Republican Chairman Steele: 36 People of Color is Not Enough

”Please send some folks to the convention that look like Florida. Could you help a brother out? No more national conventions with [only] 36 people of color in the room.”
– Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee, speaking at a meeting of Florida Republicans in early April.

They say that, to solve a problem, you first have to know what the problem is.

But after you know what the problem is… you need a way to solve the problem, otherwise, the problem doesn’t go away.

I’ll give this to Michael Steele: he’s not afraid to say what the problem is. As discussed in Blacked Out: African Americans Near Invisible at the Republican Convention,

The 36 black delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul is the lowest total in 40 years for a Republican National Convention. These delegates represent 1.5 percent of the total number of delegates, substantially below the record setting 6.7 percent in 2004. (Editor’s note: The United States is 13% African American.)

Steele’s statement is useful, insofar it as it acknowledges the GOP’s obvious problem in attracting minorities, and signals that the Republican Party (or at least, that Michael Steele) wants minority input and participation.

The question is: where do they go from there? What is their plan to attract African Americans and Hispanics to the fold?

I have yet to hear it. If you have, drop me a line and let me know.

OK, But What Do You Really Think About Black Folks Voting?

From a posting on DailyKos, Florida GOP County Chair: Help!Black People are Voting!!!:

There are days in Florida when you feel like you are living in the 19th Century. Here is part of the text of an e-mail sent by the Chairman of the Hillsborough Republican Party (this is county that contains Tampa).

THE THREAT:

HERE IN TEMPLE TERRACE, FL OUR REPUBLICAN HQ IS ONE BLOCK AWAY FROM OUR LIBRARY, WHICH IS AN EARLY VOTING SITE.

I SEE CARLOADS OF BLACK OBAMA SUPPORTERS COMING FROM THE INNER CITY TO CAST THEIR VOTES FOR OBAMA. THIS IS THEIR CHANCE TO GET A BLACK PRESIDENT AND THEY SEEM TO CARE LITTLE THAT HE IS AT MINIMUM, SOCIALIST, AND PROBABLY MARXIST IN HIS CORE BELIEFS. AFTER ALL, HE IS BLACK–NO EXPERIENCE OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS–BUT HE IS BLACK.

I ALSO SEE YOUNG COLLEGE STUDENTS AND THEIR PROFESSORS FROM USF PARKING THEIR CARS WITH THE PROMINENT ‘OBAMA’ BUMPER STICKERS. THE STUDENTS ARE ENTHUSIASTIC TO BE VOTING IN A HISTORIC ELECTION WHERE THERE MAY BE THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT.

Sigh…

Progressives Push Back Against the New McCarthyism; It’s the New Progressive Infrastructure at Work

McCarthyism is a term describing the intense anti-communist suspicion in the United States in a period that lasted roughly from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. This period is also referred to as the Second Red Scare, and coincided with increased fears about communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents.

Originally coined to criticize the actions of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, “McCarthyism” later took on a more general meaning, not necessarily referring to the conduct of Joseph McCarthy alone.

During this time many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies.
Wikipedia


A 1947 comic book published by the Catechetical Guild Educational Society warning of the supposed dangers of a Communist takeover.

There’s a saying from the Greeks that, whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.

Well, it seems like the Republicans are pretty mad right now.

And when Republicans get mad, they turn to one of their old stand-bys: characterizing Democrats and liberals as anti-American, unpatriotic, socialist, communist scum.

The poster child for this shameless post-McCarthyism has become Michele Bachmann, a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota. This is from an interview of Bachmann with Chris Matthews on the MSNBC show Hardball:

MATTHEWS: You believe Barack Obama may – because of this relationship (to Bill Ayers) – have anti-American views?

BACHMANN: Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he [Obama] may have anti-American views.

MATTHEWS: How many in the Congress of the United States do you think are anti-American? You already suspect Barack Obama — is he alone or do you think there are others?

BACHMANN: The news media should do a penetrating expose … on the views of the people in Congress and find out if they’re pro-America or anti-America.

Although Bachmann has gotten the most notoriety for her comments, she’s certainly not alone in playing the McCarthy card. At a fund raiser in North Carolina, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation”… a comment that, by logical extension, means city and suburban folks-the types who vote for Democrats-are “fake” and “unpatriotic” Americans.

At a campaign rally in North Carolina, Republican congressman Robin Hayes said that “liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.” At a meeting of Florida Republican in Orlando, Republican Senator Mel Martinez compared Barack Obama’s tax plans to those in Castro’s Cuba, saying “That’s socialism, that’s communism, that’s not what Americanism is about.”

Keep in mind, this is coming from high level elected Republican officials. It’s not hard to imagine that even worse is being said by state and local Republican officials. (And we won’t even talk about what’s happening on talk radio.)

