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Why Black Americans Could Vote Republican But Probably Never Will

Why Black Americans Could Vote Republican But Probably Never Will June 8, 2015

tl:dr

  • Chicago pastor makes the news for asking his congregation to “get to know” Republicans.
  • Suggests that Democrats are responsible for the current socio-economic conditions of African Americans.
  • Conservatives still question why socially conservative Black Americans would vote with the socially liberal Democratic Party.
  • Blacks are not monolithic, yet vote in a cohesive bloc against Conservatism.
  • Many critiques of the Democratic Party by African Americans are based on their belief that Democrats are not progressive enough.
  • While Black Americans are socially conservative, we have a litany of reasons to never vote with Republicans. So while we could, we probably never will.

Featured image via Pastor Corey Brooks on Facebook

This is only my fourth blog here at Patheos. It is, quite honestly, a strange and magical place where I can read articles from my musical hero, Kirk Franklin, and then accidentally read absurdities by the likes of Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol. As much as I wanted to take a respite from blogging anymore today than I already have, when I run into absurdities that collide at the intersection of my expertise, I am compelled to respond.

I’m quite sure Bristol was “news-jacking” — the online art of regurgitating the news for clicks–when she excitedly reported the story of the Black preacher in Chicago who wants his members to “get to know” Republicans. She even cited Stephan A Smith’s (SAS) statement on blacks voting for the Republican Party at least once. I’ve already addressed SAS in earnest here.

But, there are many misconceptions as to why African Americans vote the way we do. The pastor in the article Palin cited, Corey Brooks, is a victim of some of these:

We have a large, disproportionate number of people who are impoverished. We have a disproportionate number of people who are incarcerated, we have a disproportionate number of people who are unemployed, the educational system has totally failed, and all of this primarily has been under Democratic regimes in our neighborhoods. So, the question for me becomes, how can our neighborhoods be doing so awful and so bad when we’re so loyal to this party who is in power? It’s a matter of them taking complete advantage of our vote.

And Palin’s exuberant response:

“Instead of manipulating his people or telling them there is only one way to think about the world of politics, he’s trying to open their minds to another way. If we vote the way we’ve always voted, we’ll get the results we’ve always gotten!

What are the chances a “reverend” like Al Sharpton would do that for the people who listen to him??”

The irony of Bristol lecturing African Americans on being “manipulated” by their pastors may be lost on her considering the fact that Evangelical pastors have incessantly manipulated their flock into voting with the Republican Party for the last generation. And to what end? Evangelical Christians have lost on every significant social issue for which they have sold their vote. Furthermore, Bristol’s comments are beyond condescending in that, like so many Republicans, they are dismissive of the political acumen of African Americans and assume our votes are out of blind loyalty and/or for handouts (read welfare). Blacks couldn’t be voting for the Democratic Party because of legitimate political and economic reasons, could we?

Truthfully, what I’m doing may not be fair to lay at the feet of Palin or this pastor. It is possible that they  do not have the political, social or economic background to understand the nuances of the logical dissent Americans have with the Republican Party. But, to help them along, allow me to explain why many Black people could vote Republican but probably never would.

Firstly, let me start with a caveat: Black people are not a monolith. We are all diverse and have differing political-economic ideologies. We are religious and atheist, gay and straight, progressive, conservative and independent. Nevertheless, our vote is overwhelmingly a bloc. And despite my pigmentation and verbosity, I only speak for those African Americans who agree with me.

Why Black Americans Could Vote Republican

African Americans are overwhelmingly religious and socially conservative. According to Pew Research’s 2014 polls, 51 percent of Black Americans oppose same-sex marriage and 77 percent view homosexual behavior as sinful. Thirty-nine percent of Black Americans oppose abortions in all cases and 73 percent want members of Congress who have strong religious beliefs. For those reasons alone, many people assume that we would vote with the Republican Party.

Why We Probably Never Will

The only explanation that makes sense to many conservatives as to why Black people do not vote with Republicans is that blacks want handouts and welfare. This is not a wild accusation. Former United States Congressman, Ron Paul, stated that he believed the Congressional Black Caucus only joined him in opposition to war funding because “they want food stamps” for their constituents.

Yet, our socially conservative values are just the gateway drug for many Republicans who are shocked to see that Black Americans still vote with the Democratic Party. The next, and most predictable, reason that conservatives use to suggest that we should vote with them is the reality that many Democrats opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And for good measure, they throw in the fact that the Ku Klux Klan was founded by Democrats. I would remind them that, upon signing the Voting Rights Act of 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson conceded that the Democrats would lose the South for a generation. Indeed they did. Some political scientists posit that 1964 was a realignment election in which the South, which had previously been dominated by the Democratic Party, was now controlled by the Republican Party. Electorally speaking, this is precisely what happened. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, I offer three additional pieces of evidence of the fallaciousness of this conservative assertion in the form of rhetorical questions:

  1. Which current party is actively standing against the re-institution of key components of the Voting Rights Act that was recently gutted by the Supreme Court?
  2. For which party do you honestly think the Klan voted for in 2008 and 2012?
  3. In that the Klan was also founded as a Christian organization, should Black Americans then turn on Christianity as well?

