Sunday, January 04, 2009

Republicans & the Black Community: Talk is Cheap

H/T Progressive GOP

This letter was originally sent from the late State Representative Sherman Parker of Missouri to then-RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman in 2005. Perfectly addresses the current situation and presents a solution you've seen advocated on this very blog: recruiting candidates appropriate to the district.

Chairman Mehlman

Republican National Committee

310 First Street, SE

Washington, DC 20003

Re: Talk is Cheap

Dear Chairman Mehlman:

You and President Bush are spending a considerable amount of time talking to African-Americans, coining phrases such as the "party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass." What does that mean if your only goal is to marginally break off the African-American vote? It is embarrassing and you are doing the African-American community a disservice. You are not creating a political infrastructure that competes with the Democratic party. Packing the podium with minority faces at Republican events is meaningless from a black perspective. The African-American voter is more sophisticated than that. The Republicans' only budgeted one to two million dollars to reach black voters, (less than the cost to produce one Super Bowl ad). The fact that there are no major black elected policy makers serving in any state capitol, the United States Senate or the House of Representatives, leaves African-Americans no alternatives to the Democrats.

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that African-Americans began their defection from the GOP for economic reasons during Franklin D. Roosevelt's social-welfare programs of the New Deal, thus becoming a reliable component of the big-city Democrat machines. The African-American embrace of the Democratic Party became even more prevalent during the 1960's; blacks voted overwhelmingly for Presidents' John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. The black vote led to the sweeping civil rights programs, which transformed a nation.

While it is true in part, that Democrats were successful in the battle over African-American voters by presenting them a convincing message, that message may have never been received had it not been used in conjunction with the Democrat Party's considerable effort to legitimize that message by electing African-Americans to office. Any electorate is naturally skeptical and distrusting of politicians and their promises. Given this, the objective of any candidate is to get the electorate to relate to the candidate on a personal level in order to gain their trust, and therefore trust their message. In electing African-Americans, Democrats gained messengers capable of relating to the communities that they were asked to persuade. Democrats drew majority African-American districts, raised money for African-American candidates, provided grassroots mechanisms, and advanced the stature of their African-American officials. Through the gain of African-American officials, these communities were also privy to the same political graft that was so prevalent in Democrat machine politics, which in turn, solidified support among their community leaders.

During the Great Depression, we saw the rise of African-American Democrats such as Adam Clayton Powell of New York and William Levi Dawson of Chicago in city halls and in Congress. Does anyone think Mayor Daley cared about African-Americans in Chicago? NO! Does anyone really think FDR cared about the problems African-Americans were facing in the South? If so, why didn't President Roosevelt make one public statement or one speech pertaining to the disgraceful lynching of African Americans during his nearly four terms? The Democrats' focus was to keep a safe majority for the Democratic Party and to stay in power. During this period, the Republican Party took the African-American community for granted, because they were the party of the great African-American emancipator, Abraham Lincoln.

The problems still rest with the Republicans. Republicans cannot ignore Black voters all year long and then create outreach programs with the goal of siphoning off 10% to 15% of the African-American vote. This approach does not empower African-American Republican leaders. It leaves African-American candidates out to dry with little or no financial resources or other serious commitments, usually after they were encouraged to run for office. Like other top-down efforts, the present African-American Advisory Council is destined to be a complete failure. This approach doesn't build a grassroots organization needed to win future elections. It only leaves future Republican candidates, especially those with limited resources, thinking that it's no use even trying to compete for the African-American vote, since past efforts leave little to show.

Electing African-Americans to legislative, statewide, and congressional office is the only way we are going expand the base of the Republican Party. The typical "outreach" approach does not work. No one listens to paid minority consultants or surrogates. Today's status quo presents African-Americans and other minorities with the only choice of voting for African-Americans/minority

Democrats - many of which are elected officials with high profiles who live in and/or have personal support in the community . The last-minute, Republican outreach program of advertisements and non-elected surrogates will fail, as it always does.

We need to elect African-American Republicans to State Legislatures, Statewide Offices, Congress, and ultimately the White House.

State Representative Sherman Parker of Missouri passed away last year

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