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GOP, Black Voters, & The Broken Record

Caught Mike Huckabee on Fox a short time ago lamenting the terrible job (in his view) that the Republican Party has done “reaching out” to black voters. GOP elites have been saying this forever. The idea seems to be that if Republicans did better at “outreach” to black folks, they would vote Republican in greater numbers. What could possibly falsify this theory? Isn’t it possible that the GOP has done a respectable job of reaching out to black voters, but black voters — rightly or wrongly — simply don’t want to vote Republican? I mean, that they’ve thought about it, and said, “No thanks, we’ll stick with the Democrats”?

I just wish the Republican elites would quit flogging themselves over this. By this point, the “we’re doing bad at outreach” line is meaningless. Republicans are never going to win a meaningful number of black voters, and the idea that the Republicans have something to be ashamed of for not winning more of that demographic in a year when America’s first black president is up for re-election is crackpot. Move on.

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30 Comments To "GOP, Black Voters, & The Broken Record"

#1 Comment By Jay On November 6, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

Isn’t it possible that the GOP has done a respectable job of reaching out to black voters, but black voters — rightly or wrongly — simply don’t want to vote Republican? I mean, that they’ve thought about it, and said, “No thanks, we’ll stick with the Democrats”?

Not really. I mean, black voters have thought about it and are sticking with the Democrats but that doesn’t mean that the Republicans have seriously tried to gain their vote. For example:

1. The Republicans have pretty much ignored what blacks have to say about issues that are most important to them (for example, disparate treatment in the judicial system) and instead lecture to them on why they really, really, really, should want to vote Republican based on things that aren’t as much of a concern to them.

2. The Republicans work diligently to make it difficult for blacks to vote. You can write this off as “hardball politics” if you want, but it is fundamentally corrupt and indecent. Republicans might get blacks to listen to why they should vote for Republicans if they weren’t working so hard to deny them the vote in the first place. I would add that this appears especially distasteful, not only to blacks but to all decent people, when placed in the historical context of the black franchise.

3. The racist element just can’t be ignored. I’m not saying that all Republicans are racist or even that most Republicans are racist or even that all that many Republicans are overtly racist. Nor are all racists Republican. But the Republican party colludes with racists in an inexcusably overt way. (For example, coddling the birfers, all the monkey pictures of Obama circulated by elected Republicans, elected Republicans speaking in front of white supremacist groups [i.e. Barbour in front of the CCC] or distributing white supremacist tracts [i.e. Ron Paul].) At some point Republicans need to decide who they want in their coalition, the racists or the blacks, as the Democrats decided in the 50s and 60s.

#2 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 6, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

1. The Republicans have pretty much ignored what blacks have to say about issues that are most important to them (for example, disparate treatment in the judicial system) and instead lecture to them on why they really, really, really, should want to vote Republican based on things that aren’t as much of a concern to them.

See, this is what I meant in my original point: the things most black voters believe in aren’t things Republicans believe in, but are things Democrats believe in. You are asking Republicans to cease being Republicans for the sake of winning the black vote. What’s the point of that? Why is this not simply an honest and reasonable difference of opinion?

Are you worried that the Democrats are pretty much ignoring what conservative Evangelical Christians, who bloc-vote Republican, have to say about issues that are most important to them? Me neither.

#3 Comment By Jay On November 6, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

the things most black voters believe in aren’t things Republicans believe in, but are things Democrats believe in

Are you honestly saying that (to take my example) Republicans believe that people should face unequal treatment before the law based on their race, social class, or economic status? I honestly believed that every decent person is against this, but that the Republicans just didn’t prioritize the issue. If this were the case, Republicans could get more blacks to listen to them just by making this more of a priority. On the other hand, if what you are implying is true, why would any reasonable person vote Republican at all, since to believe that some people are entitled to justice and some aren’t is fundamentally corrupt and indecent.

