WASHINGTON, D.C., November 14, 2012 — There is a prevailing myth in American political culture that the Republican Party hates black people. From MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to popular comedy shows like Family Guy and Boondocks, the Republican Party is always out to make black peoples’ lives miserable. This has had political consequences as the Republican Party has failed to attain even 10 percent of the black vote in the last three presidential elections.
The myth stems from the idea that the Southern Democrats became Republicans after the 1964 election. Somehow people seem to believe that the Dixiecrats were really Dixiecans and merged into the Republican Party. That is untrue.
Historically, Republicans freed the slaves, opposed Jim Crow Laws, opposed eugenics and defeated the Confederates; Lincoln was a Republican, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, Frederick Douglas was a Republican, and Sojourner Truth was a Republican. The Republican Party introduced and passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957, and 1991, all to help blacks achieve equal rights. And even in the last few decades, Republicans have been introducing legislation to relieve black poverty, celebrate black achievements, and increase opportunity for black children.
In 1983, Ronald Reagan signed Martin Luther King Jr. Day into law. It was the first official holiday for a private citizen in the United States history and it celebrated King’s achievements during the civil rights era. The bill was a bipartisan effort between Democrat Congressman John Conyers and Republican Senator Edward Brooke.
President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas, the second black Supreme Court justice. George H.W. Bush signed the 1991 Civil Rights Act, which expanded civil rights to people of different faiths as well as nationalities.
During the Clinton Administration when Republicans controlled Congress, the GOP passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which Clinton vetoed twice before being forced to sign it. The result of the Republican welfare reform had two longstanding effects: a reduction in out-of-wedlock children and a reduction in child poverty. Both of those directly benefited the black community, which has an overwhelming majority of out-of-wedlock births. Overall 3.5 million were removed from poverty because of the successful legislation the Republicans forced upon Clinton.
And then there’s George W. Bush, the man Kanye West claimed, “hated black people.” During his administration, Bush created the office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives to expand federal funds to religious organizations. Under that office, Bush expanded access to people dying of AIDS in Africa. The number of recipients of antiviral medicine exploded from 50,000 to 10.1 million people.
Bush also created or expanded 1,200 community-based health centers. The number of low-income people helped by those centers has increased by 5.8 million people since 2001. The Supplemental Education Service provided access to tutors for more than 535,000 students who went to underperforming schools. George Bush also bolstered relief efforts for Africa by expanding access to nutrition assistance and Malaria relief. The Bush administration used this office to spend more than $50 million on job re-entry for former convicts and on a comprehensive anti-gang initiative, which especially went to help the poor in the inner cities.
But Bush’s two greatest achievements expanding opportunity for black people were his expansion of school vouchers and gun rights.
In the District of Columbia, a majority black city, Bush introduced the first federally funded school voucher program. The program provided 2,000 low-income students with $7,500 to cover private tuition and transportation. After three years, a study by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance showed that participants in the program had significantly better results in reading test scores than their public school peers. Upon his election, President Obama immediately ended the program, which was later re-instated when the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2010.
George Bush also appointed justices who understood the importance of Second Amendment rights. Access to handguns was expanded in Washington D.C. and Chicago. It all started when a black man, Chicago resident, Otis McDonald wanted to buy a handgun to defend himself. This led to a Supreme Court battle, the conservative justices won the day, and cities and states could no longer ban guns. A similar case in Washington D.C. had occurred the year before. As a result, Otis got his handgun and the murder rates in Chicago and Washington D.C plummeted, saving thousands of lives.
This substantial list of Republican-led endeavors to remove blacks from failing schools, poverty, and hunger doesn’t even include the many Republican state endeavors by to increase minority-owned businesses and school choice.
So why don’t blacks vote for Republicans? Despite some solid efforts, Republicans have taken the easy way out. It’s much easier to change a law or add another poverty program than to change a heart. If Republican and conservative leaders would fight as hard for the civil liberties of black men who are incarcerated by the hundreds of thousands for non-violent drug crimes in our War on Drugs as they do for black babies who are aborted in the wombs of their mothers, they might gain some ground. Republicans and conservatives need to reconsider the War on Drugs, as it is not small government and is hurting what conservatives strive to protect the most: the family unit.
Either way, Republicans can no longer quietly act as they have for several decades, simply passing legislation and hoping the chickens come home to roost. We must be more engaged with the inner the people of the inner cities, the black churches, the rural countryside of the Deep South, rather than a caricature for blowhards like Kanye West or Chris Matthews. And while there is a subculture of black people who think America was a nation founded by thieves and built by slaves, this is the idea they were sold by Democrats, the party that believed in slavery and Jim Crow, the party that fought the fifty-year war on poverty and let poverty win; the party that supports substituting a welfare check for a father, Section 8 housing for a home, a gang for the family unit, and the state for God. They are the party of fear and lies.
The Republicans shouldn’t be offering the same type of false equality that Democrats have been cooking up for half a century; Republicans can never be more nanny state than the Democrats. But conservatives and Republicans need to show that we haven’t written off blacks and that there is a better day in the freedom to succeed than in the false equality they’ve been offered thus far.
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