By Mike Bruton
The Republican National Committee’s $10 million outreach to blacks, Latinos and Asians carries with it a profound sense of irony. If it is to succeed it will require much more than the legion of paid staffers going into ethnic neighborhoods for sit-down discussions with voters.
It will fail unless they give it the LBJ treatment. President Johnson said to aid Bill Moyers the night after he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.”
It’s been nearly 50 years and the GOP still controls the South whose white denizens elect Republican candidates repeatedly despite the fact that their economic policies damages the quality of their lives.
All these voters are thinking when they slice their noses off to spite their faces is the Democrats helped the blacks…gave them special treatment.
Yet Johnson did the right thing with full knowledge of the backlash to come. LBJ did it because he was a patriot. He did it because of his belief in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The RNC will not succeed unless chairman Reince Priebus can find a Republican leader of great prominence who will show that same brand of patriotism.
The GOP’s outreach is just window dressing – very thinly veiled at that – unless the party is willing to anger the Tea Party and radical conservatives the same way LBJ angered conservative Southern Democrats, known as Dixiecrats back then.
In other words, the suppression of black and brown voters, the anti-immigration stance, the attacks on labor unions and government workers – many of whom are minorities – and the insensitivity to how political policies undermind certain ethnic cultural values will have to be condemned by GOP leaders.
And, in this case, it’s not just about the South. Can the Republican Party show that kind of moral courage? Can they replace their jingoistic rantings with real patriotism? I doubt it.
The Republican Party is operating out of fear. By 2050 whites will no longer be a majority in the U.S. and much of what we have seen and heard since President Obama was elected is driven by the need for conservatives make far-reaching political changes while they still can. The GOP is too far down the right-wing rabbit hole to do the smart thing.
Look at the gridlock in Washington, D.C. and South Carolina state rep. Kris Crawford’s recent views on obstruction by Republicans. “It is good politics,” said Crawford, “to oppose the black guy in the White House.”
So strong is this fear that even an Associate Justice of the United State Supreme Court lacks the self- awareness to restrain himself from making overt racist statements while speaking on the record during the recent argument phase of the Voting Rights Act case.
Arch-conservative Antonin Scalia said the Voting Rights Act is a “perpetual racial entitlement” as if it only applies to minorities, particularly blacks. Where is the patriotism the Republic Party so frequently wrap themselves in? Where is the reverence for the Constitution when equality for non-whites is viewed as special treatment, quotas or entitlement? Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) recently that “many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates because (they) feel unloved, unwanted and unwelcomed in our party.”
In 1976 the GOP got 17 percent of the black vote. The Republicans got 18 percent of blacks in 1972. Republicans have not come close to those percentages since. Blacks, Latinos and Asians made up 28 percent of the electorate in 2012 and 80 percent of them voted for Obama. Blacks went 93 percent for the President, Latinos went 71 percent and Asians went 73 percent.
“The GOP cannot expect to win the presidency in the future by simply relying on running up big numbers with white people,” George W. Bush campaign adviser Mark McKinnon told the Huffington Post. Many blacks feel Republicans will never vie for their votes again because they seem fixated on courting Latinos.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson told the RNC in 1978 that the Party’s neglect of Black voters would ultimately put the GOP in jeopardy as a national entity.
“Black people need the Republican Party to compete for our votes,” said Jackson, “so that we can have real alternatives. The Republican Party needs black people if it is ever to compete for national office or, in fact, to keep it from becoming an extinct national party.” Instead the GOP took a right turn and elected Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Just a little less than four years earlier, Reagan had given his infamous Welfare- Queen-with- the-Cadillac speech. That mythological icon was the beginning of GOP antipathy towards blacks that kept on cycling with things like the “Willie Horton” campaign ad against Michael Dukakis and the Jesse Helms ad against Harvey Gantt, a black U.S. Senate challenger, that showed a pair of white hands wadding up a job application because the job was given to a black man via affirmative action.
That’s why anything short of a complete disavowal of racial politics will leave the GOP a “old, stale and moss covered” as Sen. Rand Paul called it and $10 million poorer.