In an opinion piece out today on the New York Times website, Charles M. Blow discusses race and the role it plays in politics. Primarily, Blow argued that it is the racial divide in the two major political parties that drives their respective agendas. I strongly disagree with this premise, but I do agree with a few things Blow said and I want to give him credit for those.
LET’S GET ALONG
First, he rightfully pointed out that President Obama, who, during the campaign, promised to transform us into a post-racial nation, has failed to do so. Countless actions, inactions, and comments from Mr. Obama and his administration have been antithetical to post-racism. The Cambridge situation; a refusal to investigate voter intimidation by Black Panthers, who later printed “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters for George Zimmerman, which also went unacknowledged; and most recently, Attorney General Eric Holder conducting get-out-the-vote training for black ministers are all examples of the racially divisive mentality of our first black president.
Second, I agree with Blow that we need to seriously examine the role of race in politics. Blow’s article is entitled, “Not Afraid to Talk about Race.” I concur. Let’s talk, Mr. Blow, but let’s be honest. It isn’t the racial divide in the parties that leads to divergent policy ideals and governing priorities; it’s the view of our nation’s future that separates us.
Conservatism isn’t a racial (or racist) philosophy. Prominent black leaders in our nation have long been conservative, seeking a limited role of government in the lives of citizens. From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a registered Republican, who sought equality in opportunity, to Representative Allen West, a Florida Republican, black leaders recognize that people are best served by a government who protects them not one that rules them. Indeed, Dr. Alveda King, the great civil rights leader’s niece, continues to be a loud conservative voice.
The problem lies not in black versus white, but rather in conservatism versus progressivism. The question is: Will we fight to return to our founding principles based on individual responsibility and freedom, or will we go “Forward” to a faux utopian state in which “government should guarantee everyone enough to eat and a place to sleep?” Blow cited a Pew study that found that 78% of blacks and Hispanics believe the latter is the best path. And there’s no surprise there.
Continuing, Blow argued “[t]his is not to say that minorities who favor a stronger government want more government handouts.” This is blatantly untrue. The Democratic Party has long courted minority voters with promises of grandeur—that “if you’ll only vote for us, we’ll take care of you.” And take care of them, they have. In 2009, 28% of the black population received food stamps while 15% of Hispanics benefited from the program. Similarly, 66% of total welfare recipients are minorities. And the number of food stamp recipients has risen by 70% since 2007, when the Democrats took control of Congress and continuing under President Obama, and is predicted to continue to rise during Obama’s tenure, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Progressives have been promising government handouts as a method to woo voters, and it works in the minority community. But why?
Well, it’s simple messaging. “Republicans are racists.” Period, end of sentence. This statement takes on many forms from challenging Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to reform (not cut) food stamp benefits to the desire of the GOP to secure the border with Mexico. Race has long been an open wound in our nation resulting from slavery, Jim Crowe laws, and separate but equal. While these atrocious miscarriages of justice are a black eye on our nation’s past, they are just that: The past. If we ever want to truly move to a post-racial society, the race-mongering must end. One of my former bosses, a black Democrat from Louisiana, once told me, “When folks play the race card, it’s because that’s the only card they have.” In other words, playing the race card shows you’re not playing with a full deck.
Blow queries what role will race play in the presidential election. He claims that 90% of Romney supporters are white while Obama supporters are more diverse and that 75% of swing voters are white. There’s no doubt this election will be decided in the middle and if those swing voters sway more toward Romney, which they are likely to do, he may be able to pull off the win against Mr. Obama. Blow posits they will move because they “agree on the racially charged issues,” but I argue it isn’t race, but rather policy, that will drive swing voters to Romney.
Swing voters care about the economy and jobs. The economy is still suffering under the current Administration and unemployment is still above eight percent, and as of last week, it is starting to climb again. Swing voters attribute this to the Obama policies and as a result, will likely move away from him in droves this November.
BRINGING IT ALL HOME
Blow concludes: “The trick will be to have a conversation about the direction of the country…” I absolutely agree. This election is about America’s future. Will we continue to be great because of the proven policies of our past? Or will we become yet another socialist nanny-state on the path to failure?
But he continues that conversation must “take into account but lifts the language to a level where common goals can be seen from differing racial vantage points.” Here’s where I disagree. Dr. King said it best during his “I had a dream” speech, in which he desired for people to be judged based on the “content of their character, not the color of their skin.” Shouldn’t our thoughts, priorities, and policies be judged by the same standard?