Note: This is the second of a series, “Brainwashed, Incurious, Hard-Hearted or Bamboozled?” The previous installment can be found here.
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s accusation that the black community has been “brainwashed” into supporting the Democratic Party and liberal policies exposed to the world a frustration with which most black conservatives are all too familiar.
Contrary to the stereotype, we care deeply about the ascendancy of the black community in America, and it is heartbreaking for us to witness what we perceive to be our willing participation in our own destruction.
Fifty years and tens of trillions of government dollars have bought three-fourths of our children without fathers in the home, an unemployment rate that, even in the very best of times, has been slightly more than one and a half times that of white Americans, more than half of our young black men not finishing high school, and more of us murdered through abortion than all other causes of death in the black community combined. And those are just some of the depressing statistics, most of which I can recite from memory.
It seems impossible, at least to conservatives of color, that any thinking person could examine this dismal record and the tragic waste of human capital, and be anything less than outraged. We should be questioning the approach we’ve been taking, and asking hard questions of our supposed benefactors, who have been telling us that they have the best answers for us. Clearly, they do not.
In fact, they’ve perpetrated upon us the greatest lie in American history, a lie that has essentially erased well over a century of civil rights achievements by one political party, and brutal oppression of our race by the other.
I would love to give a history quiz to every black child in America, and it would have only two questions:
1) Which political party or its members:
2) Which political party or its members:
My guess is that most black children would give “the Democratic Party” as the answer to the first question, and “the Republican Party” as the answer to the second – and they would be wrong.
The president who was a leader of the Progressive movement, from which today’s liberals have appropriated the name for branding purposes, and who, according to historian Eric Foner, “imposed full racial segregation in Washington and hounded from office considerable numbers of black federal employees”, was Woodrow Wilson – a Democrat.
The nominee for president in 1960 who voted against the 1957 Civil Rights Act as a U.S. Senator, and who was angered by the actions of the Freedom Riders, was John F. Kennedy – a Democrat.
The number of prominent Dixiecrats who left to join the Republican Party? Three – Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Mills Godwin. In fact, most of the southern politicians who became Republicans were post-1965 “new South” politicians for whom integration was settled law.
But what about the “Southern strategy” that presidential candidate Richard Nixon employed to persuade racist southerners to join the GOP?
Nixon lost every state in the deep South to independent candidate George Wallace in 1968, and part of the reason, other than Wallace’s segregationist history and its appeal in that region, was that Nixon refused to abandon his civil rights agenda:
“The deep south had to be virtually conceded to George Wallace. I could not match him there without compromising on civil rights, which I would not do.”
Doesn’t sound like a man bent on exploiting race to win over the South, does it? In fact, Republicans didn’t win a majority in the South in congressional elections until 1994, 26 years after the “Southern strategy” was supposed to have been launched.
In fact, much of what we’ve been told about the “Southern strategy” is myth, one that even I bought into and referenced in my book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch. In accepting the conventional narrative, I violated my own personal rule of doing my own homework and not accepting what I read or hear from others at face value, especially when it comes to politics, where agendas take priority over truth.
What does this all mean when it comes to race and the political parties? Writer Jay Cost, in a well-written rebuttal of the whole “southern racist Republican” myth, put it best:
Almost every national leader played both sides of the issue at one point in their careers. I can really only think of two definite exceptions: Woodrow Wilson, who was an out-and-out racist and saw to it that African Americans were left genuinely worse off, and Benjamin Harrison, who was the last president to make an all-out effort for voting rights before the 1960s. (Dwight Eisenhower might belong with Harrison, as he passed the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, desegregated Washington, D.C., and finished desegregation of the military; however, it’s fair to argue that he could have done more.) Pretty much everybody else tried to have it both ways, at one point or another – including the liberal Democrats. FDR refused to back the Wagner-Costigan Anti-Lynching Bill, Truman opposed the liberal civil rights plank in the 1948 platform and wrote in his diary that it was a “crackpot” idea, JFK voted to water down the 1957 Civil Rights Act, and LBJ led the charge to water it down.