#4 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 6, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

Are you honestly saying that (to take my example) Republicans believe that people should face unequal treatment before the law based on their race, social class, or economic status? I honestly believed that every decent person is against this, but that the Republicans just didn’t prioritize the issue.

No, of course I’m not saying that. I’m saying that Republicans don’t prioritize the issue, vis-a-vis law and order issues. I am completely certain that if Republicans did prioritize the issue, they wouldn’t get a single black vote more than they already do.

#5 Comment By Scott On November 6, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

Well, the Dems don’t need conservative evangelicals to win national elections. It’s looking more and more like the GOP is going to need a significant slice of non-whites that aren’t Cuban expats. Where are they going to get that from?

You definitely have a point that no matter what the GOP did, black voters were almost certainly going to go for Obama anyway. But this is Obama’s last election. And I find it hard to believe that advocating for free and fair elections, or for a justice system that treats all citizens equally, would somehow make a Republican into a Democrat. Those should be non-partisan issues, no?

#6 Comment By Jay On November 6, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

I am completely certain that if Republicans did prioritize the issue, they wouldn’t get a single black vote more than they already do.

I would disagree. Maybe not that many votes, but some, especially if they seriously took up this issue (rather than paying it lip service) and others (for example, easy access to voting) that reasonable people really agree on across party lines (or should). But this is academic, because they haven’t. And this is what I mean by “not seriously reaching out to black voters.” I mean, what Republican values would be compromised if they took up the issues of equal justice before the law and ease of access to the vote? But they don’t. Why, exactly?

#7 Comment By Samuel Goldman On November 6, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

Republicans are wasting their time going after black votes. But they do need to make serious efforts to appeal to Asians and Hispanics if they want to remain a national party.

#8 Comment By Peter H On November 6, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

The outreach that could have made a difference was to Hispanic voters, but the GOP has been antagonizing them.

#9 Comment By Roger H. On November 6, 2012 @ 9:45 pm

I have a black Republican friend who goes on about this, as a syndicated columnist no less. If you ever want to get into the topic with someone who has really tried to do a lot of black outreach for the GOP, look up Raynard Jackson.

#10 Comment By pj On November 6, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

Not that I think that the GOP could do much with black voters in a year running against the first black president, but I think this criticism could be expanded into many demographic groups and is a systemic problem with the GOP establishment. The GOP sucks at outreach with Hispanics too. Granted that might be difficult in a year where Romney went hard right on immigration. Oh and they suck at outreach with Asians as well. I used to see that when I lived in California. Most of all, they suck at outreach to young voters. I hang out at a university. The college crowd that elected Obama in the first place has been ticked over their job prospects and double digit unemployment rates among new graduates. They could’ve been talked too by a candidate with an actual economic plan, but that means something more than just “Trust me I’m a businessman”. If the party cedes large demographic groups to the other side then the other side will run up ever larger numbers in each election.

#11 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 6, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

I’d suggest that if you want to attract African-American voters, then the Republican Party needs to drop its opposition to affirmative action and the welfare state, thoroughly disavow the Southern legacy of Jim Crow and racism, and embrace government efforts to expand working class employment. Working on improving inner city education would help too.

#12 Comment By Don Quijote On November 7, 2012 @ 12:01 am

Well you don’t seem to be able to get over 30% of the Asian or Jewish votes which are according to the Republican party model minorities: highly educated and entrepreneurial, so maybe the problem isn’t African-Americans but the Republican party.

#13 Comment By Scott S. On November 7, 2012 @ 12:05 am

It’s also a little silly to say that “Republicans are never going to win a significant number of black voters” when blacks voted overwhelmingly for the Party of Lincoln prior to the civil rights movement and the GOP’s political calculation to court the segregationist vote. Coalitions do change.

#14 Comment By M_Young On November 7, 2012 @ 12:25 am

“for example, disparate treatment in the judicial system)”

Crime victimization surveys (not reliant on the ‘judicial system’) and actual arrest and conviction records both tell the same story, in nearly the same numbers. There is no meaningful ‘disparate treatment’.

