Tuesday, September 11, 2007
In my recent blog titled "The Rules Have Changed," I erroneously stated that the majority of the black vote went to Presidential Republican candidates from the time of Abraham Lincoln until the time of Dwight Eisenhower. That statement was incorrect. I sent an e-mail to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas (http://www.eisenhower.utexas.edu/) after someone questioned that statistic. I received a nice response from Herb Pankratz, who serves as Archivist of the Eisenhower Library, in which he states that "21% of black voters supported Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and approximately 42% voted for him in 1956." I appreciate Mr. Prankratz’s response.
While I was incorrect in regard to my statement that the majority of black votes went to Dwight Eisenhower, the premise of my article is still true. The black vote did, in fact, go to the GOP from 1860 until 1928 (68 years). Admittedly, the black vote in the 1800’s was of limited in impact. Apparently it was not until Franklin D. Roosevelt put together his coalition in 1932 that the Democrats captured the black vote. However their hold on that vote, in light of Eisenhower’s 42% share in 1956, was tenuous until the Goldwater candidacy in 1964.
While it was Dwight Eisenhower who signed into law the landmark 1957 Civil Rights Act, African Americans have not trusted the GOP since their "Southern Strategy" was put in place, and understandably so. But the 1960’s were a long, long time ago and it is, as I said in my blog, time for a second look.
For example, in the area of education, conservatives have taken the lead in getting voucher programs in place. Vouchers provide a real and proven solution to the problem of bad schools in the poor areas of our cities. In Wisconsin, conservatives teamed up with Polly Williams, an African American state legislator, in a successful effort to pass school vouchers. This school voucher program has become a model program for schools located in economically depressed areas.
In fact, St. Marcus School, located in central Milwaukee (http://www.stmarcus.com/school/), is a shining example of what can be accomplished thanks to vouchers. It was visited by former District of Columbia Mayor, Anthony Williams, and served as reinforcement for his support of a voucher program for DC.
Conservatives and black Americans have found common ground in many other areas including the establishment of Enterprise Zones, cross-cultural alliances with suburban churches, and many other unheralded efforts by conservatives who give their time and money to improving conditions and creating opportunities in some of America’s most difficult and challenging areas.
Yes, African Americans are understandably distrustful of conservative Republicans, but the past is not the present. It is indeed time for a second look at candidates running for public office, regardless of their party label. It’s time to assess whether a candidate simply wants votes, or has real plans to solve problems. The black American community needs more than just expressions of "I feel your pain," it needs new and unique approaches that address the very real issues they face on a day-to-day basis. It’s not about racism, it’s about opportunity.