Unsolicited Advice

In the latest presidential election, Republican George Bush managed to persuade less than 10% of African-Americans to vote for him. If you believe some of the silly Democratic rhetoric from partisans in Florida, you might be inclined to conclude the Al Gore would have garnered an even larger percentage from this community if the ballots were not so confusing.

The truth is that African-Americans are as culturally and economically diverse as other groups in America. There are married and single black Americans. Some are elderly and some are young. Some are wealthy, while others struggle economically. Some are religious. Some are secular in outlook. Some reside in urban areas, while others live in the suburbs or in rural parts of the country. Some African-Americans are robustly healthy, while others suffer from chronic illness. Some are well educated having earned professional and graduate degrees. Others are burdened by illiteracy. African-Americans occupy virtually all niches in American society.

How then it is possible that there is such uncanny unanimity in voting patterns that is inconsistent with the wide diversity of circumstances for black Americans? Some how racial identity and solidarity have been made to trump the differences of economic and cultural circumstances. While African-Americans still share the experience of some measure of discrimination, this alone seems insufficient to account for current voting patterns. By any objective consideration, George Bush extended more of a welcoming hand to the African-American community than other Republicans candidates who received a significantly larger fraction of the African-American vote.

The truth is that some leaders in the black community now have a symbiotic political relationship with the Democratic Party. Commercials sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are an example of this relationship. They suggested that George Bush was somehow complicit in the brutal slaying of a black man who was dragged behind a pickup truck in Texas. So long as certain black leaders are the dominant intermediaries for the black community, Republicans will not be able to garner increased support.

It is not healthy for a two-party political system for one racial group to be so closely identified with only one party. In actuality, the strong support by blacks for Democrats reveals an important vulnerability. Excluding the black population, Republicans generally receive a significant majority of the vote. It is hard to imagine Democrats being able to increase their support from the black community. Not even union members vote for Democrats in such overwhelming percentages. On the other hand, if Republicans were able to make in roads in the African-American vote, it could severely undermine the Democratic coalition.

Here is some unsolicited advice to President George W. Bush as he embarks on his administration.

  1. Do not be discouraged by the lack of black support and do not write off this important group. Try to go over the heads of Democratic black political leaders, by visiting directly with blacks in their own communities. Listen to problems and explain your vision of how to deal with these problems.
  2. Empower the African-American community and wean them from a perceived dependence on the generosity of the Democratic Party. One important way to do this is to take advantage of the support in the urban black community for school choice. Bush should make sure that any implementation of school choice should be focused first on underprivileged communities. School choice would not only improve education is such communities, but would have a concomitant advantage of driving a wedge between the Democratic Party and the everyday black community.
  3. Within in the African-American community churches are very important. It is out of these churches and church leaders that much of the civil rights movement began and is nurtured. Moreover, these churches provide important social services within their communities. George Bush should clear the way for government-financed provision of social services by faith-based institutions. Again, there are two advantages. Faith-based institutions have a good record of providing cost-effective and successful social services. In addition, such policy initiatives by Bush would separate black Americans from the largely secular and some cases anti-religious leftists in the Democratic Party.

During the Congressional session when Bush’s election was officially certified, California Democratic Congresswoman and African-American Maxine Waters objected to the submission of electoral votes for Bush from Florida. Al Gore chaired the session and asked Representative Waters whether she had the objection in writing signed by a member of both the House and Senate. Representative Waters responded that the objection was in writing and, she added, “I don’t care that it is not signed by a senator.” The key for George Bush is to show that he cares, unlike Representative Waters, for both the provisions of the Constitution and the economic and cultural success of all Americans.

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