“But the Republican party colludes with racists in an inexcusably overt way. ”

Oh please. The Republicans have never offered any meaningful pro-white policies for the last 20 years. Meanwhile, the Democratic President was a member of a racialist church for 20 years.

“the Republican Party needs to drop its opposition to affirmative action and the welfare state,”

In other words, it needs to endorse discrimination against whites and the transfer of income from whites to non-whites. As it is, I don’t recall Romney or Ryan mentioning anything about affirmative action, going after that hideous judge in New York who demands continual rewrites of tests because blacks can’t pass them, etc.

Fact is the Republicans won’t make inroads into the black community because the black community is overwhelmingly dependent on government — either direct transfer or through government employment. Likewise, ‘Hispanics’ are hugely reliant on government. Both groups benefit from transfer of resources from whites to their own co-ethnics. Why would they vote for a party that offers the least little resistance to that.

It will be interesting to see the numbers on the white vote — like, will Romney get(nationwide) anywhere near the 64% of the California white vote Pete Wilson did 18 years ago (note, after the state had gone ‘blue’ for Feinstein, Boxer, and Clinton). He did it by emphasizing an issue important to whites, enforcement of our immigration law.

#15 Comment By Darth Thulhu On November 7, 2012 @ 4:42 am

M_Young and Rod Dreher, I believe you are both being willfully blind concerning the active hatred the Republican Party and its echo-chamber propaganda corps have pursued for several decades with regard to black Americans. If you are remotely serious about investigating the rationales of your black neighbors, you will find a diverse variety of reasons why even socially conservative, fiscally conservative black Americans refuse to give the Republican Party the time of day. Those reasons boil down to active and passive malice on the part of the Republican Party and its propaganda corps against these Americans’ equal access to impartial justice, unrestricted voting rights, and basic human dignity.

First: Limbaugh and Breitbart’s and Fox News’s and Drudge’s endless, shameless race-baiting, which no Republican official (and especially no black official) dares speak against, lest they be pilloried and then primaried. The New Black Panther Party is an actual intimidating threat to anyone no more than the Westboro Baptists are, and are precisely as representative of the average black opinion as the Westboro Baptists are of Christian opinion, and yet somehow stories and chain letters and breathless radio segments about the NBPP endlessly make the rounds as if they are somehow definitive guides to black opinion. Jeremiah Wright is endlessly quoted in context-free fragments, but his actual position on the spectrum of black clerical theology is never once realistically investigated.

We have words for that kind of offhanded pre-judging of an entire population of tens of millions of people as if they are a hiveminded monolith synonymous with the worst among their millions. Those words are prejudice, ignorance, and bigotry, and one doesn’t have to propose a single piece of malign legislation to be guilty of them.

Colluding with racists and race-baiters does not require proposing new poll taxes and red-linings; it only requires tolerantly nodding along in silence and acceptance when influential bigots grab megaphones and hurl insults. Ron Paul can’t bring himself to repudiate the writings of Lew Rockwell to this day; no Republican chastises Limbaugh’s constant forays into minstrelsy; no Republican has any problem repeatedly speaking of 35 to 40 million black Americans as if they had any identity beyond Romney’s infamous 47% remarks.

Republicans have no problem with blacks receiving grossly disproportionate “random” searches and stop-and-frisks. Republicans have no problem with blacks receiving sentences for non-violent crime significantly out of proportion to the equivalent sentences given to other races for identical crimes. Republicans have no problem waving away active redlining and Jim Crow voter suppression from 40 years ago as “ancient history”. Republicans have no problem with imagining that blacks are a parasitic monolith with no desire to work (Republicans cheer uproariously when Newt Gingrinch calls the country’s first black President inheriting a massive near-Depression a “Food Stamp President”). Republicans angrily pounce on programs trying to repay black farmers for massive and systematic federal discrimination that occurred in the USDA during the 1990s while having nothing to say about the fact that there was massive and systematic federal discrimination by the USDA against black farmers during the flipping *1990s*.

