OPINION BY DEVONA WALKER
It appears some Republicans are finally talking sense, publicly admitting they need Latino, women, young and gay voters in moving forward.
‘Our party needs to realize that it’s too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late,’ said Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union and a longtime GOP leader.
“Our party needs a lot of work to do if we expect to be competitive in the near future.”
During all this Republican self-examination (Republicans on Hispanic voters, on young voters, on Asians voters, on Women voters, on Gay voters), there is very little mention of black voters. Despite the fact that Blacks make up about 36 million of the U.S. population and have the highest voter turnout of all ethnic minorities and even with a Black man in the White House, we continue to be the “blind spot” in American politics. It’s ironic considering it was the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy, the widespread stoking of racial resentment between southern whites and blacks, which set them on this path. It’s unfortunate for those of us who feel we have been forced to choose between the lesser of two evils: The Democratic Party who has taken our vote for granted and the Republicans who have consciously and consistently waged these ethnic wars using us as scapegoat and boogieman.
Alternative for the N-Word
In this recently released video below, the infamous Republican strategist Lee Atwater described how the Republican Party could code racism in a way that it would not hurt them politically. Instead of screaming the N-word, he told them to use phrases like forced bussing, states’ rights, or cutting taxes. That lexicon has evolved to include affirmative action, crime, entitlements, takers and a host of other code words.
As Republicans try to reinvent themselves, they are questioning the efficacy of the “Southern Strategy” with a 21st century electorate. Unfortunately, it’s not because anyone has said “No” to the continued demonization of black voters. It’s simply because they have suddenly discovered the concept of “Math,” meaning the “us against them” rhetoric is only being questioned because there are simply too many of “them” and not enough of “us” in the equation.
Marginalizing the black vote: the Democrats
It’s silly to argue race is not a part of politics, and it’s naïve to assume only one party uses it to control votes. While Republicans use it to motivate Southern white voters, Democrats have also used it. They use it by creating this narrative that we need them to protect us from racist Republicans, and more broadly racist white folks – who without the protection of good white Democrats would trample upon our rights.
It has become such a constant in American politics – probably because the Democrats have done almost as thoroughly of a job at scaring black voters as Republicans have done alienating us – that I barely batted an eye when Vice President Joe Biden told a group of black folks in Virginia that Mitt Romney planned on unleashing Wall Street and putting “y’all back in chains.” Personally, I have become so desensitized about race and politics when Newt Gingrich called President Obama the “Food Stamp President” I barely batted an eye. When Rick Santorum stated he didn’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money but by offering them opportunity, I simply thought “Here we go again.”
Then, when Mitt Romney said, after losing the election, Obama only won by giving gifts to young, black and women voters, I thought, “yeah right.”
Sure, that’s offensive. What annoys me is the constant “handling of blacks” that appears more pervasive among Democrats. What worries me is leverage. More to the point, it’s the fact that a monolithic black electorate has no political leverage. Politics is not, nor has it ever been, an exercise in altruism. And politicians sure as hell aren’t altruistic. Until black voters demand more out of the political process and politicians, issues affecting us like an institutionally racist criminal justice system, unfair drug sentencing, affirmative action, the lack of urban economic policy solutions and near utter failure of urban K-12 schools will continue to be ignored. Only in America does having a black man in the White House not immediately advance but somehow complicate the cause of Black people.
Devona Walker is Politics Editor for The Burton Wire.