Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trading in the Currency of Black Irrationality

Crossposted from A Political Season

I consider myself a man of conservative views and a reluctant republican. I believe conservative ideology and principles to be superior to those which underpin the Democratic party. That's why I became a republican. I believe GOP implementation of those conservative ideals and principles is sorely lacking. That's what makes me reluctant.

I disagree quite strongly with black conservatives who give credence to the idea that black voter loyalty to the democrats is essentially a product of mass delusion and brain washing by the democratic party. In this meme, the democratic party is like a cult and blacks are weak minded children mesmerized by a pied piper.

LaShawn Barber kicks it this way:

Democrats consistently get 90 percent of the black vote. Why? Years of damage caused by liberal ideology and misinformation pumped into the black community for the past 25 years.

This train of thought posits a black community essentially too stupid and deluded by others to evaluate the parties on what they deliver and how they deliver it. She asks the following question:

So why did large numbers of blacks switch from voting for Republicans to voting for Democrats?

And gives this non answer to it:

Some say it was President John F. Kennedy’s perceived sensitivity to the oppression of minorities that endeared him and his party to black Americans.

I think this non answer is disingenuous, and the entire argument a species of falsehood. Its perpetuating a myth of black idiocy and irrationality while avoiding talking about GOP messaging and tactics. The GOP, on issues like law and order and affirmative action, has engaged in messaging tactics intended to pit its base against blacks. It has intentionally used wedge messaging, at times with racial undertones, to gain political advantage. Blacks have reacted accordingly by shifting their support to democrats. While it is true that democratic policies have not yielded their promised benefits, it is decidedly incorrect to characterize black engagement with democrats as proof positive that we are not rational political actors. This argument is almost religiously advanced by the right to justify non engagement with blacks, and deflects discussion away from the fact that the GOP has decided that blacks are not a political constituency essential to its aspirations for governance, and acts accordingly.

LaShawn, as conservatives to the right are wont to do, reminds her readers about blacks historical engagement with the GOP at a time when democrats were the party of Jim Crow. This is usually cited as support for the argument that blacks should return to the party of Lincoln (who would have left blacks in chains if it had served his purposes in saving the union), which always prompts me to retort "that was then, this is now". She goes beyond the myth of black political irrationality to cite lingering black memories of government's positive role in Reconstruction, desegregation and the New Deal as a more fundamental reason for black disaffection with the GOP. She posits that it is those memories that make us resistant to the GOP's message of distrust for government. The argument is a bit squishy and psycho babbilish in a way, but its a reasonable opinion. I find fault with LaShawn's view however, because it does not call to account the GOP's political practice at all. This discussion in her view seems to only revolve around black political irrationality (a position I reject) with no analysis or discussion of GOP behavior. In other words, Barber excoriates us for our behavior, and gives the GOP a pass for theirs. Behavior predicated on a calculus she readily admits:

....Republicans can win elections without the black vote; Democrats can’t.

A calculus by the way that demographic change in the United States will render obsolete between now and 2040.