Those are simply facts. Repugnant, ugly facts that the Republican Party tries to pretend do not even exist. Black people are not stupid, and they can observe these facts for themselves. Given these facts, why should they vote Republican? Ever?

#16 Comment By Rebecca Trotter On November 7, 2012 @ 8:19 am

My husband is black and a staunch Republican who unregistered his party affiliation last year in disgust. He’d finally had enough of the racism. He was being recruited to get involved in a couple of Republican movements – one local, one national (Republicans for progress, I think it was called). After encountering racists spouting off on their website, he told the people recruiting him to get involved that the leadership needed to declare racism surfeit to the cause and remove blatantly racist stuff from their sites. They hemmed and hawed and talked about not alienating people. Not all X are Y, but all Y are X. (Not all Republicans are racist, but all racists are Republicans.) When the party has shown as much tolerance for racism as the Republicans have, they clearly aren’t making any real effort to reach out to minorities.

#17 Comment By Sharon Astyk On November 7, 2012 @ 9:26 am

The larger question is this – as the county becomes increasingly multi-racial, can any party that doesn’t appeal to Latino, Black, Jewish or Asian voters with any consistency actually win? I see your larger point, Rod, particularly in this election, but the other question is whether a largely white, often failing republican-ness is worth preserving as a principle, or not.

I ask it as a fully legitimate question, because it applies to the American left as well – is it worth preserving a left that never wins or accepting a moderate liberalism that I view with general distaste and that abandons many important historic values ;-).

#18 Comment By Alex Ignatiev On November 7, 2012 @ 9:40 am

So long as the leadership of the Republican party continues to recruit white patricians to run for office, they are going to be disappointed with minority voter turnout. Identity politics are powerful and obscene, but with this morning’s ludicrous display at Ole Miss, where fully one-third of Mississippi’s politicians are birthed, I think the GOP has a long way to go. In Mississippi, where most black citizens are far more conservative than the national norm, there are exactly zero Republicans in statewide office or in national office that are not white.

If you want a good example of the national demographic problem of the GOP, look at Mississippi. In a state that leads the nation in poverty, church going, charity, and African Americans in elected office, look at how many black conservatives in office are Republicans.

#19 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 7, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

The Republican Party had a chance to win back black voters circa 1956, when Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock, and the Dixiecrats were the primary opposition to civil rights. Instead, they chose to invite the Dixiecrats to switch parties. The Republicans made their bed, and they have had to lie in it ever since.

That’s not forever. I understand a conservative black woman named Mia Love has been elected to congress from Utah. The more Americans of African descent move out of the “ghetto” culture, the more diverse their interests and experiences will be. Republicans won’t get much support by “appeals to the black voter,” but by finding ways to express positions that appeal to some black voters in ways that resonate with those voters.

#20 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 7, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

Re: In Mississippi, where most black citizens are far more conservative than the national norm, there are exactly zero Republicans in statewide office or in national office that are not white.

Yup. I know quite a few African-Americans who are quite socially conservative, but they’re more reliable Democratic voters than Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valentie. Whether socially conservative , liberal, or whatever, African Americans vote Democratic almost uniformly.

Re: In other words, it needs to endorse discrimination against whites and the transfer of income from whites to non-whites.

Most beneficiaries of the welfare state are white, actually. But the fact that you put it that way just underscores why Black people, and their sympathizers, don’t vote for your party.

