Thursday, April 22, 2010

As the GOP Continues to Cringe at the Spectacle (or Diversionary Tactics?) of Michael Steele, He Gives Some Truth

I think it is interesting the Michael Steele said something that the overwhelming majority of black folks, including black Republicans, know: there is little, at this time, that is appealing to black folks about the GOP. Some would argue that I am being generous by using the term "little." But to hear that coming from the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, again (Ken Mehlman essentially said the same to the NAACP a few years ago in his apology for the use of the Southern Strategy). Steele went further by noting that it was the Southern white male vote that the GOP sought through that strategy, and there is no question that the strategy worked. That demographic group is as solidly Republican as the Southern black male is Democratic.

I commend Steele for continually reminding the world that black folks were solidly Republican from the acquisition of the vote for black men until the middle of the 20th century. Both parties made strategic decisions with regard to black voters, from Harry Truman integrating the armed forces, to Barry Goldwater denigrating the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And it is almost comical today to see that if something is appealing to the wide swath of white Southern voters, then it is almost equally unappealing to the wide swath of black Southern voters. So when you add the fact that the national Republican party has essentially become (with small variations) the embodiment of a white Southern voter's world view, then one can understand the uphill battle that Steele has in helping to diversify the GOP.

I still find it funny that many young Republicans from the South seem genuinely unaware that their grandparents, for example, were likely strong Democrats, and that they seem not to know precisely why "granny" or "paw paw" abandoned the party that was their political home. I've actually had those conversations, and they have been rich. And I don't think that anyone would blame black folks for going toward a party that seemed genuinely interested in helping them achieve a better existence in this country.

With all of that said, I wonder if Steele's admission will get folks talking. It needs to. I've long said that black Christianists and white Christianists can certainly bond on those issues that are directly related to their understanding of the Bible, like the abhorrence of gay rights or the disdain for abortion. We saw that type of coalition building come together when the various states passed marriage equality bans.

I think it is sad that we still have this level of enmity within the body politic, but I fully understand why it is there. So does Michael Steele. The fallout from this should be interesting. It's also possible that Steele may be deflecting, once again, negative attention about his management skills at the RNC. As a matter of fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all, but that doesn't diminish the truth in what he said. After all, the GOP is the original home of the black vote.

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