In some respects, it’s a good thing that Herman Cain’s recent surge in the GOP presidential race gave him the platform to make the statement he did about black Americans being brainwashedinto voting for Democrats and not considering conservative candidates.
It was probably a statement born of frustration. Conservatives of color genuinely care about the well-being of the black community, see the problems with the path we’ve been on for fifty years, and see a way out that is not only proven, but has worked for them personally, but no one will give them a hearing.
Herman Cain is an American success story, and when I was coming up, my parents would have pointed to him as an example to follow. To recap, his father worked three jobs, including one as a chauffeur, and his mother was a domestic, and their efforts enabled him and his brother to go to college. He graduated from Morehouse College, which has produced dozens of notable black leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., graduated with a master’s degree from Purdue University while working full-time for the U.S. Navy.
He became a corporate success at Coca-Cola, took over a failing Burger King regional franchise for Pillsbury and made it the best in the nation, turned Godfather’s Pizza around from near-bankruptcy to profitability in 14 months and bought the company from Pillsbury, ran it as president and CEO, headed the National Restaurant Association, served as chairman of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, and became a successful speaker and radio host.
Yet, the black orthodoxy crucifies him, and the names he is called in blog posts and reader comments can’t be repeated in a family-friendly blog.
A black conservative friend running for Congress in Virginia described how an elderly black woman with a cane spotted him at a gas station minding his own business, and came at him with the cane swinging! Such hostility is irrational and unwarranted, and anyone who attempts to truly know us would grasp that – if they wanted to.
If his use of the term “brainwashed” has accomplished anything positive, it has led to a conversation, a heated one in many instances but a conversation nonetheless, about the lack of political diversity in a community whose monolithic support for one political party is, at least to me, one of the great enigmas of American politics.
Why? Simply put, there is no demographic group in America that agrees 88-96% on anything. Even the self-identified gay community is more politically diverse in their voting patterns than blacks. In 2004, 23% of self-identified gays voted for Republicans, and those percentages increased to 24% in 2008 and 31% in 2010.
Conversely, the last time a Republican candidate for president received more than 15% of the black vote was in 1960, when 32% of black voters cast their ballots for then Vice-President Richard Nixon.
I know the answer that most black pundits, preachers and politicians will give you to explain this phenomenon is “Republicans hate black people.”
Sorry, folks, that answer didn’t satisfy me when my parents gave it to me back in 1978, when I asked them to explain why we aligned ourselves with a political party, the Democratic Party, that opposed nearly everything we believed as a conservative Christian family, and which was responsible for the discrimination and racism they grew up with as children of the Deep South. It doesn’t satisfy me now.
I am, by temperament, education and training, an analyst and project manager. I’ve been an intelligence officer, a business manager, a chief information officer and senior information technology executive, and now an associate dean and assistant professor at a large university. None of those roles permitted me to use emotion as a primary determinant for decision-making or action. In fact, I was taught that emotions clouded sound judgment and rational decisions. If the numbers didn’t add up, or the expected results weren’t delivered, or the mission failed, no one cared how I felt about it.
My personality lends itself well to these kinds of tasks. I am a genial person, not particularly demonstrative, and calm and measured in the way I present myself to others. I try to keep my head about me, and I try to live by the edict of Romans 12:18, which states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I am also someone who is comfortable with leadership and taking on big challenges. This blend of classic phlegmatic and choleric temperaments has been my hallmark as a manager and leader.
Because of what my wife calls my “flatline” personality, however, my energy is quickly depleted when I encounter dissonance in my life. My emotions come out in my deep desire for affection and my love and compassion for people. As a result, I abhor conflict, even though I know it’s an inevitable and necessary part of life. Like most people, I want to be liked, and assaults on my personality and character hurt me to the quick. Again, I endure it because it is inevitable, and I must be faithful to the task that has been given to me.
In short, my talents are well suited to what I believe is God’s purpose for me on this planet, but my emotions can and have derailed me, and even harmed me. I have learned that in order to make sound decisions, I must engage the whole person, and not just my mind or just my heart. God asks us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and that is good advice for all of life – give it all you’ve got, but don’t leave your brains at the door.
Please forgive me for baring my soul just a little bit, but I do so to offer context to the words that follow in this piece and the others to come. I became a Republican in 1978, and concluded that I was a conservative, because I made sure my mind was clear and my feelings acknowledged but examined critically before I made a commitment. It’s also how I came back to my personal relationship with Jesus Christ in 1993 after I walked away from Him more than 12 years prior to that. Once my intellect was satisfied, the commitment was easy, and the feelings flowed from that. I don’t know if other conservatives of color arrived at their point of decision in a similar fashion, but I’m willing to bet many of them did.
That also enables me to avoid the distractions that politics can place in one’s path. After all, politics is about persuasion to support one idea or person over another, and there doesn’t appear to be a single rulebook that both sides follow, unless it’s The Art of War by Sun Tzu or Machiavelli’s The Prince (grin)!
One distraction that is particular pervasive in the black community is a propaganda ploy that my intelligence training helped me to discern – the association fallacy. Cults of personality are common in politics, in a positive and negative sense, and people will embrace or reject an entire political party or philosophy because of their attraction to or revulsion for one or a few prominent individuals associated with them.
To me, that’s irrational. Both parties have people in them that are either charismatic and appealing, or revolting and objectionable, and unless they are in a decision-making role within the political party, or they can change the direction of an entire political philosophy virtually overnight, how they make you feel is irrelevant.
Does the fact your fellow churchgoer is a jerk implicate Christ and His teachings? Of course not. Christ Himself said:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
So don’t try to sully a 157-year old political party or a centuries-old political philosophy that dates back at least to the time of Aristotle by pointing to your “go-to” conservative or Republican lightning rod today, and smearing those who claim the same associations with the same ugly brush. Your mind is powerful enough to work past the failings of men, all of whom without exception are sinners, and get to what matters.
If you use the association fallacy to justify stonewalling the GOP or conservatism (note how I make a distinction between the two – there is a difference,and it matters, as I will explain later), not only are you employing a tired old propaganda tool, you are betraying yourself and the people about whom you claim to care, and who deserve better from you than simplistic appeals to emotion.
This post begins a dialogue that I hope will be conducted on both sides of the political aisle. I couldn’t tackle the “brainwashing” comment in one post, so I’m going to try and address it in a series of as few posts as possible. I make no promises, however! The issues raised by Mr. Cain’s comment are too important to be given short shrift, in my opinion, and I have a burning desire to effect change with my words.
I am reminded of what Dr. Ronald Godwin, the provost here at Liberty University, said to us at this year’s faculty orientation about the difference between the rear-view mirror and the windshield when it comes to God’s work in our lives.
When describing the amazing growth of Liberty University over its 40-year history into the largest university in Virginia, the largest non-profit university in the United States, and the largest Christian university in the world, he said when he and the founders of the university look behind them, they see ample evidence of God’s work in their lives, and how He has brought them through many trials and tribulations, and blessed them and the university in the process. When they look ahead, however, the vision is a little murky and they’re not always certain about the direction they’re taking.
Dr. Godwin encouraged us by saying that our look in the rear-view mirror ought to give us enough confidence in God’s plan that, when we look ahead through the windshield, rather than saying, “I can’t see what’s next and I’m afraid,” we’ll say instead, “I can’t wait to see how God’s going to work this out.”
That’s kind of how I feel about this series. I can’t wait to see how God’s going to use it to accomplish His plan, and I’m excited about it.
Next: Exposing the biggest flim-flam in American politics – the erasure of 111 years of American political history, and why it’s important to know why they did it.