GOTTFRIED: Why the GOP should not spend time reaching out to the black community

Scots do it, you can too / Photo: CFAAC, California Friends of African American Caucus
Scots do it, you can too / Photo: CFAAC, California Friends of African American Caucus

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2014 —  Every now and then I look at Townhall online, because it appears on my computer screen despite my efforts to cancel this unwanted service. I am personally offended by them because the editors never answer any query on any subject I send. I have reason to believe this is quite deliberate, because I am widely regarded in “conservative” circles as someone who stands outside the authorized political conversation. Perhaps the young editors have been discouraged from having any contact with me. And this too is entirely understandable. I am indeed an unreconstructed representative of the American Right as it existed in the middle of the twentieth century and I don’t have the time of day for those who attach the term ‘‘rightwing” to being a generic Republican or cleaving to a neoconservative party-line.

But I do occasionally peek at the Townhall offerings of the day because occasionally there is a decent column by Ann Coulter or a surprisingly reactionary commentary by my young friend Jack Kerwick.

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But then there are also those depressing opinions that are posted there which resemble what one of my friends has described as “gelatinous masses of outworn leftist detritus.” Among the worst example of this that I have recently encountered on Townhall appeared this Saturday and was posted by a frequent contributor John Hawkins, who edits a website inappropriately called “Rightwing News.” Since the terms “conservative” and “rightwing” quickly elide in this commentary, into a synonym for Republican, we may assume the operative term has no substantive meaning, other than supporting one of our two taxpayer-financed national parties.

In his opinion piece, Hawkins tells right-wingers how they are “screwing up” while trying to expand their base. Note that being right-wing here means voting for GOP candidates on Election Day, or whenever one is now allowed to cast one’s devalued ballot.

According to Hawkins, one of his side’s worst blunders is to have failed to reach out to blacks. The Right, meaning specifically Republicans, “deserves” to lose black votes because we lie to ourselves and to others about how we wish to help non-whites:  “Do we show anything more than superficial concern for the issues impacting their lives? Are there Republican showing up in their neighborhoods, trying to make some kind of difference in their lives? No liberal Democrats have been a disaster for black Americans in every way, but do they do these things? Yes, they do. That’s why they kick our behind with black Americans….and guess what? The exact same principle applies with young Americans, single women, poor Americans, Hispanic Americans.”

Hawkins’s commentary represents the kind of pathological hand-wringing Republican partisans get into every time they bring up the question of why non-Whites and particularly blacks don’t like them. If truth be told, I too loathe the GOP, for rightwing reasons, and as far as I can tell, I’m white.  Why isn’t it reasonable to assume, without writhing in fits of guilt, that certain groups will be attracted to one party and other groups to another party? I don’t see Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer appearing at functions of the NRA or of organizations supporting traditional marriage and trying to bond with their members. In fact, I don’t notice, pace Hawkins, most Democratic politicians hanging out in black neighborhoods and trying to befriend their unemployed residents.

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Why should Republicans following Hawkins’s counsels (which alas they already are) run around trying to make nice to ethnic groups that despise them?The last time I noticed, most Republicans are still white Protestants. There is nothing wrong with that, except that ethnic minorities in most societies throughout the world feel excluded by what they perceive as a hostile majority group. No matter how frantically the GOP as a predominantly white Christian party “reaches out,” other groups will continue to define their identities as those of beleaguered outsiders.  Moreover, although the GOP has done zilch to reduce the size of the American welfare state, its politicians use canned slogans about “getting government off our backs.” This probably ticks off blacks and Hispanics, who depend disproportionately on “big government” for jobs and subsidies. Of course if the GOP were honest about how little it really does to get government off our backs, it might upset its core voters, who swoon over largely empty phrases that have little connection to reality.

In my much considered view, scribblers like Hawkins have internalized leftist views, together with most of the rest of their generation. They went to leftist schools, were exposed to the leftist media, and imbibed in varying degrees popular culture. What they call “conservatism” or even more misleadingly “the right wing,” is a low octane version of what the rest of the Left believes. Most importantly, these faux conservatives cannot think of blacks without laying guilt trips on themselves and blaming the GOP, which spearheaded the civil rights and feminist revolutions, of not doing enough for minorities. Into the 1960s it was the GOP that pushed equal rights for blacks and what would later be called women’s rights when the Democrats were socially the more conservative of the two national parties.  The GOP since then has generally moved to the left on social questions but has done so a bit more haltingly than the Democrats, who underwent a sea change in the 1960s.

What would Hawkins propose to make blacks accept a historical picture that for them has no relevance? Is it the fault of GOP politicians that blacks won’t notice how liberal their party has been on social issues? Perhaps the sought-after group just doesn’t care and in any case feels happy in a non-WASP party that promises its members more social programs. Hawkins warns us against “pandering” and wisely tells us that “pandering on Affirmative Action and amnesty” won’t help the GOP. But the reason he gives here is downright silly and reflects what I call in a book by that name “the politics of guilt.” Blacks, we are told, wouldn’t like Republicans no matter what stands Republicans took because blacks would “still see no evidence that we care what happens to them.” Too bad I couldn’t cite that whacky quote when I was writing my book Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt!  It doesn’t get whacker—even among Republicans.

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  • Mark

    Wasn’t the Republican Party founded precisely because of Blacks?