The National Black Republican Association (NBRA) has long been a pioneer in the arena of racial reconciliation. They have had a desire to break the race/party stalemate that has given the perception that all blacks are both politically liberal and Democrats. As part of their raison d’etre, they have published the history of the Republican Party, highlighting the party’s abolitionist roots. It has also trumpeted the courageous stand of early Republicans against racism and the KKK. Armed with this historic information, they have attempted for years to break the political strangle hold of the Democratic Party on the black community. They have spoken out against the “lemming syndrome” that has caused black voters to march mindlessly to their political deaths, behind unaccountable black leaders.
Despite the hard work and vigilance of this group, they have recently stepped on a political land mine. Last week, the NBRA embarrassed itself by stooping to race baiting and name-calling. They launched a regional radio campaign in several major markets that played the race card in a most unusual way. The first ad used its first six words to call Democrats “party racists.” Although I agree with their values and their history, I had to reject their methods. As I listened to ads and viewed the video presentation that accompanied these pieces at their web site, I was filled with many questions. I wondered how this group of business-minded blacks could have slipped so far from both their roots and their typically outstanding use of facts, data, and persuasive debate.
The overt use of name-calling and the racial stereotypes made me think that I was hearing the cry of a desperate organization. They seem to have bought into liberal predictions about the black vote in 2008 and beyond. The three false ideas follow along with an explanation as to why these ideas are not self-fulfilling policies. In addition, I will give the NBRA some advice about a new focus for their efforts.
1. The window of opportunity for Republicans to reach blacks may be closing.
Most pundits noted that the 2004 election marked a watershed moment for conservatives. Record numbers of black Christians voted for George Bush in the 2004 election because of black concerns about family breakdown, abortion, and other “moral values” issues.
I maintain that the faith window is still open for blacks to unite with white, Hispanic, and Asian leaders among the conservative faith community. The valiant leaders that rallied in 2004 are ready to ride again, if they hear the right sound. Now is the time for the NBRA to lead the way in creating a new unifying dialogue with the faith community in which they can discover and promote the shared values that social conservative and biblically grounded folks share.
2. An Obama presidency may lock blacks into the Democratic Party for another 8 to 10 years.
In a static political world this statement would seem like a truism. People that think in this manner do not expect the Republican Party to support exciting, new black candidates. It will be easier than ever before for the RNC to find the next generation of black leaders it needs. Ambitious, conservatively blacks may not want to spend countless years jockeying for local positions. In liberal states like Maryland the atmosphere is just right for emerging leaders. Further, there are quite a few black conservative leaders on the political sidelines that should be taken off of the “injured list.” This list could include men like Ken Blackwell (former Ohio Secretary of State), Michael S. Steele (former Lt. Governor of Maryland), Condoleezza Rice (current Secretary of State), Colin Powell (former Secretary of State), and J C Watts (former Congressman from Okalahoma). In addition to these black luminaries, there are scores of black pastors in major metropolitan areas who can be mobilized to reach strategically significant areas. The Democrats have used black pastors for years in both local and national races.
3. Republican campaign dollars may shift to Hispanics who may give the party 40 - 50% of their growing vote.
Wise Republican Party leaders would not view the recruiting of blacks and Hispanics as mutually exclusive. It should recruit both communities. Regardless of the growing number of Hispanic voters, there will always be communities that will have black voter majorities. In addition, Barak Obama’s campaign proves that the right black candidate can cross the color barrier and win. The NBRA needs to help train promising black candidates. This training should include fund raising, strategic assistance in campaign development, and networking/coalition building.
It’s time for conservative Christians to step up and become the glue for an emerging conservative movement. In my new book, The Truth in Black and White, I explore the changing nature of faith, race, and politics in America today. I give a concrete plan to mobilize Bible-believing blacks with their white counterparts. The work was written as a way of uniting social conservatives in this unprecedented movement in history. Tell a friend about the book, start a discussion group, and let’s seize the moment. Find out more at www.thetruthinblackandwhite.com
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.