The Rules Have Changed
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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.