Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Action Talks

When Mitt Ronmey went to speak to the NAACP, there was the predictable chorus of whining (and yes, it's properly labeled whining) from many rank and file Republicans that the African-American audience wouldn't be appropriately receptive to his message. It's conventional wisdom that Black voters go heavily Democratic, with between 80 and 90 percent of them casting votes for Democrats. The fact that President Obama is Black (or mixed-race, if you're disinclined to use Black primarily as a descriptor for appearance) has add an extra dimension of bitterness to the standard lament, with many White Republican voters wrapping themselves in the mantle of oppressed victims, put upon by a demographic that will only vote for one of their own.

This is rooted, it seems to me, in a fundamental misunderstanding of how the African-American electorate has gone about things for decades and decades now. Blacks could once be counted on to vote Republican - the Party of Lincoln. The reason for this strikes me as fairly clear, Lincoln put forth the Emancipation Proclamation, and his party reaped the electoral benefits of this for election cycle after election cycle. The Democrats lock on the Black vote came after Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party fought to get civil rights legislation through Congress and put an end to Jim Crow.

While these are only two data points, you can see the beginnings of a clear pattern, one that the Republican Party seems to be unwilling to acknowledge. While the GOP gives speeches that say to African-American voters: "Vote for us, and then we will do great things for you," the message from African-American voters has instead been: "Do great things for us, and then we will vote for you."

John McCain's and Mitt Romney's lack of success among the greater African-American electorate then, may perhaps be chalked up most recently to George W. Bush, who had been advised to write off the Black vote, rather than pursue it. Had he gone out on a limb and pushed through some policy to radically improve the lives of African-Americans, history suggests that his successors would have been rewarded in the polls. Until the national Republican Party understands and acts upon the idea that actions are what will earn them votes, they will continue to be confronted by the idea that talk is cheap. Although perhaps not as cheap as whine.

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