Break On Through (To The Other Side)
February 08, 2006
Today the Washington Post damned with faint praise President Bush’s decision to appear at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, implying that the visit was yet another well-intentioned but ultimately botched effort by Bush to "reach out" to America’s black community. From a conservative perspective, it’s hard to figure out what else Bush can do to win black sympathy, short of actually renouncing the GOP and becoming a Democrat. However, if it’s true that Bush’s efforts at outreach have failed, it has less to do with the man himself and more to do with the targets of his outreach.
While Bush has successfully connected with culturally conservative black ministers and business leaders, he’s had much less success attracting that portion of the black population which has reflexively voted Democrat since the mid-1960s. The Democratic initiative to control 9/10s of the black vote was arguably the last successful left-wing propaganda effort: by convincing large numbers of black Americans that Barry Goldwater (who had a libertarian, not racial, objection to the 1964 Civil Rights Act) was actually both antiblack himself and the representative of an antiblack party, the Democrats not only secured the ’64 election for Lyndon Johnson, but also kept themselves afloat while other factions of the Democratic base (most notably ethnic whites) departed due to the party’s dramatic leftward shift.
Though we are often told that blacks are devout churchgoers who overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage and support vouchers, the black vote in Presidential elections since the ’60s has invariably gone to the most secular candidate (or, in the case of Jimmy Carter, a nominal Christian representing a secular party). Democratic demonization of the Republicans as closet racists has been so effective, and so extensive, that some blacks believe that figures such as Colin Powell, Condi Rice, J. C. Watts, and Clarence Thomas "aren’t really black" because they associate with the GOP.
Bush’s mighty efforts alone cannot reverse this trend. Somewhere along the line, blacks must be prompted to reach out to the Republicans.
Of course, this can only happen via the continued defeat of the Democrats at the ballot box. Republicans have won four straight elections (1998 Congressional, 2000 Presidential and Congressional, 2002 Congressional, 2004 Presidential and Congressional), but that’s not nearly enough. It will take at least another half-decade of consistent Republican electoral success to force the black community’s collective hand.
Only when it becomes clear that the Democratic Party’s electoral woes are essentially irreversible will black voters, for purposes of political survival, decide to open their ears to the Republican message. Only when it becomes clear that the Democratic Party’s electoral woes are essentially irreversible will black voters come to the conclusion that the GOP is not really full of closet Robert Byrds.
Only when it becomes clear that the Democratic Party’s electoral woes are essentially irreversible will Bush’s efforts to bridge the artificial gap separating blacks from Republicans be vindicated.