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Monday, June 27, 2005

Embrace Your Elephant? Kiss My Ass!

One thing that is exceedingly well-established in politics is the fact that African-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. As surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, any Democratic candidate can be assured of at least 85% of the Black vote. It has been suggested that African-Americans should consider the Republican Party instead of monolithically supporting the Democratic Party. That's fair, let's consider the Republican Party:

From Time:
"Here's some advice for Republicans eager to attract more African-American supporters: don't stop with Trent Lott. Blacks won't take their commitment to expanding the party seriously until they admit that the GOP's wrongheadedness about race goes way beyond Lott and infects their entire party. The sad truth is that many Republican leaders remain in a massive state of denial about the party's four-decade-long addiction to race-baiting. They won't make any headway with blacks by bashing Lott if they persist in giving Ronald Reagan a pass for his racial policies."
In other words, Republicans have to repudiate Ronald Reagan or forget about the Black vote. Ronald Reagan opened his '80 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi where he stated, "I believe in States' Rights!"

His presidency followed that same tract - Ronald Reagan: Great White Redeemer. From The Black Commentator:
"Only 12 years elapsed between the glorious military victory over the Confederate Slave States in 1865 and the definitive defeat of Reconstruction in 1877. In many important respects, the Reconstruction period was even briefer than that. By 1870, when the last of the southern states ratified the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, Tennessee had already rejected biracial democracy and installed an all-white ‘Redeemer’ government. ‘Redemption’ then swept through Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

For the next six years, much of the South experienced El Salvador-like levels of political violence, including the 1873 massacre of as many as 300 Blacks in Colfax, Louisiana – just one episode in the successful campaign to ‘Redeem’ that state for white supremacy. Although the last Black congressman was not run out of the South until 1900 (Rep. George Henry White, Wilmington, North Carolina), Reconstruction was politically crushed with the 1877 Democrat-Republican agreement to withdraw federal troops from South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana. The Hayes-Tilden Compromise signaled that white southern 'Redemption' from the threat of full Black citizenship rights was all but complete. This mutual understanding among the great majority of whites – North, South, East and West – would remain intact for nearly a century. In the warped religiosity of the white southern sense of the word, America as a nation was ‘Redeemed.’ A suffocating peace would reign among white men."

"What the demobilized Black leadership failed to understand is that the 'Redeemers' never quit; they continue to demonize and campaign against Black people even when African Americans represent no threat to their rule. Such was the case in the Deep South in the more than half-century in which the Black vote was virtually nonexistent. No matter. Racist demagogues kept their lock on power by relentlessly railing against helpless, unarmed, economically dependent, despised Blacks. It’s still a winning formula."
The "Redemption" crowd is firmly planted in the Trent Lott wing of the Republican Party, so can someone explain to me why African-Americans would have anything to do with the Republican Party? Nonetheless, let's look at where the parties stand on the issues. What do the Republicans value? As Markos has pointed out, Republican priorities can be boiled down to four points: strong military, family values, lower taxes, smaller government. The first thing that should be noted is that at first glance everyone would tend to agree with those points. Is anyone for a weak military? Who opposes families? Does anyone like to pay taxes? Does anyone really want the government to be any bigger or more powerful than is absolutely necessary? Of course not, and that's the genius of their framing, but as always the devil is in the details. Let's take a brief look at each point.
  • Strong Military
    The United States of America spends about as much on its military as the rest of the world combined, and yet we still have soldiers in the field without adequate equipment - when troops have to buy their own body armor something is seriously wrong. The problem is that politicians - pro-military Republicans in particular - have never seen a weapon system that they didn't like, yet we can't afford them. We're spending money on submarines that the navy says that we don't need, meanwhile soldiers go without armor for their Humvees. So what does it mean to support a strong military? If it means supporting the soldiers who do the actual fighting then you would think that the Republicans would fight to increase funding for veterans, but instead they are cutting veterans' benefits. So does it really mean anything to "support a strong military" other than to support any and every weapon system dreamed up by Ike's Military Industrial Complex? Apparently not.

  • Family Values
    On its face this seems agreeable to many Black folk, especially church-going Black folk. However, as in all things, you have to consider the source. These folks want to go back to the 1950's and before, when men were men, women were women, everyone knew their place and they kept it. Maybe it's just me, but that line of thinking has some chilling implications for Black folks.

