It was 2008, just about a month before the election. I was attending a party at a black owned and operated advertising marketing company. Out of the 200 or so people in attendance, I was the only white person and the one of two Republicans there. The owner of the company who had been working with the Obama campaign was and is a friend of mine and loved razzing me for my political affiliations.
Halfway through the party she loudly announced the entrance of another person by saying to me, “Hey Irwin, this is Barbara. She is the only black Republican I know. You two are the only ones in this room who are voting for McCain.” Every eye in the room gazed right at Barbara and me. Rather than shrinking, I responded in an even louder voice, “Barbara, what our mutual friend doesn’t realize is that most African Americans are really Republicans, they just don’t vote that way.”
As I scanned the crowd for reactions, I noticed a lot of smiles and a lot of affirmative nods of the heads in the room. So if my response is true, why has the black community voted overwhelmingly for Democrats the last 50 years? How has the party of Lincoln lost the black vote?
I have had long conversations with fellow Republicans and to my dismay many of them take the attitude of, “If the black community would only realize…” In other words, if they were only smart enough to understand they are voting wrong and that the Republicans are a better fit for them. This is a stupid and ignorant position for any Republican to hold and shows how little people look into the past and see the reasoning behind the shift.
After the civil war, most of the black vote went to Republicans for 60 years until FDR began to erode into it. The vote though was still up for grabs all the way until 1960 when Richard Nixon won over 30% of the black vote. In 1968 when Nixon won the election, he only carried around 10% of the black vote and no Republican since has carried more than 12%. So what happened between 1960 and 1968? Nixon was the same candidate, but got drastically different vote totals in the black community.
First major damage was done in 1964 when the Republicans chose Barry Goldwater as their nominee. Goldwater opposed civil rights and the voting rights bill. Sean Hannity from Fox News has stated several times that Lyndon Johnson needed Republicans to pass these bills, which is a true statement. What he forgets to mention is that many of the Democrats that opposed the bills, became Republicans later.
Also, it does not matter what a few Republicans in Congress do when the voice (nominee) of your party opposes civil rights. How could the party of Lincoln have nominated such a person? Our party was formed out of a commitment to defend a segment of our society that had been oppressed and enslaved and then a century later we abandon them at a time when they needed us the most since the civil war.
Nixon himself drove in the second nail in the coffin when he adopted the southern strategy. Here is a quote from a Nixon political strategist, Kevin Phillips who in 1970 explained the Southern Strategy,
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that … but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.
To win the South, Republicans abandoned their principles and now that sin has finally caught up with them. People don’t forget when they have been stabbed in the back. I come from a Jewish family and my dad, till the day he died, wouldn’t buy anything made in Germany.
To my African American friends who vote Democrat, let me just take a diversion here and make some points. No the Republicans are not racists. Are there Republicans that are racists? Yes, just like there are a lot of Democrats that are racists.
I once was sitting with two friends. One was a Democrat who actually worked on campaigns and the other was a staunch Republican. The Democrat went off on how Republicans are racists and don’t care about the poor.
I spoke up and said, “Out of the three people sitting here, only two of us have gone to the third world and helped build houses for the poor. Only two of us have spent hundreds of hours volunteering to help others less fortunate right here in American and you are not one of those two.”
In a moment of honesty, he replied, “Yeah I don’t care about the poor and black people. I just want their vote.”
This same enlightened Democrat at a later date scolded me for dating a black person. Racism exists in each party and is much more common in the Democratic Party than Democrats want to admit.
In this article, I am calling for the Republicans to start making an effort to EARN the African American vote. If they do, the African American community must be willing to reward that effort with actual votes or they forever will be caught in a system where one party (Democrats) takes their vote for granted and the other party (Republicans) completely ignores it.
In many areas, especially if you attend church, the Republican Party is more in line with the needs and issues in the African American community than the Democrat Party. The Republicans have done an awful job of telling that story and they have done an awful job of apologizing.
That brings me back to my fellow Republicans. I know a lot of Jewish people who drive German cars now. Why the change? In part, because Germany has apologized to the Jewish people and has worked for their forgiveness. It is time for someone in the Republican leadership to start apologizing for the party’s adoption of the southern strategy and opening its doors to racist a**holes.
Also it is time for the conservative talk shows to stop feeding into the misconceptions about our party. Example: as soon as the Trayvon Martin case hit as a major story, every time you turned on conservative talk radio, all you heard was defense of Zimmerman. Now should Zimmerman be considered innocent until proven guilty? Yes, but what was happening seemed to look like the conservative movement was rooting for Zimmerman and latched on to any piece of evidence that showed him to be innocent and Trayvon to be a thug. Over and over the conservative talk shows do this and then we are amazed that we only get 10% of the African American vote.
Rather than concentrating on stories like this, we should be concentrating on the fact that Democratic policies have entrapped millions of African American kids into sub-standard schools that ensure they will never rise out of poverty. We should point out that despite the rhetoric, Democrats have done little the past 30 years other than throw scraps at the poor to keep them in line and in fact get their power by keeping the poor in poverty. We should be pointing out that key constituents in the Democratic Party have done everything they can to remove God and morals from the public square and have essentially declared a war against the church and everything it stands for. The church, schools and the family are the hope not just for all America, but especially for the African American community and the policies of the Democrats have eroded all three. This is where we need to take a stand, rather than declaring war on affirmative action and Trayvon Martin. If we fix the schools and all our families, there will be no need for affirmative action.
I could go on forever with examples of how the Republicans have messed up and how there is a lot of misinformation and even hypocrisy on the Democratic side, but I have gone on long enough for now. Let me end this article with a quote that says it all.
The New Republican party I envision is still going to be the party of Lincoln and that means we are going to have to come to grips with what I consider to be a major failing of the party: its failure to attract the majority of black voters … It’s time black America and the New Republican party move toward each other and create a situation in which no black vote can be taken for granted. — Ronald Reagan
Image: President Lyndon B. Johnson Meets with Sen. Barry Goldwater; date: 16 January 1964; source: LBJ Library http://www.lbjlibrary.net/collections/photo-archive.html; author: Yoichi Okamoto; public domain