Now, there was a time when Democrats and liberals would cower in fear at these kinds of attacks. These are the same tactics that, after all, helped to spark the Reagan Revolution and get George W Bush elected and re-elected. But that was then.

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Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? MLK, JFK, and LBJ

{This is the third in the series, “Why do Blacks for Democrats?” The previous two posts are:
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? Inclusion and Diversity.
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? See Jesse Helms.}

All people live through history. Great people change it.

The course of history was changed in the 1960s. And in this case, I am talking about African Americans’ preference for the Democratic and Republican parties. Consider these statistics from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:

Presidential Vote and Party Identificaiton of African Americans, 1956-1964

Source: Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Blacks & the 2008 Democratic National Convention, page 8

As you can see, over the course of just eight years, African American support for the Republican Party practically evaporated.

How did this happen? It can be tied directly to the acts and leadership of three men: Martin Luther King, Jr., who was the leader of the Civil Rights movement; John F. Kennedy, the nation’s president from 1961 through November, 1963, when he was assassinated; and Lyndon Baines Johnson, Kennedy’s successor as president.

Most know who Martin Luther King, Jr, was, and probably President Kennedy as well; President Johnson, although pivotal in the passage of civil rights laws, is undoubtedly the lesser known and least revered among these three historical figures.

But they were all key players in eliminating segregation and legalized discrimination in the South. This excerpt from the book Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America, which was written by Lee A. Daniels, talks of how these three men were linked in changing the face of African American politics:

In October of 1960, less then three weeks before the presidential election, Martin Luther King Jr., already recognized as Black America’s most prominent civil rights leader, had been arrested in Georgia on a traffic technicality: he was still using his Alabama license, although by then he had lived in Georgia for three months.

A swift series of moves by the state’s segregationist power structure resulted in King being sentenced to four months of hard labor on a Georgia chain gang. He was quickly spirited away to the state’s maximum security prison, and many of his supporters, fearing for his life, urgently called both the Nixon and Kennedy camps for help.

Nixon, about to campaign in South Carolina in hopes of capturing the sate’s normally solid Democratic vote, took no action. Kennedy took swift action. He made a brief telephone call to a frantic Coretta Scott King, speaking in soothing generalities and telling her, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me.”

It’s likely that Kennedy did not at that moment realize the political implications of that call. Ever the pragmatist, he had resisted the pleas of several aides throughout the campaign that he take bolder public stands on civil rights issues. The telephone call came because one aide caught him late at night after a hard day of campaigning and staff meetings as he was about to turn in. The aide, Harris Wofford, pitched it as just a call to calm King’s fearful spouse. Kennedy replied, “What the hell. That’s a decent thing to do. Why not? Get her on the phone.”

King was soon released, unharmed, due to a groundswell of pressure directed by blacks and whites in numerous quarters toward Georgia officials (Robert F. Kennedy himself, who was managing his brother’s campaign called the judge who sentenced King to prison). At the time, the white media paid little attention to the call, which suited the Kennedys fine. But it likely transformed the black vote. King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr., a dominating, fire-and-brimstone preacher with wide influence throughout Black America, had, like many black Southerners, always been a Republican and until that moment had said he couldn’t vote for Kennedy because he was a Catholic.

(But) the day his son was released from prison, the elder King thundered from the pulpit of his famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta: “I had expected to vote against Senator Kennedy because of his religion. But now he can be my president, Catholic or whatever he is… He has the moral courage to stand up for what he knows is right. I’ve got all my votes and I’ve got a suitcase, and I’m going to take them up there and dump them in his lap.”

From that moment on, JFK’s bond with blacks, despite his initial tepid support for the movement, was sealed. His assassination, less than six months after proposing what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964, cemented his place of honor among blacks: for years afterward, inexpensive commemorative plates with his likeness were ubiquitous in the homes of blacks across the country. And when his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, took up the civil rights cause and pushed both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act through Congress, black voters moved in massive numbers to the Democratic party.

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Will Racism Prevent White Americans from Voting for Barack Obama?, Part 2: WSJ Doesn’t Think So; Republicans Do.

In the previous post (Will Racism Prevent White Americans from Voting for Barack Obama?, Part 1), I spoke about concerns that whites might not vote for Obama because he is black.

