Thursday, April 13, 2006

Brown Party Lines

When I opened up this past weekend’s edition of my Wall St. Journal I took especial note of the front-page mention of Michael Steele, a black republican candidate for Senator in Maryland. I then turned to the editorial section on the last few pages of the first section and read through his Q&A with the journal. What I read struck me as more of a progressive agenda than anything that was democratic or republican in nature, and that’s exactly what the republican party would love for me to think.

As the democratic party continues to work through its definition of a legitimate agenda to convince black voters that their historic allegiance is more than taken for granted, the republican party is working as hard as a Spanish test for black votes (think about that).

Sadly, it appears that the democrats are composing a Source Magazine-like smear campaign to thwart, what appear to be, Steele’s genuine efforts.

I say all this to suggest that it’s time for black people to re-think party lines. Contemporary democrats stand for collectively less today than they did when our parents generation was blatantly discriminated against and a collective agenda isn’t being driven quickly enough to solidify my allegiance to any single party. We're free agents and trading season is coming up.


RAK said...

I wonder how, considering how much Republicans have screwed up in general, not apologized for the Southern strategy, continue to frequent and support institutions such as Bob Jones and the Heritage Foundation, as well as include in their "big tent" people like Trent Lott, the idea that blacks should even consider voting Republican.

Voting and believing conservative views is one thing. Be a conservative (from the extremely kind WSJ page, Steele sounds like a moderate if not liberal socially. From an NY Times article on him, it sounded like he was also a moderate democrat who just wants to be a republican. but that's an aside), fine. But the evils of the Republican party and its leadership seem to make it exempt from serious consideration for anyone interested in addressing racism. Coalitions with republicans on ideas such as vouchers (I hate them, but they are popular amongst both republicans and african-americans), fine. But really, can you tell me having Lott, DeLay, and Bush as the head of your party is a better party than one with Kerry, Clinton, and Feingold (and, I'll admit, ex segregationist Byrd, who has repeatedly denounced his previous views and is a relatively reliable vote in support of black political views, especially in comparison to republicans)?

With those realities in place, identifying as a black republican seems very difficult and either short-sighted, purposefully self-blinding, or naively optimistic.

The question I have is this: what are the issues that democrats are radically missing on that republicans are doing a better job with for blacks?

Brother Spotless said...

Rak, the answer to your question is simple: Christian initiatives.

To be honest, I don't think Republicans have taken the black vote, but they have made it tough on Dems. After working on Capitol Hill for 6 months, I found that black White House staffers (those that come with the building, as oppose to those who come with the President) feel that Republican Administrations pay more attention to them. That probably has to do with history: historically, Republicans have not been friendly to blacks, so Republicans now feel they have to pay extra attention to their blalck staffers. Dems have taken us for granted, and have basically counted the "black vote" as their own.

RAK said...

Brother Spotless,

Thank you for the answer. To me, though as a non-Christian (and a white guy) I am likely naive, the words "christian initiatives" is a slogan more than a meaningful policy.

But, of course, politics is framing and slogans, not policy most of the time.

Your story of Capital Hill reminds me of the Colbert Report's (on in the background as I type) repeated showing of a picture of Stephen Colbert pointing and smiling with a black intern on his arm, because Stephen likes black people. It's hilarious, because he finds every possible reason to show it, even as his character believes racism is in the past and affirmative action is bad. But, he's friends with black people! what a great show...

Republicans clearly haven't taken the black vote, and as a liberal I think the ideal future is one in which Democrats do not (either seem or actually) take the black vote for granted. I just hope that the slogans and such do not replace (as they do so very, very, VERY often with many voters. See: "compassionate conservative" or, the idea that Dean is a liberal, or the idea that...well, you get the idea) actual policies.

Actually, I'd argue that the black voter "bloc" consistent record of voting Democrat shows a substance over style rationale for voting not seen in the majority of other voting blocs. But I openly admit my bias.

Brother Spotless said...

Rak, I apologize for not making my point more clear; here's another go at it:

I now work in New Jersey. I have found that in order for a politician to gain black votes in this state (and I assume the nation at large), he/she/(it) has to go to CHUCH (church). You see, the majority of blacks in this country are Baptist Christians, and I have many memories of elder family members calling for a "moral" leader in the White House. George Bush, being a born again Christian, has been relatively successful in receiving black votes because of this (I say relatively because it's not as if he has gained a majority of black support. Since Katrina, he has lost most of that support, sans Clarence Thomas. On a similar note, Colin Powell deserves a "Where Are They Now" episode ..but I digress).

I agree that a lot of the "black conservatives" discussed are actually moderates. It puzzles me that they choose to be Republicans.

Ideally, I would like to live during a time where blacks can rightfully vote for whichever political party he/she/(it) chooses. Alas, I live in present day America, which makes an African American Republican look like a complete fool.