What does Caroline Kennedy have in common with black America? If your answer is not much, I'd tend to agree with you.
When I think of Caroline, I think of Manhattan and Park Avenue, not the Bronx and Brooklyn. I think of Brentwood and Beverly Hills, not Watts and South Central Los Angeles.
But there is something that Caroline and black America do have in common. The Democratic Party.
Whether Kennedy succeeds in her effo rt to slide into Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat will have little to do with her Democratic Party bona fides. Per her policy positions ticked off the other day, she is in perfect and predictable liberal alignment with party boilerplate. If she fails, it will be for reasons other than her views.
So what exactly is the common political ground that Kennedy bluebloods share with the 90 percent of America's blacks who vote for Democrats?
A careful look shows the deep internal contradictions of the Democratic Party and the complexity of the political psyche of black Americans.
Ironically, despite Democratic Party rhetoric about economic inequities and wealth and income gaps in America, those gaps are more pronounced inside the Democratic tent than inside the Republican one.
According to exit polls from November's election, Barack Obama captured the vote of America' richest and America's poorest. Fifty-two percent of those with incomes over $200,000 voted for Obama and more than 60 percent of those earning under $30,000 did.
Our wealthiest senator, John Kerry, is a Democrat, as is our wealthiest House member, Jane Harman.
The nation's two wealthiest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are both, by all indication, Democrats.
What political aspirations can black Americans, whose median income lags the nation's share with these multimillionaires and billionaires?
There is little common ground regarding values.
Church attendance correlates reliably over time with party affiliation, and this remained true in this last election. Those who attend church frequently vote Republican. Those who don't usually vote Democratic. Except blacks.
Blacks, in fact, have the highest church attendance in the country. Seventy-six percent of black Democrats attend church at least monthly. Sixty-seven perce nt of Republicans do and 50 percent of white Democrats do.
A recent Gallup poll shows blacks more aligned with Republicans than Democrats on social issues -- moral acceptability of homosexuality, abortion, and sexual promiscuity.
On energy and environmental issues, blacks poll more closely with conservatives than with liberals. It's because these are pocketbook issues. Working blacks have little interest in paying the higher taxes and bearing the higher costs that will result from chasing global warming windmills and displacing cheap hydrocarbon energy with exotic government-subsidized alternatives. Lower energy costs also put blacks on the side of offshore drilling for oil and gas.
How about education? Wealthy liberals, despite having their own kids in private schools, oppose school choice. When a black family is given the opportunity to pull its child out of a failing public school and send him or her to a church school or another alternative, they are grateful.
So where's the common ground? Income redistribution. A recent Zogby poll shows 80 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of liberals, and 76 percent of blacks supporting taxing the weal thy to give money back to low-income Americans.
Despite everything else, blacks vote to stay on the liberal plantation. Pop psychologists would call the relationship between wealthy liberals and blacks co-dependence.
Republicans are wrong if they think they'll win blacks on social issues alone. They need to help blacks understand that lim ited government provides the economic mobility and opportunity they need and that the welfare, redistribution state does the opposite. They must help blacks gain self-confidence so that they can enjoy the benefits that can only come from freedom.
So far, Republicans have failed to do this. Which is another reason why they now sit on the outside looking in.
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