October 14, 2011

Blacks and the GOP: Crossing the Chasm

If you visit my blog more than once, you know I often take conservatives black and white to task for using funky, contemptuous language in describing the political posture of African Americans relative to the GOP and the Democrats. Conservatives have become enamored of explaining away their failure to gain a real hearing from black America with rhetoric laced with allusions to dependency, slavery references and other insulting memes.

As conservatives, and the GOP as a party, we often blame black America for our failure to win them to our cause by writing them off as essentially stupid (Cain: blacks are brainwashed). This approach gives conservatives an easy out and excuse not to politically engage in our communities, nor even attempt to parse out the issues most important to us as a body politic. This near complete abdication of any responsibility for the nature of the relationship and of any requirement to actually make good on our rhetoric that blacks are desired as a political constituency in the republican tent is every bit a factor in the size of the political chasm between blacks and the GOP as is our too often reflexive opposition to any GOP position.

Part of addressing that divide (if we are indeed serious) requires conservatives and the GOP to acknowledge the forces that have shaped black political outlook.  Irey, a poster at Booker Rising, summed it up thusly in the comments to a post by conservative Larry Elder:

Again, it's all about the role of government. Business owners don't want government regulations on workplace safety - but their employees do! An oil refinery doesn't want air pollution regulations - but its neighbors do. A chemical plant doesn't want the expense of waste treatment, but the people who drink from the river do. The corporatocracy doesn't care about social justice, but the people want social justice. The society didn't free the slaves. The government freed the slaves. Society didn't abolish Jim Crow. The government did away with Jim Crow..... Considering our unique history, is it any wonder that many black people view the role of government with a particular perspective[?].  Isn't it understandable that the descendants of slaves would have residual suspicion of amoral  unfetterd capitalism which had no intrinsic incentive to end slavery[?]. Conservatism didn't end slavery, liberalism did. The black relationship with government and liberalism is more complex than Mr. Elder wants to credit. And thus far the black community would rather deal with the devil they know than the one standing across the street with Glen Beck
As long as the GOP and conservatives more broadly, keep taking the easy way out on engagement with blacks as a political constituency, the chasm between the GOP and blacks will struggle to be filled in or bridged by the many common grounds we actually share.