July 12, 2011

Slavery on the Collective Conservative Mind

The advent of a black president has created a moment in which the GOP is twisting itself into knots trying to play the race card in a way that makes it sound as though they are articulating an actual concern with blacks as a political constituency, because they think it makes such a nifty line of attack. Its a twofer; criticize the president and rub his incompetence in black people's faces at the same time. Gingrich has his foodstamp president line for example.

The FAMiLY Leader, a public advocacy organization affiliated with the Iowa Family Policy Center, is the latest conservative entity to indulge in this dig at black political gullibility. They recently issued the Marriage Vow, a declaration of principles adherence to marriage and family values and have wasted no time asking GOP candidates to sign it. Several have, with Michelle Bachman being the candidate who got called out for missing the little racial bomblet in the pledge, to wit:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA‟s first African-American President.3

 It's worth pointing out that the Family Leader actually footnoted the above mentioned conclusion with a reference to the work of a group of academics hailing from colleges including Morehouse and Hampton, with a contribution from Lorraine Blackman hailing from right here at the Indiana University School of Social Work. I've read through the report, somewhat ominously titled The Consequences of Marriage for African Americans.  Based on my read of it, the Family Leader drew the above conclusion from this statement on page 8.

But overall, family formation patterns were relatively similar for Blacks and Whites, with marriage occupying a paramount place in family life. For example, in 1880 and 1910 about 56.3 percent of Black and 66.9 percent of White households were nuclear households,

Bachman caught flack for signing onto the pledge, on the grounds that this passage in the pledge suggests that there was actually something beneficial for blacks families in the institution of slavery. The Jack & Jill Politics blog bluntly called out this passage as using slavery as a cheap emotional hook to make a political point. I agree with that.

Intellectual conservative Jedi master Cobb (I say that with sincere respect) opines " You have a conservative group trying to say something reasonable and putting black families in the focus and it is being shot down by idiots."

My take? I don't buy for a minute that the Family Leader was attempting to put black families in the focus.  You know that is not the case when you consider the target audience of the pledge, which is conservative base GOP voters. The candidates are signing on to the pledge in order to curry favor with that portion of the electorate.  This is not a document that was intended to be spread around in the black community, nor written with them in mind. 

Ham handed invocations of slavery like this one are proof positive that both the GOP leadership and rank and file still do not regard blacks as a political constituency necessary or essential to their aspirations for governance. If we did, we would figure out the right communication and enforce some goddamn messaging discipline just like we do for all other messaging we think is important. Its just not that hard.  Because the GOP doesn't really give a damn about blacks as a political constituency, we continue to be subjected to unforced errors like this. Lazy, small bore attacks that aspire to depress a portion of the black vote by demoralizing attrition, all the while deriving what I can't help but believe is a certain savage subconscious satisfaction at rubbing the incompetence of the first African American president in the black communities' collective face.

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