Sunday, October 26, 2014

Party Off

Crystal Wright, a Black Republican woman, took Stacey Dash, another Black Republican woman, to task over comments that Wright says were: "[...] insulting and give blacks another reason to tune out the GOP and not take our party seriously." Wright comments that Dash described black people in Louisiana as "government freeloaders who don't work." She goes on to quote Dash:

"They're getting money for free. They feel worthless. They're uneducated. I mean, as long as you are that way, they can keep you under their control ..."

"They have a plantation mentality," Dash said. "As long as they give you this much money, you'll stay right there. You don't need to know too much because if you do, you might start thinking for yourself."
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For Wright, this is the wrong approach. "Whether you're white or black," Wright says, "it's never cool to invoke metaphors of slavery, which was a gruesome, painful institution protected by Democrats in America that went on way too long. Conservatives should remind Americans of the history of slavery and how the Democratic Party perpetuates policies of paternalism that don't benefit blacks."

Interestingly, in a way, Wright is doubling down on Dash's statements. Both Wright and Dash are accusing national Democrats of being controlling and paternalistic. And in doing so, both are invoking the United States of a century and a half or so ago. In the end, Wright claims that Dash's comments are insulting and damaging to the Republicans, because Dash feels that the Democrat's alleged tactics are working. For her part, Wright is claiming... well, I'm not sure. According to Wright, fellow Black Republican Deroy Murdock gave a "much more reasoned commentary" on why African-Americans should look to the Republican party when he said: "Black folks show up and vote 95% for Obama, 95% for Landrieu and ...what do you get? Eighteen years of poverty under Mary Landrieu in Louisiana." Wright goes on to point out that "Murdock said that under Obama's presidency, black poverty and dependence on food stamps has increased and home ownership has declined." Wright describes many people in the African-American electorate as having a "blind allegiance to Democrats." She points out that this loyalty has not paid off. Likewise, the comments made by Stacey Dash were made in the context of a discussion of "how blacks in Louisiana have voted for Landrieu since electing her in 1997 but have not benefited from it."

I understand Wright's irritation at Dash's characterization of Louisiana's African-America voters as freeloaders who don't think for themselves, and are thus controlled by cynical White Democrats, and the equally cynical mixed-race President. But I don't know that it's any less insulting to chalk things up to a misplaced blind loyalty. Dash portrays the voters she criticizes as sellouts, purchasing government benefits through avoiding critical thought and voting for people who have no respect for them. In Wright's formulation, they're simply beggars, voting for people who have no respect for them, and receiving nothing in return. For Stacy Dash, Black voters have made a cynical and unwise bargain, trading away their self-reliance for the tenuous security of government benefits doled out by disdainful masters. But this is better than the scenario Crystal Wright envisions, in which those same voters have instead purchased dependence and poverty - their bargain was just as unwise, without being smart enough to be nakedly self-serving.

In her CNN op-ed, Wright portrays the Democrats as effectively the same party that they were in the 1860s, when they warred with the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. However she avoids the time, in the 1960s, when the Democrats went to bat for national Civil Rights legislation, and the Republican Party moved in to the pick up the votes of White southerners who felt threatened by the retreat of "state's rights," racial segregation and White supremacy and nationalism. But that was a while back, and so the question posed by one of Wright's fellow Black Republicans, Louisiana State Senator Elbert Guillory, "What have the Democrats done for us lately?" is a valid one, I suspect the answer would be: "Just as much as the Republicans have done" - except for the fact that the Republican push for voter identification laws is commonly seen as a push to disenfranchise traditionally Democratic constituencies - like Blacks.

The problem that Republicans have with African-American voters is not one of slavish (and I use that term with all due consideration) loyalty to the Democratic party or that random Black Republicans make stupid comments now and again. It's that, despite contrition for and denunciation of it, Republicans still seem to be wedded to the Southern Strategy, which requires that Blacks and Hispanics (and now, possibly Middle Easterners) be publicly treated as the enemy in exchange for the votes of the "state's rights," racial segregation and White supremacy and nationalism constituency that the Democrats have been abandoning for the past 50 years. This leads them to plead for Black votes now, in exchange for policies friendly to Black people later. And, frankly, I suspect that people don't believe them. The Democrats may not have brought home the bacon for 50 years, but when they did, they went all out. As long as the Republicans can't convince themselves to make the same leap, they can argue amongst themselves all they want.

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