Overall, I agree with Ron Christie’s argument in the Daily Beast on “how to really empower black voters nationwide.” The former special assistant to President George W. Bush and deputy assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney says, “Republicans need a positive message for people of color, and they need to state that message clearly, and with conviction.” The Republican strategist, who is African American, writes, “Republicans need to expand who they are talking to in communities of color.” Both are very true. But the GOP suffers a bit from denial and has a self-reinforcing image problem that makes it seem inhospitable to people of color, which is something that comes through in the fourth paragraph of Christie’s column.
It jumps off the excellent story last week by Nate Cohn on the potentialpower of the Southern black vote in keeping the Democrats in control of the Senate. “Now we need to see the power of the black vote expand nationwide,” Christie writes, “which will only happen when Republicans and Democrats alike are forced to fight for their support.” And then he adds:
Given that roughly 90 percent of blacks are committed supporters of the Democratic Party, I suspect they will take this voting bloc for granted by promising more government support and handouts — belittling blacks by assuming that a majority of us are interested in “free” stuff from the government. I also assume that they’ll continue pushing the canard that the Republican push for voter ID laws is an attempt to disenfranchise black voters.
Voter identification laws as an attempt to disenfranchise black voters is hardly a canard. Plenty of Republicans, elected and unelected, are on record admitting it. Colin Powell went so far as to take his party to task over its fevered claims of voter fraud. “You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud,” the former secretary of state said last year in North Carolina. “How can it be widespread and undetected?” Indeed, how can it?
As for belittling blacks, the Republican insistence on peddling makers-vs.-takers nonsense to deny that there are people in this country in need of assistance is a prime example of said condescension. Surely, the GOP must see that it shoots itself in the foot with every utterance of “free stuff.” Good luck getting a look-see from folks loudly branded as moochers by the same people asking to be taken seriously. And let’s be clear: Free stuff is the food sample the folks at Costco hand you, not the food stamps that keep families from going hungry.
No sooner did Christie slam “free stuff” than he praised a Republican who saved his seat by highlighting his ability to get “free stuff” from Washington. Christie praised Sen. Thad Cochran’s successful run-off against challenger Chris McDaniel as a model for “how to effectively bring black voters to the polls.” The five-term senator from Mississippi won, Christie insists, “because Cochran did what many Republicans seem reluctant to do: Ask for the support of black voters, and make a real, substantive argument for that support.”
Yes, that is true. But in asking, Cochran did something else. According to a Jackson Free Press story last month, “Cochran tout[ed] his support for historically black colleges and universities, the Jackson Medical Mall and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps.” One man’s “bring home the bacon” is another man’s “free stuff.” Christie doesn’t try to explain how Cochran’s actions didn’t belittle blacks.
Like I said, Christie makes a good point. Democrats and Republicans should actively compete for the African American vote. And there is no denying that he is correct in his assessment that Democrats take black voters for granted. But Republicans make that oh so easy when their condescension, racially tinged rhetoric and questionable policies make them an unworthy alternative.