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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Rules Have Changed

                             The Rules Have Changed

Most people don’t realize it, but the Republicans had "owned" the black vote for nearly 100 years from the time of Abraham Lincoln, through the time of Dwight Eisenhower. During this period, the majority of African Americans voted consistently for Republican presidential candidates and as well as most other political offices. Today, however, the Democratic Party "owns" the Black vote, lock, stock, and barrel. 

When a Republican candidate, at any level, obtains more than 10% of the Black vote, it’s big news. Typically the GOP portion of the Black vote is closer to 5%. How did this come about?
If one had to pick an event that caused this cataclysmic political shift, it was the nomination of Barry Goldwater, and more precisely, his vote against the 1964 Voting Rights Act. Ironically, Goldwater had an outstanding record of civil rights. He had personally taken a hand in integrating the Arizona Air National Guard and, in fact, had received commendations and awards from the NAACP. But once he was nominated and once he cast his vote, the die was cast. It was the end of any significant support of Republican candidates and understandably so.

Thomas Jefferson reputedly said that slavery was the fatal flaw of the Constitution. That was certainly true, and I believe that the failure of conservatives to be in the vanguard of the civil rights movement was the fatal flaw of the conservative movement. In hindsight, it was rank hypocrisy for conservatives to hold themselves up as the champions of individual freedom, and yet be AWOL when it came to fighting for basic human and civil rights for African Americans. As a high school and college student, I was as guilty as anyone else. 

It’s no wonder that Black Americans don’t trust conservatives. If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t trust them either. After all, you gotta dance with the one that brung ya, and in the case of the civil rights movement, that was the liberals in the Democratic Party, not the conservative Republicans.
That doesn’t mean that I agree with big government liberals. They were wrong on the threat of the Soviet Union and they were wrong about the threat to individual freedom from big government. Liberals are wrong to cavalierly discard traditional moral values. But conservatives were wrong on the civil rights movement, no ifs, ands, or buts.

But much has changed since 1964. Today, Conservatives champion many, many causes and issues which are supported by a vast majority of the African American community. While conservatives promote vouchers that address the severe problem of failing primary and secondary schools in the poorest part of our cities, the liberals are chained to the National Education Association union, which is more interested in teachers than students. It was a liberal Democrat, Polly Williams, that championed vouchers in Wisconsin, and working in league with conservative Republicans she carried the day.

Today Black Americans work to modify a Social Security System that is clearly unfair to the members of their community, but they get no help from the Democratic Party. It is conservative Republicans that are working with them.

While Christian conservatives, both Black and White, utilize faith-based initiatives promoted by a Republican President, they face opposition from liberal Democrats.

But perhaps the picture has changed the most on the local scene where conservatives and liberals work side-by-side with voluntary organizations that help the poor and disadvantaged. It’s often surprising who you see working side-by-side in the trenches.

My wife, Kathi, and I have been involved in Joe Gibbs’ Youth For Tomorrow residential home for at-risk boys and girls for more than 20 years. We have witnessed conservative Oliver North and former Virginia Lt. Governor Don Beyer (a top fund raiser for the Democrat Party) working together without fanfare, giving of their time and resources to give these boys and girls a second chance at life. 

No, conservatives don’t deserve to be trusted by the Black community. But in their own self-interest, members of the Black community need to take a second look at individual conservative candidates to see exactly what their track record is when it comes to issues and programs that affect the Black community. As long as liberal Democrats can count on virtually all Black Americans to vote for them, they can continue to ignore the problems of failing primary and secondary schools, violence in the central city, out-of-wedlock births, etc. 

I believe it was Bob Dylan who sang, "The times they are a changing." Yes, times are changing. Being a liberal Democrat no longer guarantees concern and attention to the problems and challenges faced by Black Americans. Being a conservative Republican no longer means someone who doesn’t care about the crisis among America’s poor. Today it’s often a conservative Republican whose values and principles are more closely tied to the interests and needs of the African American community, than are those of his liberal opponent. More than 50 years have passed since the 1956 election of Dwight Eisenhower. It’s time to take a second look.

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