Why Courting the Black Vote Won’t Work, by La Shawn Barber

Justifiably confident going into the election cycle, Republicans have announced they hope to win 25 percent of the black vote. Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has great expectations. “If we get African-American votes, [the Democrats] are in deep trouble,” he told the Washington Post.

Not just any trouble. Deep trouble, he says.

Columnist Jonetta Rose Barras agrees, citing black voters’ growing dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party that resulted in Arnold Schwarzenegger winning 17 percent of their vote last year and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg garnering 22 percent in 2001.

The statistics portend good things for Republicans. According to the oft-cited Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies 2002 political survey, 63 percent of blacks self-identified as Democrats (down from 74 percent in 2000), 24 percent as independents (up from 20 percent) and 10 percent as Republicans (up from 4 percent).

Regardless of how blacks self-identify, however, Democrats consistently get 90 percent of the black vote. Why? Years of damage caused by liberal ideology and misinformation pumped into the black community for the past 25 years. Memo to Republicans: Popping up in black church services and doing sound bites on urban radio won’t cut it.

Blacks have been lied to about the history of the Republican Party and civil rights. Historically, blacks voted for Republicans because Democrats were blatantly anti-civil rights (and in some ways still are). For example, “radical” Republicans of the 1860s supported slavery’s end in America. Democrats opposed the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1964 (Senator Robert Byrd participated in a filibuster of the latter). Jim Crow was a creation of Democrats.

In the 1960s, Democrats blocked school doorways while Republicans pushed de-segregation legislation. In 2004, Democrats continue to block school doorways as Republicans push school choice, the only hope many black parents have to ensure that their kids get a decent education.

So why did large numbers of blacks switch from voting for Republicans to voting for Democrats? Some say it was President John F. Kennedy’s perceived sensitivity to the oppression of minorities that endeared him and his party to black Americans.

Aside from revisionist history, a more fundamental rift exists between blacks and Republicans. The concept of limited government, a core Republican principle, is anathema to most blacks – even wealthy, well-educated ones. Thanks to the handiwork of Southern Democrats, blacks continue to turn to the federal government for redress of the slightest racial grievance.

Conservatives have a healthy distrust of the federal government, and believe its powers should be limited to only those enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. To most blacks, however, limited government brings to mind “states rights,” which in turn evokes images of Southern whites and their resentment of federal intervention in local affairs during de-segregation.

The rights of the states are at the heart of a good constitutional republic, but blacks won’t easily forget it was the federal government that enforced civil rights after Reconstruction, created jobs under the New Deal and protected us from billy clubs, dogs and water hoses in the 1960s. Do you blame people for believing a bloated, central bureaucracy is still savior even in 2004?

Republicans should keep emphasizing that the federal government is not supposed to have this much control over the people. The U.S. Supreme Court most recently usurped the will of the people by finding a non-existent constitutional basis for continued race discrimination, although discrimination was legally abolished in 1964. In 1973, they usurped the will of the people by discovering a non-existent “right to privacy” to kill unborn babies. Favoring a strong, forceful central government was once a matter of survival for blacks generations ago, but no longer.

Given this elemental divide between blacks and Republicans, it won’t be easy for the GOP to court us. But the most important advantage Republicans have over Democrats is that Republicans can win elections without the black vote; Democrats can’t.

In the meantime, Republicans should continue to do what they do best: defend the country, support policies that foster economic growth and fight for the sanctity of the family, the unborn and the dignity of the individual.

Once enough of us are fed up with liberal lies, fear, resentment and mistrust (and being passed over for leadership positions), perhaps they’ll return to the party that set us free. And once they get a taste of real freedom, Democrats will be in trouble. Deep trouble.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.