  • Lower Taxes
    Here's the thing with Republicans and tax cuts - I am yet to hear a Republican tell me what level of taxation would be adequate. Obviously, we need taxes to pay for government operations, but I have never heard a Republicans say what level of taxation would be fair from their point of view. Never. I've heard talk of restructuring taxes - they don't believe that poor people should get a break on their taxes, that the poor should pay the same rate as Bill Gates - but I've never heard anything about what level of taxation is enough. If they were as honest as Grover Norquist then they, like him, would admit that their objective is a government small enough that they "can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Nice folks those Republicans.

  • Smaller Government
    Grover makes that point abundantly clear, but is that in the best interest of African-Americans? A strong government is needed as a check against strong corporations, against strong interest groups, and against human nature. If not for a strong government we would still be picking cotton in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. If not for a strong government we would still be drinking water out of "Colored Only" water fountains. If not for a strong government we would still be getting lynched on the regular. Black folk have seen first-hand the benefits of a strong government and we understand the necessity of a strong government. A government small enough that Grover Norquist or Pat Robertson or Trent Lott could drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub is not in the best interest of Black folks, because we know who would be next to be dragged into the bathroom and drowned in the bathtub.
So what do Democrats stand for? Markos has been discussing that on dKos, and a major problem with the Democratic Party is that it hasn't had this conversation sooner, but it is being had right now. The Democratic Party believes in a More Perfect Union - I am my brother's keeper but I am not my brother's master. I see five principal Democratic principles: Justice for All, Common Defense, General Welfare, Blessings of Liberty, Domestic Tranquility. This might sound a little familiar - it should.
  • Justice For All
    Democrats believe that all men and women are created equal with certain inalienable rights and should have equal opportunities in this life. While Republicans seem to favor Hobbes' view of the world, Democrats tend to favor Locke. Democrats believe that no man is innately better or worse than any other, and should be treated equally regardless of class or station - the homeless are entitled to the same justice as the rich and famous, the Mom & Pop bookstores deserves the same justice as Borders and Amazon.

  • Common Defense
    Our nation must be secure in its borders, but it does not need to be strong enough to single-handedly defeat every other army on the planet combined. Democrats believe in the use of both hard and soft power - there are times when "please" and "thank you" can get you further than a million-man army. Democrats believe that we need a strong military, but Democrats also believe that American leadership in global issues and international relations can mitigate the need for a strong military. You (usually) don't need an arsenal of guns when you're meeting with your family, and Democrats believe in fostering fellowship within the human family - though not from a position of weakness.

  • General Welfare
    Democrats believe that everyone should have the opportunity to fare well. This stands in stark contrast to the Cheap Labor Conservatives of the Republican Party. It is a question of who should benefit from society - Democrats say that everyone should benefit while Republicans believe that society is for the owners of the means of production. Democrats believe in promoting the General Welfare while Republicans believe in promoting the welfare of a specific few. Democrats believe that the General Welfare is promoted by a government that is accountable to the people, by elections that pass the smell test, by budgets that are balanced, and by protecting the weak from the powerful, lest we create a dangerous situation that would start a war of every corporate interest against every man and make life, in Hobbes' words, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

  • Blessings Of Liberty
    This is often framed as a right to privacy. Bluntly, Americans have a right to live their lives without being hassled by the government or their neighbors. As Patrick Henry put it, "Give me liberty or give me death!" Much the same way that no one can enter your home without your permission, the government and corporations cannot enter into your personal life without your permission. That point is foundational.

  • Domestic Tranquility
    Democrats believe that Domestic Tranquility is furthered when people are enabled to pursue their own happiness, that it cannot be imposed through force. Domestic Tranquility is, actually, a barometer of how well the first four are being met - if there is no justice, if our defense is lacking, if the general welfare is declining, or if our liberties are eroding then there will be no domestic tranquility, there will be no peace. The degree of tranquility is the measure of the perfection of our union.
The bottom line is that there's a political war going on and you have to choose sides or get caught in the crossfire. From where I stand, being a Black Republican isn't just oxymoronic, it's moronic. The common sense choice for Black folks seems painefully obvious to me - what do you think?

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 1:00 AM

Read or Post a Comment

I was glad to see positive themes and messages articulated in addition to point out the discrepancies coming from the GOP side.

When there isn't a clear alternative, I think more Black people become Republican out of expediency, particularly in states where the Republican consensus and patronage is strong and Democratic party state parties have not brought Black people into its leadership.

Posted by Blogger Quintus Jett @ Monday, June 27, 2005 11:25:00 AM #
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