#21 Comment By William Dalton On November 7, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

Republicans lost the black vote again to a Democratic candidate for President. That fact didn’t determine this election. The fact that black voters again turned out in record numbers to elect a black President may have. It made the difference in southern states like Virginia and Florida. It may have made the difference in competitive states with large urban populations, like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. But this means the onus is not upon Republicans to come up with a new design for a winning strategy in 2016. It falls upon the Democrats, who must answer the question, how can be repeat our winning strategy of amassing a sufficient number of black votes to push past the Republican majority among white voters while alienating a growing number of those white voters? Can it be done without a black candidate at the top of the ticket? Or will Democrats simply revert to the pattern they witnessed in 2000 and 2004, where the black vote was as monolithic as it was for Democrats then as it is now, but not nearly as enthused to turn out in similar numbers. Will blacks, many of whom are social conservatives, continue even to vote in proportion for a white Democratic liberal, as they did for “one of their own”, such that Democrats could even get Colin Powell’s endorsement, something neither Bill nor Hilary Clinton could do in their presidential campaigns?

Trying to win the black vote against a black opponent would have been as senseless a pursuit as an attempt by Barack Obama to win Mormon votes when running against Mitt Romney. If Republicans continue to be champions of the issues that appeal to people regardless of their skin color or ethnic background, they will get their share of black votes as they have in their winning campaigns of the past, all other things being equal.

#22 Comment By William Dalton On November 7, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

Republicans lost the black vote again to a Democratic candidate for President. That fact didn’t determine this election. The fact that black voters again turned out in record numbers to elect a black President may have. It made the difference in southern states like Virginia and Florida. It may have made the difference in competitive states with large urban populations, like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. But this means the onus is not upon Republicans to come up with a new design for a winning strategy in 2016. It falls upon the Democrats, who must answer the question, how can we repeat our winning strategy of amassing a sufficient number of black votes to push past the Republican majority among white voters while alienating a growing number of those white voters? Can it be done without a black candidate at the top of the ticket? Or will Democrats simply revert to the pattern they witnessed in 2000 and 2004, where the black vote was as monolithic as it was for Democrats then as it is now, but not nearly as enthused to turn out in similar numbers. Will blacks, many of whom are social conservatives, continue even to vote in proportion for a white Democratic liberal, as they did for “one of their own”, such that Democrats could even get Colin Powell’s endorsement, something neither Bill nor Hilary Clinton could do in their presidential campaigns?

Trying to win the black vote against a black opponent would have been as senseless a pursuit as an attempt by Barack Obama to win Mormon votes when running against Mitt Romney. If Republicans continue to be champions of the issues that appeal to people regardless of their skin color or ethnic background, they will get their share of black votes as they have in their winning campaigns of the past, all other things being equal.

#23 Comment By William Dalton On November 7, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

Siarlys, the Republican coalition with Dixiecrats may have cemented the relationship begun under FDR of blacks as a bloc turning to Democratic voters, but it also resulted in Republicans winning five of the next six, and seven of the next ten, Presidential elections. It was the only thing that made Republicans competitive, even triumphant, in most Southern states. This may not be the strategy to build the Republican future (personally I think that strategy should be libertarian and non-interventionist) but I can’t imagine a strategy that would have served them better. If Republicans would even revert more often to the Dixiecrat mantra of “states rights” on issues ranging from abortion and gay marriage to marijuana and raw milk, they might even start coalescing their old conservative majority with their new libertarian one.

#24 Comment By matt On November 7, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

Dreher: “…conservative Evangelical Christians, who bloc-vote Republican…”

The word “conservative” isn’t doing anything here, since conservatives of every kind vote for the conservative party. *White* Evangelical Christians do bloc-vote Republican, but Black Evangelicals don’t. Now why is that?

#25 Comment By M_Young On November 8, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

“Most beneficiaries of the welfare state are white, actually. But the fact that you put it that way just underscores why Black people, and their sympathizers, don’t vote for your party.”

Not the ‘welfare state’ as traditionally conceived. SNAP EBT Section 8 etc all have a plurality of non-white recipients. Blacks participate at about 3 times their rate of the general population, Hispanics 1.5 times.

