I’ve watched with interest the debate on how conservatives are to handle the issue of race. T.K. Farrow is right — Republicans face a tall order in winning over black voters. But, as JFK said regarding putting a man on the moon, we must do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
Ruben Navarrette notes correctly that certain Republicans have done over-the-top stupid things on race that have hurt the party, but he carries the argument too far. Does every Republican in the country have to worry some idiot in another state is going to embarrass the party? Following Navarrette’s argument, we do. Though I would wager the vast majority of minorities that vote for Democrats would do so even without the obscure statements Navarrette cites.
John Hawkins argues the GOP needs to nominate more minority and women candidates. Hawkins is on the right track, but the strategy of nominating minorities to gain in demographics has a spotty record. While Michael Steele received twice George W. Bush’s share of the black vote in his 2006 Senate run, Senator Mel Martinez barely ran ahead in his own ethnic group. Lynn Swann actually received a lower percentage of the black vote than his opponent. Similarly, women as a group have been even harder on Sarah Palin than men have.
Our minority congressional candidates have a ridiculously low winning percentage. The GOP’s problem thus lies not in nominating minorities, but in actually getting them elected.
The challenge rests in eliminating black culture’s meme that black Republicans are sellouts.
Vivid examples of this come from Bill Cosby’s widely panned 1990 movie Ghost Dad and the black family sitcom Smart Guy. A scene from Smart Guy is particularly relevant. The genius protagonist is told that he could become a Supreme Court justice “who’s not a sell out,” thus slamming Clarence Thomas as a race traitor on national television.
So long as such cultural attitudes remain prevalent, the GOP won’t be able to solve its problems with black voters by nominating minorities. This distrust is rooted in more than just the interests of self-serving elites who want to disparage Republicans, but also in how we collectively approach the issue. The desire for minority votes is driven entirely by ambition rather than by an earnest desire to benefit minorities.
Since the slaves were freed, one political group or another has tried to use minority votes for political advantage — be it carpetbagging Republicans in the 1860s or today’s race-baiting Left with its vested interest in keeping as many minorities as possible poor, bitter, and uneducated.
In large urban centers across this nation, people live in poverty under corrupt, incompetent regimes that waste taxpayer resources. In Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, the regime has succeeded in creating a permanent brown underclass that serves as a base for the Democratic Party.
Most Republicans ignore these areas. After all, Republicans aren’t going to win elections in such cities other than in cases of extreme and obvious corruption. Like William “Cold Cash” Jefferson’s ouster last year and Dan Rostenkowski’s defeat ahead of his felony conviction in 1994. Further, Republicans can win a national election without winning any more votes in these areas than they did in 2004.
Giving up isn’t hard to do if all you’re concerned about is the next election. However, if Republicans want to make significant inroads, they must show a willingness to fight for these communities, rather than simply make attempts to harvest their votes.
The fate of America’s poorest cities is about far more than a political party’s triumph. It is about millions of our fellow Americans living under regimes that thrive on human suffering, ignorance, and misery. Changing America’s cities is not a matter of politics, it’s a matter of moral principle.
Conservatives don’t need to change their values to do this. Conservative values provide an answer to the problems of America’s cities.
Strong families could solve a multitude of problems created by broken homes. Competition to public education from the private sector would transform the failing schools of many inner cities. Pushing the forgotten ideas of creating enterprise zones and eliminating unnecessary regulations can bring opportunity and transform America’s cities.
It’ll require political courage and risk-taking. The challenge is to face down those who care more about the number of students enrolled in public schools than if those kids are learning, and those who care more about the continued perpetuation of government programs than they care whether those programs are actually helping people.
It’s an ideological imperative with the Left, and efforts to bring about conservative reforms threaten them personally as it threatens their power base.
No easy shortcut exists. Conservatives can’t flip a switch and automatically increase their minority base. No — it requires elbow grease. It requires taking actions that will lead to false accusations of hating schools, hating children, hating women, and being racist.
It takes communicating with minority voters regarding what you are doing, a constant education effort. It means rejecting the self-appointed liberal mouthpieces for racial communities. It’s useless to give speeches to liberal organizations like the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza. Politicians will do far more good holding town hall meetings in minority neighborhoods and educating the public through direct mail, the internet, and door-to-door campaigning.
This effort will take people willing to run as conservatives in places like Queens, Detroit, and Chicago, knowing that the odds of prevailing are slim, but that others may one day reach office because of their efforts to educate, inform, and attract people to the conservative movement.
This is not the stuff of political parties, but it should be the stuff of the conservative movement. During the age of the Soviet Union, conservatism was about the liberation of people from tyrannical regimes. Our task in the 21st century is similar. We must, through time, patience, and hard work, oust the regimes that destroy opportunity, life, and the human spirit in America. This is the struggle of our time.