• Mr. 1% gets 0%

    by Kelvin Wade

    Recently, an astonishing NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket is garnering 0% of the black vote. George W. Bush earned 11% of the black vote in 2004. McCain got 3% against the first African-American nominee in 2008. And when you think about it, that should’ve been Barack Obama’s high water mark with blacks. Why is Romney doing so poorly and how come the Republican message doesn’t sell with blacks?

    To hear the GOP tell it, blacks are beholden to Democrats because we’re a bunch of freeloaders. Mitt Romney believes it himself. After a lame appearance before the NAACP earlier this summer where he was booed for saying he’d repeal Obamacare, the next night Romney spoke before a white audience and mentioned the booing and said, “…if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff.” It’s that type of condescending tone that goes a long way to garnering you 0% of the vote.

    But the real reasons blacks spurn the GOP are much deeper. After the Civil War and blacks gained the right to vote, they voted overwhelmingly for Republicans. Then came the Compromise of 1877. Basically, in the presidential election of 1876, there was a tie between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. The Democrats in Congress agreed to make Hayes President in exchange for certain concessions. The main concession was pulling federal troops out of the South.

    After the compromise, Reconstruction ended. Jim Crow laws sprang up across the south and blacks were prevented from voting with poll taxes and poll tests. Slavery had officially ended but de facto slavery was reinstituted for the next 78 years or so.

    Current Republicans often misread history by pointing out that it was a Republican President, Eisenhower, who ordered federal troops to Arkansas and U.S. Marshalls to Louisiana to protect blacks integrating public schools, while it was Democratic governors who stood in the way.

    But the lesson blacks took away viewing those incidents, as well as Supreme Court decisions and federal legislations, wasn’t that the Republican Party was on their side. It was that the federal government was on their side vs. the states.

    After the Civil Rights movement, with landmark legislation signed by a Democratic President, blacks started registering Democratic. At the same time, Southern Democrats bolted the party for the Republican Party.

    There’s no question the federal government oppressed black folks through laws and horrible Supreme Court decisions in the past. But it was the federal government that integrated facilities and schools and struck down poll taxes and tests so African-Americans could vote. It was states that implemented Black Codes, Jim Crow, and refused to prosecute whites who assaulted and lynched blacks. It was state governments that enforced segregation during the Civil Rights movement. States barred blacks from marrying outside their race until the Supreme Court changed things.

    So, when blacks hear Republicans preaching that the big federal government is the problem and we need states rights, that’s nonsensical to black people. States rights may sound like an innocuous support of the 10th Amendment to many whites. To most blacks, “states rights” means oppression. The same oppression that Tea Party groups fear from the federal government, most blacks fear from letting states do what they want. The history of states left to their own devices has not been good for black people.

    It isn’t about handouts like Republicans like to tell themselves. After all, there are more whites on welfare and food stamps than blacks.

    Adding onto the demonization of government is the racial dog whistling, the catering to the worst elements of the party and the current voter suppression efforts that are reminiscent of the end of Reconstruction. A majority of blacks are incensed at how the first black President has been treated by the GOP. Those all play a role in telling blacks that they’re not welcome in the Republican Party.

    Why are Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan polling at 0% with blacks? That’s all they’ve earned.

    • Nice column, Kevlin. It can’t be said enough. The current right wing attack on big government (except when it steps in to deny women birth control, etc) goes right back to a long history of resistance to race equality after the Civil War. Big business took the side of anti big government arguments because it didn’t want to be regulated. So there you have the beginnings of the current right wing/billionaire coalition. The racist roots of all this are deep and undeniable and the election of a black president has brought them to the surface.

    • Love your thoughts and columns and the information contained in them.

      • Kelvin

      • September 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you. I didn’t want to paraphrase Kanye West and say, “The Republican Party doesn’t care about black people.” It’s true that too often the party plays to the haters in their midst. They also do it with immigration which is why they’re down so far with Hispanics. The “Southern Strategy” is well known.

      But I wanted to go deeper to the actual GOP message. And at it’s core, the message is one that repels African-Americans. Blacks don’t look at the federal government as “the problem.” So if your pitch is, “The Federal government is the problem, so vote for us and we’ll return power to the states and close the Department of Education and, oh yeah, we’re going to cut government,” that’s not going to find many takers. The defense budget is another issue that (and I’m speaking in generalities, obviously) blacks can’t get behind. Why is domestic spending cut and defense expanded in the Romney budget? I’ve said before that the black mother in Oakland is far more afraid of gangs and drug dealers on the block than Al Qaeda. And she has a right to be because the elements in her neighborhood are FAR more likely to impact her life than a foreign terrorist.

      To get black votes….Hispanic votes…you’ve got to speak to their issues. And if you’re making excuses for bigots in your ranks, trying to suppress the black vote, disrespecting the President and then bringing an agenda at odds with their interests, it’s not surprising you’re not getting their support.

      • Norbie Kumagai

      • September 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm
      • Reply

      According To The Brennan Center For Justice (New York University School of Law), an estimated 5 million registered voters could be potentially disenfranchised this November because of Voter Identification Laws enacted by G.O.P. Legislatures and signed by Republican Governors.

      Many of these are African Americans, Latinos, seniors and young, first-time voters who lack the proper governmental issued identification.

      The response is “I have my identification, why don’t you??” thereby insinuating that the individual is “too lazy” to obtain such identification.

      These Voter ID Laws remind me of “Poll Taxes” which you reference in your column, Kelvin. Fine Writing!!!

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