement problem in minority communities. We need to fix that - and the good news is that we can, if we are truly dedicated to trying.

lheal's picture
Loren Heal

Team Romney rejected a lot of people and groups, @ChargerJeff. I don't think your friend's blackness was the cause. The campaign was insular and consultant-driven. Romney thought he was hiring the best, when elections are won with the most.

LT1800's picture
Jeff Reynolds

The title is, in fact, a bit sarcastic in that I don't think the GOP actually has a race problem - it's a problem, as you point out, of insularity.

LT1800's picture
Jeff Reynolds

I am not saying that the campaign ignored just groups of color ... just pointing out that this gives the Left fodder to say we're all racially insensitive, despite the fact that the message we promote gives opportunity for all, regardless of color. You know, the MLK doctrine of content of character ...