Friday, August 25, 2006

Hip-Hop Republican?

On the surface, hip-hop culture and the Republican party might appear to many as dissonant forces, though, in the past year I've found myself embracing increasingly conservative values while also defending the virtues of my beloved hip-hop culture and aesthetic (see: my swagger). Hence, my understanding of the term "Hip-Hop Republican".

Michael Steele, Republican candidate for Senator in Maryland, also seems to embrace this dichotomy -- just ask Russell Simmons.

Check it:

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's credibility with a pivotal constituency -- African American voters -- got a boost yesterday when hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons got behind his U.S. Senate bid.

"It's extremely significant," said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist. "It says that Michael Steele is someone who is comfortable with youth voters and minority voters."

Yesterday's heavily promoted announcement was just the latest example of how one of the nation's highest-ranking black Republican office holders is trying to balance two aspects of his life -- his race and his political party. Standing beside Simmons, Steele happily embraced the label "hip-hop Republican."

Continue reading here

1 comment:

Brother Spotless said...

This is what I like: the Hip Hop culture (at least one of its leading representatives) taking a stand. There are some important passages in the article that deserve note:

Simmons said he first came to Maryland four years ago to campaign against Steele, but Steele won him over. "Every time we've had a discussion, it boils downs to the same two things: education and opportunity," Simmons said. "The lieutenant governor is clear on his mission."

Access to opportunity is the biggest obstacle that faces blacks in America. It’s not that we don’t have any access, but it’s far less than other groups. Access to adequate educational resources should be at the top of the collective black agenda. If Steele is serious about this, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise, than he’s a candidate who I could seriously get behind, no matter the political affiliation.

Mfume said yesterday that the significance of the Simmons and Hughes endorsements was "lost on me."

Mfume is showing his age, as well as his lack of a full understanding of Hip Hop’s potential political power. Most who consider themselves part of the culture don’t vote (for many reasons; some understandable, some not). If a candidate can galvanize that group, he/she stands to receive a healthy boost in the poll numbers. This is my interpretation, but Mfume’s lack of understanding leads me to believe that even if Steele is successful in galvanizing the Hip Hop culture’s vote, Mfume believes he can still win. That would be a misjudgment on Mfume’s part. And if he’s counting on young blacks to not vote, he is working in direct opposition to what he stood for at the NAACP.

But even if the two help Steele reach young black men, it's unclear how much that will improve his election chances, said David Bositis, who studies black voting trends at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. "Of all the groups in the black population, they are the least likely to vote," Bositis said.

We have to change this. Doing so is the only way we can have our needs met.

My beliefs most closely resemble the American liberal (Constitution is a living, breathing document, “social safety net” is useful and often times necessary, etc), but that doesn’t always fall within the realm of the Democratic Party.

Politics are politics, and as Tavis Smiley says, “Black folks are no longer the flavor of the month.” So, in order to have our needs met, we have to hold politicians accountable for their actions. Mfume doesn’t seem to fully understands our issues (as young black men), and is simply relying on the old political structure (blacks have voted for Democrats since Roosevelt’s “New Deal”) to get elected. We have to wake him and the rest of the country up; we have to be a force to be reckoned with. If that means voting for Republicans who are open to fixing what ails us, then so be it. Democrats have only paid lip-service to such actions, and they ought to be held accountable for this.

And again, we have yet another Hip Hop representative who is making news under positive circumstances. We should find ways to promote such actions, and place them on the front pages of newspapers and websites.