There are some who are skeptical of the idea that race will be a decisive factor in the election. Count the Wall Street Journal among them. An opinion piece by WSJ titled The Racism Excuse begins by saying “Things are supposed to be looking rosy for Democrats this November. But in case Barack Obama loses the Presidency, an excuse is all ready to go: America’s too racist to elect a black man. ”

So it’s worth noting that Republicans themselves are factoring racism into the way they view and manage the election. Consider this comment on polls, from reporting at the Republican National Convention by Southern California Public Radio:

(At a brunch for Californai delegates to the Convention) Republican Pollster and author of “Words That Matter” Frank Luntz was the featured speaker. He openly spoke of the “BRADLEY EFFECT.” That refers to the 1982 California gubernatorial election when then Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was leading in the polls against George Deukmejian. Bradley lost the race. Analysts believe voters lied when they said they’d vote for Bradley, when in fact they were unwilling to vote for a black man. Luntz predicted the same thing would happen with Barack Obama. He told California delegates not to get discouraged if John McCain is trailing in the polls, because the Bradley effect will make up for some of that.

A more pointed comment comes from a unnamed Republican source in this article from Politico.com:

I was talking the other day to a prominent Republican who asked me what I thought John McCain’s strongest issues would be in the general election.

Lower taxes and the argument he will be better able to protect America from its enemies, I said.

Republicans have a pretty good track record with those two.

The Republican shook his head. “You’re missing the most important one,” he said. “Race. McCain runs against Barack Obama and the race vote is worth maybe 15 percent to McCain.”

The man I was talking to is not a racist; he was just stating what he believes to be a fact: There is a percentage of the American electorate who will simply not vote for a black person no matter what his qualities or qualifications.

So, Republicans know what we all know: race is a factor in the election. A bigger question is, are Republicans using overt or subtle appeals to race in this campaign? I have some thoughts on that here.

PS: See also: this article in USAToday dated 9/3/08: Armey: ‘Bubba vote’ to hurt Obama

The “Bubba vote” and underlying racism will hurt Democrat Barack Obama in key battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republican and former House majority leader Dick Armey said Wednesday.

“The Bubba vote is there, and it’s very real, and it is everywhere,” Armey told USA TODAY and Gannett News Service. “There’s an awful lot of people in America, bless their heart, who simply are not emotionally prepared to vote for a black man.

“It’s deplorable, but it is real,” said Armey, adding that he believes “Republicans would not encourage” such prejudices. He said the “Bubba vote” is “invisible” in pre-election opinion polls, because voters do not admit they would oppose a candidate because of race.

The “Bubba vote” is shorthand in politics for white, working-class voters who often live in rural areas — a group Obama did not dominate in state primaries.

Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? Inclusion and Diversity.

{This is the second in the series, “Why do Blacks for Democrats?” The other two posts on this subject are:
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? See Jesse Helms.
• Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats? MLK, JFK, and LBJ.}

Why do African Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats over Republicans? One reason is that the Democratic Party is representative of the America that black people see, and the Republican Party isn’t.

This is illustrated by the following two photographs. The first shows the early field of Republicans candidates for the 2008 Presidential election. The second shows the early field of Democratic candidates.


Republican Candidates for President, 2008 (not in order): California Rep. Duncan Hunter, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain


Democratic Candidates for President, 2008: former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Sen. Joe Biden of Deleware, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio

The Republican candidates are all white males. The Democratic candidates include a white woman, a black male, a Hispanic male, and five other white males.

Other examples of Democratic diversity, and Republican non-diversity, abound.

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Political Musings 6/24/08

One effect of the long, drawn-out Democratic presidential primary was the toll it took on presidential candidate Barack Obama’s financial warchest.

Through the end of May, the Obama campaign raised $287,397,945, and spent $244,250,611. At the end of May, the campaign had $43,147,333 million on hand. This information is available from the excellent web site OpenSecrets.org.

Through the same period, the McCain campaign raised $119,594,596. But because his expenditures were lower-the GOP race was decided long ago-McCain had only spent $83,633,159. He had $35,961,436 million on hand at the end of May.

As noted out by Truthout.Org:

For the first time in the campaign, Republican John McCain in May raised about the same amount of money, $22 million, as Democrat Barack Obama…

Obama spent $27 million in May… $4 million for television ads, $3.3 million for travel, $3 million for direct mail, and nearly another $3 million for phone banking. He spent another $1.7 million on print advertisements and nearly another million dollars on Internet ads.

Meanwhile, McCain spent just $12 million. The Arizona senator dropped about $3.5 million on television ads and spent another $1.4 million on postage. No other spending category for the month of May reached a million dollars.

Having effectively wrapped up his party’s nomination, McCain spent the month focused almost exclusively on replenishing his coffers. His schedule was dominated by money-generating events that helped produce his biggest fundraising month to date.

This is one reason why some folks were hoping Sen Hillary Clinton would concede the Democratic presidential race earlier than she did…

Barack Obama has decided to opt-out of public financing for his general election campaign. This caused John McCain, as the LA Times put it, to have a “hissy fit.”

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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.