Yet, Republicans either don’t believe African Americans process this type of information into their decision making, or they generally don’t believe the reality of present-day race relations. Ironically, the only person they would ever concede to be racist is Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. But this isn’t because they are concerned with race relations in the U.S. This is because they hope that it would help in their cause to deny women access to abortions and birth control. It’s safe to assume that conservatives don’t think Blacks understand the nuances and craftiness of their political motivations. They feel we’ll just jump every time someone says “racist!”

Finally, to address the pastor’s concerns and the fallacy that the solution could be found in the arms of the modern Republican Party: He is correct on several counts. We are disproportionately impoverished, imprisoned, and unemployed. Our inner city schools are suffering. But to lay this at the feet of the Democratic Party is to take the current state of America in isolation with no regard to the factors that got us to where we are today. Beyond the historical factors of the lingering effects of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and the economic trap of the American ghettos, America made a fundamental shift in the manner in which it invested in all of its citizens. We took that shift in 1981 with the passage of Reagan’s signature act, the Economic Recovery Tax Act. This tax regime changed the amount of resources that were available to invest in education, infrastructure, our communities, and jobs. This was a seismic shift to the Right in economic policy that we cannot simply gloss over. This shift was intricate in creating the economic disparity we see today and for which African Americans are the disproportionate benefactors.

African-Americans are extremely over-represented in the prison system. One key reason many Black Americans do not vote Republican is because when we discuss this issue, conservatives give no credence whatsoever to the systemic problems in our so-called Justice System. Conservatives completely dismiss any notions of racial profiling which directly contribute to our over-representation in the prison system. And most egregiously, Republicans will label everyone a “race baiter” or a “reverse racist” if they dare to stand against the institutionalized racism that is at the root of our policing systems as well as the criminal lens through which African Americans are viewed. Instead, they want us to focus on the so-called morality problem of African Americans which disgustingly plays into their cherished narrative of the brutish nature of blackness that must be civilized by good, Christian, patriotic values.

The Pastor’s assertion of, “If the Democrats haven’t served us we need to go to the Republicans,” is a false dichotomy. I would concede this much: Republicans have done more to lose our vote than the Democrats have done to keep our vote. Still, when it comes to the lesser of two evils, African Americans have opted to vote with the Democrats. But when conversations are held about the failings of the Democrats, those conversations are never about how our problems could be fixed through austerity or through higher tax breaks for the wealthy. African Americans, generally speaking, don’t think the solutions to our economic plight is more Neoliberal economics or even greater Laissez-faire capitalism.

In many black circles, when we discuss the failings of the Democratic Party, it is a critique that is to the Left of the modern Democrats. This is historically true. The Black Panther Party was economically socialist. Dr. King was killed after he offered to the nation his Economic Bill of Rights. While this doesn’t confirm causality, it begs the question. Malcolm’s economic call was essentially centered around group-economics—  a type of economic isolationism that is racially based. The intellectual precursor to Malcolm’s call for group economics was Marcus Garvey who famously stated, “Be black, buy black, and think black…” This ideology is entirely antithetical to the economic policies of both American political parties. But notice the critique is not to the Right of Democrats. It is to the Left. Simply put, Democrats are not progressive enough for many African Americans.

Which brings me to the final reason most Black Americans will not vote for the modern iteration of the Republican Party: Black Americans are economically and politically progressive. And as it stands today, the Democratic Party is the party that holds on to the remnants of progressivism. But this doesn’t mean we vote blindly for Democrats. Those African-Americans who are so disgusted with the Democratic Party simply choose not to vote. Those who do vote for the Democrats tend to do so, if for no other reason than, to keep what we believe to be the greater evil out of power.

And though we may be socially conservative, according to Pew, Black Americans draw the line at discrimination. Many, according to Pew, may consider homosexuality a sin; nevertheless, the majority (61 percent) of us oppose any legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. So, in many ways, conservatives lose the Black vote on social issues as well.

African Americans are diverse. We are not monolithic. Yet, those of us who decide that it is worthwhile to participate in the political system speak with clarity. This statement is not a commitment to the Democratic Party but a commitment against Republican policies and ideologies.

So you see, Ms Palin and Pastor Brooks, we have considered the Republican Party. And to be honest, we’ve considered it with a much deeper analysis than either of you.

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