Where are the Black Republicans?

Politico.com has an interesting article titled GOP fails to recruit minorities. It mentions that under George Bush, the Republican Party is on the verge of going six years without an African-American governor, senator or House member.

The article mentions several reasons for this.

“In 1994, when I first ran, we had 14 African-American Republicans running for Congress. … I was the only one that won that year, but we had 14, and we had some good candidates,” said former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, one of the party’s most recognized African-American voices. “I am grateful for what Ken Mehlman did when he was RNC chairman, but I knew that wouldn’t last — that was one person. I’ve never gotten the impression that it was institutionalized.”

Jack Kemp, the former Republican congressman and vice presidential nominee, says the culprit is clear: a “pitiful” recruitment effort by his party. “I don’t see much of an outreach,” he said. “I don’t see much of a reason to run.”

A former black GOP candidate who declined to be identified by name offered a slightly more charitable explanation. He said the party is so broke and distracted that wooing strong minority candidates is a luxury it simply cannot afford right now.

I can add a couple of other reasons that weren’t mentioned. The first is that, for the most part, politics in America’s cities are dominated by the Democratic Party. Any AA politician in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, etc, is almost certainly going to come up through a Democratic organization. Until the GOP can break the grip that Democrats have on inner-city politics, they will always find it hard to recruit black candidates (or, for that matter, white Democrats in the cities).

The second is that… let’s be for real… in the South, the Republican Party = the party of white people, while the Democratic Party = the party of black people. Now, that’s not really true; in fact, there are many white Democrats. But throughout the South, whites overwhelmingly vote for Republican candidates, while most blacks and and a minority of whites vote for Democrats.

This is a direct result of racial polarization in the South, and the Republican has been the main culprit, and beneficiary, of this situation. Former Dixiecrats like Jessie Helms bolted to the GOP after the passage of civil rights laws in the 1960s, and brought their distaste for African Americans with them. Helms was a master of race baiting ads, the type of which were raised to their zenith by the Willie Horton ads in the 1988 presidential campaign.

As long as the GOP uses black voters as a kind of collective boogeyman to scare or disgust whites into voting for its candidates, they will get few if any black voters, and even fewer blacks who will run under the GOP banner.

Bottom line is, if Republicans want black votes, they have to do something to earn it. And right now, it doesn’t seem like they’re doing much.