I would never make the argument that the Republicans are pure as the driven snow, but I wouldn’t put a halo over the Democrats’ heads, either, especially with the ugliness of their history, for which they’ve never apologized. The Republican Party didn’t beat, bomb, lynch, terrorize or disenfranchise black people – ever.
The GOP’s greatest racial crime, if there is any to be found, is indifference, and that’s because the Democrats have done such a masterful job of rewriting history and persuading the black community that they, not the Republicans, own the legacy of emancipation and integration. As a result, Republicans have no hope, and therefore no motivation, to pursue the black vote.
I like to use a sports analogy to make my point. If you’re willing to offer a hometown discount to the team for which you play, and you have no interest in testing the market to see what you’re worth, your current team will string you along because it knows your loyalties are fully with them and, for that same reason, no other team will give you a look. If you’re a free agent, however, teams have a reason to compete for your services, and you have the potential of getting a more lucrative deal.
We’ve been giving the Democrats a hometown discount out of loyalty, and the Republicans aren’t competing for your services because you’re not even on the market.
Let me make clear that I’m not trying to convert blacks to the Republican Party. Despite my own party affiliation, I have a very Machiavellian perspective on political parties, and that is this.
Political parties exist to win elections and keep power.
That is their prime directive, and no one should be confused and think they have any affection for a particular group beyond what that group can do to help them accomplish the goals for which they exist.
We in the black community, however, have lost sight of this hard truth.
In 2006, Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele was running for the U.S. Senate against Ben Cardin, a white Democrat who most blacks in the major population centers of the state had probably never seen nor heard before that election. Steele, a long-time resident of the DC metropolitan area, was endorsed by the black members of the Prince Georges County Council, which embraced his platform of black economic empowerment. They didn’t endorse any other Republican but him.
You would think, however, that they had donned white robes and hoods, given the reaction from their constituents. After the election, they were called to account by the voters and, in one particularly telling town hall meeting, a black woman stood up and declared to her council member, “You don’t go against family.”
And this is why we are lost.
When we begin to equate a political party with family, when we forget that political parties, like nations, do not have friends, only interests, then we have lost our political objectivity and are ripe for exploitation.
There is one more aspect of this great flim-flam by the Democrats that needs to be noted. They would like you to believe that the GOP of yesterday is not the GOP of today when it comes to the topic of civil rights. I would contend, however, that it’s not the GOP that has changed but rather, as Cost suggests, the definition of “civil rights”, thanks to the Orwellian workings of the so-called progressive party.
You see, the Republicans believe civil rights are those “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence to which all men are entitled. The legal rights that allow our full participation in the civic affairs of our nation, and the freedom to pursue our lives to the full extent of our potential, were what the civil rights movement was all about. That battle was won, and we are free to exercise the same rights as every other American citizen.
When the definition was altered to encompass the distribution of wealth by the force of government, however, it went against deeply held Republican principles that also date back to the party’s first campaign in 1856 – “free labor, free land, free men.” From the beginning, they believed in the freedom to work for yourself, the freedom to own property, and the freedom to keep the fruits of one’s labors. That’s what Frederick Douglass, the nation’s first black leader, believed in when he said of the black man:
All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs. Let him alone! Your interference is doing him a positive injury…If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as a white man.
It’s not the GOP that has changed, as much as we have.
By that token, we are strangely incurious or disinterested in knowing the full story of the political parties that have so affected our lives since 1854. I wouldn’t call that brainwashing, however, because I’m not a prophet.
Prophets are the ones who speak candidly and aren’t focused on winning popularity contests. Jeremiah and John the Baptist were prophets and, as any Bible reader will tell you, they weren’t particularly subtle in their condemnation of their people, nor were they well-received.
Prophets are necessary because we all need someone who will tell us the truth without embellishment and won’t pander to us.
My role, however, is that of a teacher and an evangelist, and my goal is to instruct and reach out, to build bridges rather than walls. That’s why I’m trying to lay out the truth as I understand it – one step at a time.
Next: Government didn’t save us.
Ron Miller of Lynchburg, Virginia is an associate dean and assistant professor of government at Liberty University, a conservative activist and commentator, and author of the book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom's Porch. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for several online sites and print publications, and his own website, TeamRonMiller.com. Join him on Facebook and Twitter at @TeamRonMiller.