“The Republican Party had a chance to win back black voters circa 1956, when Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock, and the Dixiecrats were the primary opposition to civil rights. Instead, they chose to invite the Dixiecrats to switch parties. The Republicans made their bed, and they have had to lie in it ever since.”

I have a long answer to this particular distortion of history in an latter post of Rods. Let’s just say that Fulbright, Ervin, Hollings etc finished out their days as Democrats, Fulbright went on to mentor the Clintons, and racial liberals like John Conally switched to the Republicans. Reality is a good deal more complex than ‘the Narrative’.

#26 Comment By Amanda On November 8, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

“Hector_St_Clare says:

I’d suggest that if you want to attract African-American voters, then the Republican Party needs to drop its opposition to affirmative action and the welfare state, thoroughly disavow the Southern legacy of Jim Crow and racism, and embrace government efforts to expand working class employment. Working on improving inner city education would help too.”

But that isn’t the legacy of the Republican party, but the Democrats. It’s ironic to see Republicans with the confederate flag as repubs would have been the yankees. LOL

Republicans were the party for civil rights, conservation etc.. The democrats including JFK voted against civil rights in the 50’s. The democras are the ones with the legacy of Jim Crowe. The republican party seriously needs to go back to it’s roots.

“Most beneficiaries of the welfare state are white, actually. But the fact that you put it that way just underscores why Black people, and their sympathizers, don’t vote for your party.”

Hector, Thank you! Repubs need to get a clue. You guys have become the democrats of the old south. You are no longer the party of Lincoln, Teddy Toosevelt, Eisenhower, Rockefeller.

Republican need to learn the history of the Republicn party. I was a party for civil Rights. LOL [1]

#27 Comment By cka2nd On November 8, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

As near as I can tell, the GOP has lost even the support of much of the 10% of the black community that stuck with it after the New Deal all the way through the Reagan and Bush I years. These were the folks who were not dependent on government, in large part the pre-affirmative action black bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie. I have a feeling they and their children are reacting to the modern GOP’s accomodation to racism, even though they are not directly effected by it, in much the way that the college kids of the Egyptian bourgeoisie reacted towards Israel during the second intifada and the invasion of Gaza, even though they were not being shot and bombed and starved.

No one here is saying that the GOP has any shot at winning a majority of black or latino voters, but some of you seem quite content with losing the support of the blacks and latinos you used to have only 8 or 20 years ago and blaming them – the “good ones” as John Wayne might have called them – for deserting the GOP and the conservative movement.

#28 Comment By cka2nd On November 8, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

M_Young says: “I have a long answer to this particular distortion of history in an latter post of Rods. Let’s just say that Fulbright, Ervin, Hollings etc finished out their days as Democrats, Fulbright went on to mentor the Clintons, and racial liberals like John Conally switched to the Republicans. Reality is a good deal more complex than ‘the Narrative’.”

While segregationists like Jesse Helms and Jerry Falwell joined Conally in the GOP and racial liberals like Terry Sandford helped re-make the Democratic Party. There was traffic both ways, but the fact is that the vast majority of the pro-segregation, white rank-and-file of the old Democratic Party became supporters of the Republican Party.

#29 Comment By JonF On November 8, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

Black folk are probably the bridge too far. However Hispanic folk, Asians (both Eastern and Middle Eastern), Jewish folk, and gays are more gettable as new blood.

#30 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 8, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

Dalton, I have no argument that the GOP made hay with their “southern strategy.” I only mention the subject when Republicans moan about why they don’t have more black support and how they need to work on that. They made their bed, and if its not as comfy as it used to be, they still have to lie in it.

However, I do have an advantage in that I’ve been reading 1940s and 1950s black news weeklies, so I have a picture of how much Republican loyalty still existed up to about 1964. Neither the lingering black leadership basing its power on recapping the civil rights movement, nor fanciful historical revisionists such as Mr. Young want to hear about that, but it existed.