Monday, February 05, 2007

Blacks and the Republican Party

Over at First State Politics, my favorite Republican foil, Dave Burris, has generated considerable discussion with this post on Black Republican History and this follow-up. In this comment, Dave asks why it is that the Party of Lincoln draws such meager support from African-Americans:
The fact is, liberalgeek, that the GOP baked the cake over 100 years, and that the Dems came along, put on some of the icing, and got to eat the whole thing.
Yes, the start of the rise of the black middle class was the CRA of 64 (again, delivered by Republicans).
The fact is that the GOP shouldn’t get all the African-American vote, but it should get a whole lot more than 10%.
This seems to me an unfortunate choice of words. I would hardly call the struggles of the civil rights era a matter of putting some icing on the cake.
Instead of arguing the point of which party deserves the support of African-Americans, I chimed in with the question of why they vote as they do:
Some Republicans seem positively flummoxed that blacks don’t understand that their own best interests lie with the GOP. Don’t African-Americans know what’s good for them?
Instead of offering my thoughts, I have an idea: Why not ask them?
A good place to start might be to ask two prominent ex-Republicans: Margaret Rose Henry (who switched about ten years ago) and Christopher Bullock (who switched a few weeks ago).
Perhaps Dave's post should be titled "Former Black Republican History." But I digress. Dave replied:
I would venture to say that both of those conversions were electoral in nature, in that the areas those individuals live and either represent electorally (Henry) or would like to represent electorally (Bullock) are overwhelmingly Democratic. Both were pragmatic conversions. I imagine if the majority of citizens in those areas voted Republican, it would be a different scenario.
No, Tom, the people to ask are African-American voters of varying socioeconomic backgrounds.
My turn:
Dave, you say you “imagine if the majority of citizens in those areas voted Republican, it would be a different scenario.”
That begs the question of why they aren’t voting Republican.
You say “the people to ask are African-American voters of varying socioeconomic backgrounds.” They have been asked, over and over, in elections and in polls, and they overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Why is that? Do you have any thoughts?
One has to conclude that they do so out of some sense of self interest. Is their understanding of their political interest misplaced?
Dave's turn:
Well, Tom, I would agree that African-Americans vote Democrat and they do so out of a perceived self-interest. I just don’t know why. That’s my big question.
There is a perception that the government, under Democratic control, did something for African-Americans, and the loyalty comes from that.
I’d love to convene a panel of African-American Delawareans from varying socioeconomic and geographical backgrounds and ask them.
Perhaps Dave, who is now a Republican Party operative, should do just that. I'd be interested in what he finds.
I raised these questions, not simply to put Dave on the spot, but because he strikes me as someone who is capable at times of reflecting on the shortcomings of the GOP. I've seen conservative Republicans argue for years that blacks ought to support their agenda without much thought as to why it's not happening.
There is an interesting chapter in Seymour Martin Lipset's book, American Exceptionalism, that describes how black Americans' attitudes about government, individualism and social mobility differ considerably from those of most Americans. Why? That may be a topic for another day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When someone has taken a punch to the gut, and is bent over the pavement, gasping gasping for breath, all he wants is helping hand to lift him up...........

He doesn't need someone to tell him he is free to stand up any time he wants to.

This is the difference between Democrats and Republicans and the reason most human beings prefer the Democratic party. It is engaged in helping.

Now if it was a corporation that took the punch to the gut, and was gasping for it's last breath, I sure the roles would be reversed................

4:38 AM, February 06, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

Vividly put. Blacks in America are less likely to agree with Ronald Reagan's assertion that "government is the problem."

Blacks still remember that federal government intervention has helped to secure equal education, equal housing, equal job opportunities etc.

Of course BushCo has embraced government intervention in the strange belief that it's in the public interest to subsidize oil companies, for instance.

8:12 AM, February 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would just open people to the thought that black Americans have not done as well under government programs as they have under government regulations.

For instance, do working poor and middle class African-Americans like subsidizing the health care of wealthy seniors through Medicare?

3:48 PM, February 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Republicans came out and flat out said, "we will help minorities in inner cities by eliminating all taxes on any business that hires inner city minorities", and actively, along with the investment of its deep pocketed supporters, makes good jobs move into the impoverished cities, you just may have a case Dave. Welfare would become the "least" desirable option. But until that happens, their loyalties will remain with the Democrats due to the continuation of the momentum started by the Civil Rights movement. Dave's theory is viable, but until action takes place, it is just a theory, strutting and fretting it's hour across the stage .

5:39 AM, February 07, 2007  

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