I wanted to write about black conservatives for some time. The problem I had was that I wasn’t sure if there is a great movement of black people to the right-wing politics of the Republican Party, or if it’s a media driven phenomenon. I will try to explain this.
In 2004, Bush received 11% of the black vote in the 2004 election. Many attribute those gains to the Gay Marriage and abortion issues as the major factor. It is a well known fact that blacks are socially conservative, so it is understandable why the Right would try to reach black people using a social conservative agenda rather than a politically conservative agenda. But 11% does not a movement make.
My belief is that the media is the major force behind the rise of the black conservative movement. Armstrong Williams, Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele are the prominent figures in the black conservative movement, but they do not impact policy. Ward Connerly and Clarence Thomas are figures that directly impact the lives of black people but they do nothing to endear black people to the Republican Party.
So what is really going on with the black conservative movement? It is my opinion that the black conservative movement is mainly one of high-profile black people in the media and bloggers. The media has a way of manufacturing a crisis and they can certainly create a superstar out of anyone. And it is not beyond them to create a national movement when none exists. This I believe is the major thrust behind the black conservative movement. There is an outreach by Republicans to the black church but again, I think it is easy to rally black people on social conservative issues but getting those same black people to the polls to vote Republican is something totally different.
Outside the media, black conservatives have no platform to contribute to the discussion of the state of black America. At the 2004 RNC, black Republicans made up only 17% of the delegates. There are no black Republicans in Congress and at the local level there is not a single black Republican elected to office where a majority of the constituents are black. This is an observation made by Tom Delay.
“Until the Republican Party is able to have black candidates win, not only in black districts but in white districts, only then will we begin to regain some authority on the race issue.” – Tom Delay(Source: Armstrong Williams)
Colin Powell and J.C. Watts were the best spokesmen the GOP had. But I believe Powell lost interested in pursing politics after being marginalized by the Bush administration and the GOP stymied Watts when he sought the leadership position in the House. Neither action is ringing endorsements on inclusions on the GOP’s part.
The Black Conservative’s Problem:
Let me make this clear, I am not against any black person being a part of the Republican Party… I just don’t get the appeal. The conservative motto of “rejecting the victimized mindset and welfare state of the left” is tired and it doesn’t impact legislation at all. And as strong as the media is, legislation is where the power is at with any movement. Woman’s Suffrage impacted legislation. The Civil Rights Movement resulted in legislation. Black conservatives may have a platform to espouse their views but they have no power to impact legislation on a national level.
A problem that black conservatives have (and I do have to distinguish between black conservatives and black Republicans) is that many of them sound like the angry white men that dominate the talk radio. If Alan Keyes, Ward Connerly, Larry Elder and Clarence Thomas are what they have to offer, I don’t think many black people will listen. This is a problem because the Republican Party could actually make headway with younger African Americans.
The politically active people in my generation and the generation behind me are not married to the Democrats. I believe a good number of black people consider themselves Independents. Therefore, there is an opening for the GOP. But they will have to approach with ideas for change and not with the disparaging comments that often are attached to the rhetoric of many black conservatives. And they will also have to overcome the legitimate argument of the Republican party endorsing ideas that man black Americans support. There is also the history of the Republican Party that they must reconcile with blacks.
Many black conservatives jump to the fact that it was the Republican Party that freed the slaves. And they also bring up the fact that it was southern Democrats that fought Civil Rights. Both points are true. But Berry Goldwater changed the dynamics of the Republican Party to one that was outwardly hostile to black people. The actions of Presidents Nixon and Reagan didn’t help. It is the recent history that they must contend with and many are not will to do so.
If black conservatives want to make their case then they will have to get off the airwaves, blogs and editorial pages of newspapers and start winning some elections. Not just win elections in state legislator seats, but win some nations Congressional seats as well. Campaign in predominantly black communities and challenge the ideas of the Democrats. Currently, elected black conservatives must rely on white people of like-minds to win local elections. However, if the are to make progress with the rest of black America, they will have to campaign on Chicago's west side, in west Philadelphia and in Harlem. And they would be well advised to leave the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and anyone on the Fox network in the beltway where people find that song and dance entertaining