Why Is the Black Vote in the Democrats' Pocket?

Why do 90% of eligible black Americans vote Democrat and call themselves liberal?

A few weeks back, I lambasted prominent black conservatives for even thinking of voting for Barack Obama, a man who embodies only one part of the two-word description "black conservative."

Several black conservatives were quoted in the article to which I was responding. However, the most revealing quote came from former U.S. Representative J.C. Watts (R-OK):

J.C. Watts, a former Oklahoma congressman who once was part of the GOP House leadership, said he's thinking of voting for Obama. Watts said he's still a Republican, but he criticizes his party for neglecting the black community. Black Republicans, he said, have to concede that while they might not agree with Democrats on issues, at least that party reaches out to them.

"And Obama highlights that even more," Watts said, adding that he expects Obama to take on issues such as poverty and urban policy. "Republicans often seem indifferent to those things."

Watts' turnaround suggests one of three things to me: 1) that he has changed his political philosophy and should probably change parties; 2) that when he was running for office he was saying what he needed to say to get elected in conservative Republican Oklahoma, rather than saying that in which he believed; that is, he was never really a conservative Republican; or 3) that he realizes the futility of trying to attract most black Americans to his party on the basis of principle.

I don't know which is the answer, but there's a logic to Watts' statement regarding Obama and that logic undergirds the astounding Democrat/liberal/Left success among the black electorate in contrast with the Right's failure in the same area. The key to understanding lies in the assumptions inherent in the phrase "reaching out." Who should reach out to whom on the basis of what? What smaller actions fall under the large umbrella of "reaching out"? Here are the blanks filled in:

  1. Who: the Republican Party should do the reaching out.
  2. To whom: the party should reach out to the black community, that is, to black people as a singular entity -- a collective.
  3. How: the outreach should be done on the same basis as is performed by the modern Democratic Party.

    1. Programs
    2. Policies

In short, the Republican Party must "do things" for black Americans which it does not do for other citizens and which are identical to the things which the Democratic Party does. Or better. But the Republican Party can't be what it isn't.

The bottom line: Republicans want black Americans to pursue happiness and the Democratic Party wants to provide happiness to black Americans.

A party and its principles

The Republican Party that Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan (re)built has not been designed to reach out to a group on the basis of identity, but on the basis of a given group's ideas and values. By the party's very definition -- its basic principles -- this precludes reaching out to groups which have race, ethnicity, and/or gender as their sole criterion for coalescing as a political entity. So when some observers wonder what the Republican Party is going to "do for" the "black community," most Republicans will have a certain look of puzzlement on our faces, as if someone just asked why we don't offer attachable wings so that our prospective party members can fly.

Many black Americans cannot shake the notion that a political party is supposed to provide quid pro quo. That the Republican Party won't do anything for them besides get off their backs, get other citizens off their backs, and get out of their way so they can pursue happiness just isn't good enough. But where did the idea come from?

That the government should step in when overt oppression is being practiced but should not help or hinder black American advancement certainly precedes Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan. And, in practice, as Bruce Bartlett (HT Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred) and La Shawn Barber point out, before the Civil War and during the century that followed the abolition of slavery, the Republican Party was responsible for several federal measures designed to protect Americans of African descent from their fellow citizens and to punctuate the basic citizenship rights guaranteed to the freed slaves and to their progeny. Fact is, however, the Republican Party would not have had a leg to stand on had not the founders of the United States based the principles in the Constitution on certain philosophies.

Obviously, black Americans were happy to receive the protection. However, after the Republicans clamped down on the racists, they (mostly) removed themselves from the equation to allow the country's black citizens to be free. But when they did that, the nemeses fell in, masquerading as friends.

It is here that black Americans found themselves attacked from the top and from the bottom. Forty years ago most black Americans were used to being physically and socially restrained to an extent. However, what happened to black Americans in the 60s is that their enemies found a way to accomplish what the physical barriers of slavery, the legal oppression of northern segregation, and the overt terror of Jim Crow could not.

The mental chains

At the top, President Lyndon Baines Johnson -- a Democrat whose pre-Kennedy legislative career had been that of a typical Dixiecrat -- put forth a set of programs and policies infamously known as the Great Society, actually giving a part of the public funding to those who qualified to receive it. The bottom line? Many of the programs amounted to life subsidy -- "reward" for indolence, whoredom, and irresponsibility. At the bottom, liberals, leftists, and Democrats inserted themselves wholesale into the educational processes of the black poor. That education put forth a portrait of America as a full-scale villain, which made her history unneeded -- except the parts necessary to understand the crimes perpetrated on her perennial victims. With that in mind, why would liberals, leftists, and Democrats teach their captive audience about the historical role that their political opponents played in setting and keeping them free? Between the manipulation of education and the government handouts by Democrats, the Left could even convince black Americans that it was the Republicans who had actually been black America's oppressors -- and that idea, that lie, would become far more useful to the Democrats than any Great Society program, as LBJ allegedly foresaw.

An even more serious deficiency has been nurtured by the systems dominated by leftist philosophies of education, and that deficiency leads us, finally, to the answer to our question.

Too few people put enough thinking into principles -- their nature or, of utmost importance, their foundation. As a matter of fact, what many people call principles aren't really that, but are commodities -- items to be bought and sold. And it is one's principles -- or one's commodities -- that inform the decision as to whom one should give his/her allegiance.

Example: consider the admonition to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Or is it "do unto others as you suspect they would do unto you"? Or "do unto others before they do unto you"? Or "do unto others as they've already done unto you and not one minute before they do"?

Like all other axioms, the Golden Rule has its origin in a way of thinking, a school of thought -- a philosophy, in this case, biblical. One forms his/her principles from a philosophy, usually one or several taught at school and/or at home. Now I can't speak for what is taught in all homes, only my own. However, I can authoritatively say that few bases for forming principles -- as opposed to commodities -- were taught at the public schools I attended in South Central Los Angeles. Barely were the particulars of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights covered. Of course we had heard the phrase "unalienable rights," but what did that mean, really? And the men who formed these words, these ideas, and built a nation on top of them, where did they get these ideas about rights and government from? Did they just pop up, unbidden? Or were the men simply building on the philosophies of someone(s) else?

Who knew the answers to these questions? Not I; not then. Where I went to school, one was taught what to think, but not how and definitely not why. One was not taught how to build a foundation for one's principles or that a foundation needed to be built.

Into that vacuum jump many notions, but the one specific to the subject at hand is the idea that the party which is giving you the most things -- the one that will "do something for you" -- is the party to which you should belong. And if "principles" have no foundation, those "principles" -- and their owners -- can be purchased. And though there are a few black so-called conservative Republicans out there, all too many of them -- like Watts -- still find themselves reverting to the "do something for us" idea, a liberal Democrat ideal. No wonder some believe that our political persuasion is grounded in advantage rather than principle.

The Democratic Party has counted on this absence -- of history taught/learned and of principles adhered to -- in all of its members, but most especially has it counted on this dearth in black Americans, a dearth which has allowed too many black Americans to stick themselves to the Democratic Party like glue, or chain themselves to the party like ...

The Democrats should take pride in a job well done.