Point of View Columns

Valuable Free Advice

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 black 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, the unlamented 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 might be the message still 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 national acceptance of justice and equality for black Americans. And it is that heritage which stains the nearly lily white, Southern-dominated Teapublican Party to this very day like a bizarre Scarlet Letter that most black Americans can see quite clearly.

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 Till, 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 with no legal recourse. Emancipation meant an opportunity to believe in tomorrow, a belief which had been denied to black Americans for over two 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.

This free advice, if taken, could be valuable.

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4 thoughts on “Valuable Free Advice

  1. Michael Goodwin says:

    Well stated..this reminds me of a white person telling me “I have black friends”..does that minimize all the racial slurs and behaviors? No, we don’t need a black face saying exactly what they said already…They need to look at issuing new policies and stop pushing policies that negatively impact black americans…It does not matter if you change the music, when you are dancing the same dance

  2. Sean A. Holman says:

    Every American should take this ‘free advice’ and begin that ‘road’ to ‘change’, NOW. Get off the sidelines if the intention is as genuine as in 1865….the key word is ‘genuine’.

  3. Tom Walker says:

    The Teapublicans, and the Republicans before them, have been so successful at getting lower class/income whites to vote against their own economic self interests that they apparently believe the same strategy will continue to work with black and brown folk. The message of the last election should be that the greater majority of us have awakened and will no longer support those whose policies and platforms are diametrically opposed to what is best for us. They seem to be having great difficulty dealing with that reality.

  4. Wallace,
    Good post, although it would be nearly a century before emancipation meant Blacks could not be killed on a whim. Frankly, I hope the Republicans continue to deceive themselves into thinking it is the packaging and not the message that needs revamping. That’s the surest way for the Party to go the way of the Whigs.

    Rand Paul appearing before a Black audience at Howard University professed to be perplexed by Blacks’ rejection of the Republican Party, given the Party’s authorship of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 14th Amendment. This is a common theme among Republicans these days, betraying profound ignorance of American political history. A North Carolina Tea Party spokeswoman made the same argument not long ago, to which I responded in my blog: “Another Tea Party Myth Debunked,” (March 17, 2013) at http://www.cassandra-chronicles.blogspot.com.
    David Smith D’62

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