Herman Cain has ushered in a new round of controversy as he seeks the GOP nomination for President of the United States. Using black voters as a means to propel oneself to the forefront of political discussion and debate is hardly a new tactic in politics, but in the Obama era, it has almost become the standard by which ones political viability is measured. In Herman Cain’s latest attempt to promote himself as a serious black Republican worthy of attention, he made a claim earlier this week suggesting that black voters are incompetent and unable to think for themselves because most are led blindly by Democratic handlers. If black voters wanted to be truly liberated and counted as actual functional thinking human beings, they must vote Republican and in particular support Herman Cain. Granted, those weren’t Mr. Cain’s exact words, however it’s the implications behind his statements that invoke outrage and the controversy currently in the media.
Whenever, black voters are brought up in Republican punditry, commentary, or debate, some variation of Herman Cain’s assessment is oft-repeated. Republicans pretend to be unable to understand why black voters overwhelmingly vote Democratic. We never hear from actual Democratic black voters on their media programs, there is never a serious evaluation or study performed, and instead we get lip service, dismissive commentary, and arrogant statements from Presidential hopefuls like Herman Cain. Republicans would have you believe that black voters are an enigma and our minds work in mysterious ways, except of course if we vote Republican.
So instead of a real discussion we get insults. How many times must black voters be accused of living on a Democratic plantation where we are too stupid to realize we are enslaved? If black Democratic voters are in the fields slaving for DNC masters, then what does that make Republicans like Herman Cain? I guess going along with the analogy, that would make black Republicans like Herman Cain by definition, House Negroes, Freed men, or runaway slaves.
Of course, all this highly emotionally charged rhetoric is politics as usual, but the scary part is when black Republicans like Herman Cain rehash these tired ideas, they knowingly or unknowingly give their non-black counterparts license to make similar claims. This was evidenced recently by Republican pundit Pat Buchannan who called black Democratic voters “brainwashed” and on a “plantation”. If pressed, pundits like Buchannan, state that they are only repeating what a black Republican previously stated. Which is exactly what Pat Buchannan did.
The major problem with this issue of black voters is that in the divide and conquer strategy of GOP politics, they reaffirm that to them the only voter worthy of human decency and respect is a Republican voter, and they simultaneously ensure that black voters will continue to vote majority Democratic. Black voters don’t want to be talked down to from a position of supposed superiority intellectually, politically, or otherwise. If Republicans wanted to get serious about the reasons why they don’t enjoy support from a voting bloc who for the most part ironically, is socially conservative, maybe they should start with the very issues and policies they support.
Contrary to popular sideshow commentary by token black Republicans, black voters are not brainwashed zombies or slaves on a plantation. We know why we vote for a candidate and what issues matter most to us. Please save us the tired lines about Lincoln being a Republican or how Democrats were pro-slavery, those convenient facts have no bearing on policies in the modern era.
On countless issues that by and large impact black communities negatively, Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to policies which will ease our grievances. When it comes to civil rights, unemployment, social service, drug sentencing disparity, consumer advocacy, health care, education, and other legislation and reforms important to black voters, Republicans have consistently voted no. Democrats by and large have never skipped a beat by voting yes. To put it mildly: It’s the issues stupid.
If there were Republicans who supported legislation that closed the gap between cocaine and crack sentencing disparity, supported health care reforms that ensured access to affordable healthcare for all Americans, who supported an end to predatory lending practices, among other things that disproportionately impacted minorities, black voters would give Republicans another look. What’s so hard to understand about a voting bloc voting according to their interests?
Herman Cain, spare us the tired “blacks are too stupid to realize how great the GOP is” speech. Engage us with real ideas, real policies, and real legislation that we can get behind. If Republicans put a fraction of the energy in courting black voters that they do for the top 10% of wealthy Americans and corporate interests, maybe, blacks would be willing to return to the party of Lincoln.