There is an old saying about free advice is worth what you pay for it. And that is usually true. But as we watch the Teapublicans serially insult black Americans and consistently embarrass themselves as they “reach out” to the black community it might be a good idea for them to listen to some free advice – just this one time.
First of all, it is not useful to find other black Teapublicans who say the same horrible things that white Teapublicans say. One would have thought that the lesson would have been learned during the deafening lack of support for the doomed Herman Cain presidential bid or as evidenced by the infinitesimal dribble of support for the ill-fated re-election campaign of Mr. Horror Show himself, Allen West.
Teapublican/neocon nonsense still doesn’t make sense to most black Americans, even if the nonsense is being pitched by the likes of Clarence Thomas or Condoleezza Rice. No matter whom the spokesperson is the message matters.
And that brings us to another fundamental problem. The Teapublican Party has to stop treating its abysmal ratings in the black community as a marketing problem. The challenge is greater than finding a new logo or a devising a catchy slogan. The disconnect is real and rooted in real problems.
A bit of history – as late as 1960 the black vote in America was evenly divided between the Republican Richard Nixon and the Democrat John Kennedy. Within the next four years the tide of black voters going in the direction of Democrats became a tsunami. What happened? The Civil Rights bills happened with the leadership of a Democratic president and Congress.
What did the Republicans do? The Republican Party became the equivalent of a Buenos Aires safe house for the diehard Dixiecrats and segregationists who simply would not abide by the national acceptance of justice and equality for black Americans. And it is that heritage which stains the nearly lily white, Southern-dominated Teapublican Party today like a bizarre Scarlet Letter that most black Americans see.
This disenchantment is real and visceral. The heritage harks back to the days of Jim Crow and lynchings and Birmingham bombings, and it resonates even for black Americans who were not alive for the Scottsboro travesty, the Little Rock riots or the executions of Schwerner, Chaney, Goodman and King. And until the leadership of the Teapublican party can come to grips with this fundamental set of facts there are not going to be many “inroads” into the black community.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is a libertarian zealot who believes in minimalist government (except when it came to his accepting Medicaid payments as a practicing physician). In the past he has done a rhetorical fan dance on the issue of the historic civil rights bills of a half century ago, sometime saying that he wouldn’t vote for them and sometimes saying that he would have. But he has also stated that the Republican Party “won” the black vote in 1865 and that it has to find a way to “win” the black vote again.
Senator Paul should reference the earlier advisory not to treat this matter as a marketing contest. He should also study history a little more closely.
Even a cursory understanding of the peculiarly unique institution of American white supremacist slavery would lead to the consequent understanding of what Emancipation meant to black Americans. It literally meant life itself – a life without fear of being killed on a whim, or having your children sold or having your wife raped before your eyes. Emancipation meant an opportunity to believe in tomorrow, a belief which had been denied to black Americans for over three hundred years.
Emancipation was championed by Republicans and that is why black Americans voted for Republicans as a matter of faith. To use Rand Paul’s unfortunate choice of words, Republicans “won” the black vote by transforming the lives of black Americans.
Democrats in turn began to make “inroads” in the black vote during the 1930’s by instituting the New Deal which again transformed the lives of all Americans, including black Americans. Democrats ‘won” the black vote by transforming the lives of black Americans.
For Teapublicans to change the balance of political choice in the black community it will have to propose transformative, not cosmetic, changes. A new logo, a black Teapublican with the same Old South message will simply not work. Transformation will work. It is that simple and that complicated.
In this case free advice could be valuable.