Monday, March 09, 2009

Race, Rhetoric, and the Republican Way

By Andrew Simon

Minorities are consistently polled as being *more* conservative, *more religious*, and more consistently right wing than any other segment of the American landscape. So why aren't we winning? Two words: Rush Limbaugh.

I sit down with a group of hard working, middle class African Americans to watch Mr. Limbaugh on CPAC. The response, to a man, was one of bewilderment, disbelief, and astonishment. What appeared to them as the apparent de facto head of the Republican Party using single mothers as punchlines. The loud, proud declaration that there is no "Spanish vote" or "minority vote" that needs to be approached, engaged, or even considered; that the keys aren't stronger, sound policies, they're angrier, less inclusive sound bytes.

"There is no compromise between good and evil."The last time I checked, the struggling single mothers I see doorknocking aren't evil, and they aren't "too stupid" to get the message either. She is not, as was suggested in the speech, the sort of liberals "we won't ever win over anyways." She is simply the symbol of millions of potential Republican voters, overwhelmingly socially conservative, but, understandably, slightly more concerned about her child turning up dead than turning out gay. The fact is, Rush is utterly off the mark in his rallying cry of "to hell with dialogue."

If our attempt to reach out to urban communities, instead of coming up with new, constructive policies that empower Americans to empower themselves in real, measurable, and substantive results, is to simply try to find the first candidates we can track down with a skin tone a few shades darker than Arnold after a day at the tanning booth, and get them to parrot Rush and Palin slogans in the inner cities... we really might as well stop pretending and just plain send white candidates to campaign in *actual* blackface.It's easy to be loud and angry and shake your saber against "the enemy." There's no real responsibility attached to it--and lets not kid ourselves, it's quite an entertaining, team building exercise.

The problem is, though, it doesn't help the team get any bigger. And it's not because we're not being loud enough for under-represented communities (or, post Rush, should that be "communities"?) to's because we've fallen in love with our own voices so much that we've stopped listening to what the communities are actually saying. It doesn't require "abandoning our values," either. It's simply a matter of fact that in numerous Republican states, strong local initiatives to support these groups already exists, providing assistance with re-education, retraining, and outreach. But instead of annunciating these success stories and showcasing Republican solutions to be clear, effective alternatives, they are drowned out and ignored in a sea of loud yelping voices and general disinterest.

As only one example of innumerable potential inroads, I personally spearheaded an initiate that brought children from poor communities together and provided free tutoring, mentoring, and fine & performing arts lessons. It proved that real change was possible, one "community" at a time, without big government or ANY government. It opened segments of communities that wouldn't have normally given us the time of day to realize that when we talk about extending "a hand up instead of a hand out" we don't just really mean extending the finger. All it took was a few volunteers and some elbow grease to open up scores of new potential prospects into our ranks....imagine if we took on efforts like that nation wide, and publicized them effectively? If low income parents could thank the grassroots efforts of a Republican Urban Agenda for improving the lives and the educations of themselves and their children?

We'd be living in a different political universe, my friends.But, as long as all we *really* need to focus on is "staying on message" and as long as the people in the party who strive to move forward with new ideas and new efforts to broaden the base are decried as sellouts or... worse yet..."In-tel-ec-tu-als" (complete with eye rolling), any such hopes are nothing but pipe dreams. Fixing those pipes will take more than being the party of Joe the Plummer. Steele recognizes this. Rush doesn't. It's easy to be loud when you don't have to be accountable for concrete results. It's harder to take the slings and arrows that come with tough decisions and real work. So for those content to shake their rattle at "the enemy," be my guest. I'll be busy supporting Steele and building the bridges that'll take us somewhere bigger and brighter in 2012.

~Andrew Simon is a conservative outreach specialist with a focus on establishing grassroots initiatives in under-served communities. His public speaking expertise has earned him considerable awards and recognition, including numerous international public speaking championships. He is an active contributor to

No comments: