Hutchinson Down About Emerging Black GOP Majority
by Darryn "Dutch" Martin
It's no secret that the relationship between black Americans and the Republican Party is rocky.
Despite the Party's history of helping end slavery and passing civil rights legislation, the GOP's standing among blacks has fallen dramatically over the past 40 years. At the same time, the Democratic Party - thanks in large part to today's black leadership - maintains a virtual lock on the black vote.
Since Lyndon Johnson's defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election, Democrats have consistently won between 80 and 95 percent of the black vote. At the National Urban League's 2004 convention, President George W. Bush pointedly asked: "What have the Democrats done for you?" As author, columnist and political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson notes in his new book, The Emerging Black GOP Majority, that simple question challenged black America to re-evaluate its decades-long partisan allegiance.
Reverberations from that question seemed to make an impact. That November, black voters supported President Bush by margins of ten to 12 percent (as opposed to less that ten percent in 2000), with blacks supposedly decisive in Bush's battleground win in Ohio. Furthermore, pundits suggest Democrats must maintain their lock on the black vote if they want to establish a long-term working majority.
In his book, Dr. Hutchinson notes that black conservatives such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are not political anomalies and that increasing numbers of black evangelicals, for instance, are making our community more aware of our conservatism. He attempts to analyze and assess Republican progress in appealing to black voters, and discusses how both parties invoke the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to garner support, particularly from the black clergy.
Dr. Hutchinson, however, insinuates that most blacks blame President Bush for what happened to the poor black residents of post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, essentially repeating rapper Kanye West's claim that the President "doesn't care about black people." To him, the gains of 2004 were washed away with Katrina's floodwaters. This is where I disagree with Dr. Hutchinson.
In only criticizing President Bush, Dr. Hutchinson fails to legitimately spread the blame. He makes virtually no mention of the incredible incompetence by liberal politicians such as New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco before and after Katrina's landfall. Nor does he blame the Great Society programs of the Johnson Administration for creating the generational welfare state that crippled the Lower Ninth Ward long before 2005. In fact, with regard to the welfare state, he considers opposition to such programs a failing of the Republican Party.
I also take issue with Dr. Hutchinson's insinuation that Republicans rely on "divisive racial rhetoric" such as the 1988 Willie Horton election ad. Horton, the convicted killer who left incarceration on a 1986 Massachusetts prison "furlough" to rape and beat a Maryland couple, was used to say Governor Michael Dukakis - the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee - was soft on crime. The ad, which was not run by the Bush campaign itself, did not focus on Horton's race. Nonetheless, Dr. Hutchinson says blacks were offended, and Republicans must eschew such tactics.
Again, the author is selective with blame. For one thing, then-senator Al Gore first raised the furlough issue during the primaries. There is also no admonishment for those who would side with a convicted killer in the name of racial solidarity.
Furthermore, which side in the political debate consistently paints anyone opposed to affirmative action as racist? It can easily be argued that liberals have succeeded in capturing the black vote not because they deserve it but because they and their enablers in our community have perpetrated a cult of eternal black victimhood and grievance upon which the modern-day civil rights establishment depends for its very survival.
Throughout the book, Dr. Hutchinson makes a laudable effort to be objective. He still goes a little too easy on liberals, while not giving President Bush and his party enough credit for how its platform and programs have resulted in concrete benefits for black America.
Black employment and homeownership increased substantially under President Bush. Furthermore, President Bush supports school choice programs which would overwhelmingly benefit poor black children trapped in failing public schools. Have liberals done any better? The author fails to elaborate on this very important point.
Despite its flaws, The Emerging Black GOP Majority still serves as an interesting political commentary.
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Darryn "Dutch" Martin is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
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