The day before the 2000 presidential election, I interviewed Rep. John Lewis (D.-Ga.). Lewis is a civil rights icon and a “lifelong member of Congress.” I asked him if black Americans vote 95% for Democrats year in and year out, how does that help. He said, “Martha, although I am a partisan, it doesn’t help us.”
Like former SCLC President Joe Lowry said, “The Democrats take us for granted and the Republicans just take us.”
Zell Miller, former Georgia governor and U. S. senator, pointed out in his book, A National Party No More, that the Democratic Party has taken for granted the black community for years, except for the four weeks before an election. Many young black Democrats called me after that book came out and said Zell was right.
So where does that leave us today? With the historic victory of Barack Obama for President and his historic fall from grace, conservative blacks are able to come “out of the political closet.”
J. C. Watts was the only black Republican in Congress for a time and he left political office in 2003. He is still a force among grass-roots Republicans. He can draw a crowd at any Republican meeting.
A couple of weeks ago, I talked with Ron Miller, black conservative and head of Regular Folks United about his book, Sellout: Musings From Uncle Tom’s Porch. I said President Obama has freed black Americans to have different points of view. In a strange way, he caused this revolution in the black community. I asked him, “Isn’t it good to be able to lift your head up as a black conservative?” He said, “My head has been up all along getting knocked around, but it’s good to have a few other folks with me.”
It’s not about color, it’s about ideology. However, in this post-racial Age of Obama, we’ve never talked more about race. Black people, especially church-going black people, are very conservative. We saw that in the Prop 8 vote in California. In a state that went for Obama, a coalition of conservatives of all ethnicities passed Prop 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
There are 14 black candidates who made it though the primaries and are running for Congress this year. Three have a very good chance of winning and several more may win depending on the how large the Republican tide is. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Allen West of Florida, and Ryan Frazier of Colorado are expected to win their races. Many others are competitive and we are about to see a change we haven’t seen in American politics. I think this is great. Not just because they are conservatives, but because a variety of ideas is important.
Women don’t think all one way, men don’t and people of color don’t, either. It’s has been a ruse on the part of Democrats to try to keep blacks on the plantation of their party for all these years. The truth is, if the major parties have to vie for your votes, it keeps them honest. If they know you are going to vote for them, they don’t pay attention.
That “taking-for-granted” attitude Democratic Party leaders have had towards black voters isn’t the only problem. For far too long, Republicans have expected blacks to vote for Democrats and failed to recruit candidates. Oddly enough, young black Democrats don’t feel like they get a fair shake in their party, so they are open to consider being a Republican
“There’s been a perception that the black community is a monolithic thinking, looking and voting community, and when people see the average black person, they assume that we all voted for Obama and we all support government entitlements,” said Timothy Johnson, chairman of the conservative Frederick Douglass Foundation told Politco last month. “When you see representation from two of the major parties in the country, I think it sends a very clear message that we need to get beyond those stereotypes.”
All this excitement around black Republican candidates adds to the excitement around conservative women running for office this year. The Tea Party movement was founded primarily from the activism of women. There is nothing but positives in all of this. I am a firm believer in fighting for votes among all people. But I acknowledge there needs to be someone to identify with. It will be a few black Republicans this time but that will begin to increase geometrically in a pretty short time, if they stick to their conservative principles. And that’s a big if.
Sticking to principles is actually the key to all of this. Regardless of race or gender, if the new Congress doesn’t get the spending and taxation problems under control, they’ll be out next time.
It’s impossible not to look ahead to 2012. Could there be a black Republican running for President. Currently, all the possible predictions are white middle-aged men and Sarah Palin, with the exception of one, Herman Cain.
Herman’s a “Dark Horse” candidate, but he’s got a following in the Tea Party movement. He’s an executive, motivational speaker and a talk host at WSB in Atlanta. Herman may be unknown now, and may not be able to put an organization together. But he would keep the other candidates honest. And after this year, who knows what the rules are for winning? I think the people are back in charge and they are open-minded about anyone who shares their ideals.
So the post-racial President, who seems to have made things worse for the short term, may have delivered the opportunity to fulfill the dream to be judged by the “content of their character, not the color of their skin” or their political party.