Reaping and Sowing, the Political Consequences of Lessons Unlearned
In order to discern how and why it lost the 2012 Presidential election and to chart a new course forward, the GOP launched its “Growth and Opportunity Project”. The project report concluded amongst other things, that “young voters increasingly roll their eyes at what the party represents and that it is losing elections because of the widespread perception that the GOP doesn’t care about people.” The report recommended specific policy recommendations including immigration reform, outreach to African-Americans, Latinos and women voters and championing the middle class. See Mara Liasson, “RNC Report A Postmortem on Failed 2012 Election,” http://www.npr.org/2013/03/18/174665725/mc-report-a-postmortem-on-failed-2102-election.
The honesty of the report and the courage and foresight of the GOP in commissioning it is commendable. Sadly, the report and recommendations therein have been largely ignored.
Consider for example the recent pronouncements of Rafael Cruz, the father of Texas Senator, Ted Cruz. During an August 21, 2014, speech before the Western Williamson Republican Club, the elder Cruz opined that “the blacks don’t know that the minimum wage is bad and that we need to be educated about the GOP’s role in the Civil Rights movement. See Michael Richinick, “Ted Cruz’s Dad: Average Black Doesn’t Know the Minimum Wage is Bad,” http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/ted-cruz-dad-average-black-doesn’t-know-the-minimun-wage-bad.
In all fairness, the GOP was instrumental in the quest for civil rights and Mr. Cruz is undoubtedly a gifted man. But he is not African-American, does not speak for or represent African-Americans and is no authority on our needs, educational or otherwise. If memory serves the elder Cruz was born and raised in Cuba.
Worse, he is not alone in his condescension. The notion that blacks have been kidnapped by the Democratic Party and are to “uneducated” to know that the GOP and conservative political thought are in our best interest, is a common Republican theme. So too is the notion that we are willing slaves of “big government” and the handouts, cum welfare it provides.
For example, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney believes he lost the 2012 Presidential election because “President Obama’s extraordinary financial gifts to African-Americans and Hispanics helped pull him over the finish line.” Alan West, black conservative and former Florida Representative contends that “the Democratic Party has hijacked the discussion of civil rights and has been disingenuous in presenting the Republican role in the Civil Rights movement …” See Dona Forde, “The Black Vote and the Republican Party”, http://huffingtonpost.com/dana-forde/black-republicans_b_2232103.html.
These and similar comments do the GOP no good. They are instead contrary to the 2012, postmortem and only serve to alienate the very people the party needs. We would therefore suggest that the GOP consider the following.
First, respect our intelligence. African-Americans are neither uninformed nor ignorant and we need no re-education, despite what some might think. We have not been hijacked or brainwashed by either the Democrats or the Republicans and are more than capable of deciding who and what are in our best interest. The same applies to the young, women and Hispanics.
Additionally, we are no more slaves of welfare than any other group that receives a government benefit. Farmers are not made slaves by their receipt of farm subsidies, the elderly are not held in bondage by their acceptance of social security and religious institutions are no less free because of their tax exempt status. Rather than attribute our political decisions to brainwashing, ignorance and/or laziness, Republicans would do well to respect said decisions as it does other voting blocs.
Lastly, we are more than capable of reading between the lines. When the senior Cruz says that we need to be educated what he really means is that we are stupid for daring to disagree with him. When Sarah Palin accuses the President of “shucking and jiving” we know all too well that the phrase has been historically used to depict African-Americans as clowns, liars and fools, neither to be respected nor taken seriously. And we need no light to see the purpose and intent of constantly referring to the first African-American president as a communist, socialist, terrorist, Muslim, Kenyan, liar and/or mongrel. Simply stated, we are not stupid.
Second, lose the arrogance; jettison the condescension. Republicans cannot shame us into voting for the GOP. Talking down to and lecturing people are bad habits the GOP must break.
Third, show some compassion. We readily concede our shortcomings. This does not mean however that the heartfelt expression of concern for the plight of African-Americans is unwarranted. And politically, said empathy would pay immediate and continuing dividends from the black community. The GOP might therefore consider mimicking the late Jack Kemp, a Republican who managed to both reach us and touch us.
Fourth, reposition your policy. As the Forde article points out “during the 1920’s, blacks voted heavily for Republicans.” We did so not because we were hijacked or brainwashed but because the GOP endorsed policies that spoke to our interest. This explains in part why civil rights icon Martin Luther King was a registered Republican.
Today’s GOP is anything but the Party of Lincoln. It has instead mutated into something which is at times frightening. From blacks and voter suppression, to women’s health and reproductive issues like forced trans-vaginal ultrasound, the “Personhood” movement and the Hobby Lobby case, to Hispanics and immigration, to gays and marriage equality, to economic issues like equal pay, family leave and minimum wage, to some of the more outrageous comments made by Republican leaders, GOP policy and position are anathema to the very groups it allegedly covets. Little wonder that according to the Forde article “approximately 5% of registered republican voters are black.”
In summation, what is needed is not a different message or messenger but a different approach. Until the GOP treats women and minorities with respects, unless it demonstrates real compassion and understanding towards these groups and absent the articulation of public policy that speaks to the hopes and dreams of all, the Republican Party will continue to lose Presidential elections. It will continue to reap what it sows.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum