The Lesson of Black Conservatives
By: David Bozeman
The travails of black conservatives are not new to most observers. While Condoleezza Rice garnered raves, even from the likes of MSNBC, for her rousing GOP Convention speech, she has been the subject of racially charged taunts and cartoons (and she is more moderate than conservative). Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, UT and candidate for congress has been referred to on Twitter as an “Aunt Tom” and even worse epithets were seen on her Wikipedia page. Countless other examples pollute our civic life. It is not merely that black conservatives boldly defy expectations, in this age of Obama, they risk the alienation of friends and family.
Political discourse is typically cautious and predictable. Black conservatives are anything but. Republicans, hyper-aware of shifting demographics unfavorable to a majority-white party tend to ‘reach out’ to racial and ethnic minorities as opposed to attracting them with the confidence of core convictions. Conservatism has been neutered in recent years with such cream-puff modifiers as ‘kinder,’ ‘gentler,’ and ‘compassionate,’ and the party has put forth too many candidates unwilling to buck the big-government status quo, submitting to the wisdom of the professional know-it-alls that the poor and minorities prosper only as wards of a benevolent state.
It’s called pandering, and black and other non-white Americans sense that Republicans, like chipper, carefully prepped and underpaid telemarketers, probably don’t mean it. Granted, parties must tailor and temper their message depending on the audience, but they must never surrender their core convictions to the dictates of Washington groupthink.
The reasons for conservative and Republican disconnect with minority voters are too broad and varied to recount here, as are the remedies for correcting it. But conservatives will never gain ground by acting like liberals, and black conservatives can make that case as well as any Rush Limbaugh broadcast.
I am likely the only white man in America who spent Election Night 2008 consoling a black woman deeply saddened by the victory of Barack Obama. Dena, a single mother in Los Angeles, is putting herself through college with an ultimate goal of law school. In 2005 she introduced me to the limitless potential of Internet commentary. This deeply passionate (and always laughing) conservative, who doesn’t own a car, has taken the bus to downtown Tea Party rallies. Clearly, to say that her dedication to core conservative principles is inspiring would not do her justice. But to her, she’s just fulfilling her duty as a mother and an American.
In short, the courage of black Americans such as Dena, Allen West, Thomas Sowell, Herman Cain, etc. should embolden mainstream conservatives and Republicans riveted to focus group surveys and demographic projections. I usually find Dena dismayed by the tentative nature of Republicans. She has repeatedly urged me to read Martin Luther King’s Letter From the Birmingham Jail (not as a treatise on conservatism but on courage). There are numerous gems within, but the following statements stand out: “So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love.” ”. . .human progress never rolls on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent works of men.” ”The Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the . . . Ku Klux Klansmen, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.”
Black conservatives (but not only black conservatives) know that history is forged by bold strokes, not measured ones, by setting trends and not cautiously riding the waves of public opinion. The 2012 Republican National Convention, with its diverse lineup of speakers and Condoleezza Rice’s poignant recounting of her journey from Jim Crow Birmingham to the State Department, merits praise, and while it may not win scores of non-white voters, that tone can serve the conservative movement well in the coming years. For freedom to endure, patriots of all persuasions must defeat the emotion of groupthink pandering and exalt the passion of liberty unleashed.