John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Hitting the Wall

Posted on May 25, 2012


Tara Wall has a tough job.

She is a true-blue, deeply red-state conservative.  She makes most movement conservatives look weak in the knees.  She is a true believer.

And she happens to be an African-American  in charge of black outreach for the Romney campaign.

The Washington Post had an interesting story today about Wall’s efforts to build an outreach machine to black voters (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/romney-campaign-begins-quiet-push-for-african-american-voters/2012/05/24/gJQA).    She was able to convince the candidate to go into a predominantly black community in Philadelphia to try to get some votes.  Romney’s message to them keyed on education, the new civil rights struggle.   Not a bad play, although not very original.

Mr. Romney wasn’t exactly warmly received.  Here is how the Post reported it: “Madaline G. Dunn, 78, who said she has lived there for 50 years, said she is “personally offended” that Romney would visit her neighborhood. “It’s not appreciated here,” she said. “It is absolutely denigrating for him to come in here and speak his garbage.””

Talk about garbage.  Usually, candidates get criticized for not reaching out and campaigning everywhere.

Despite Tara Wall’s best efforts, the Romney campaign is not likely to get more than a few votes in most black communities.  He might gain a few converts on the gay marriage issue, but polls show that President Obama’s approval ratings are still in the upper 90 percents among black voters.

But that doesn’t mean that Mitt Romney should simply ignore black voters.  And in many ways, Tara Wall’s efforts are extraordinarily important for the future of the country.

Mr. Obama has been one of those most divisive Presidents in our national history.  White voters, especially working class white voters have deserted Mr. Obama and his party in huge numbers.  Black voters are now more firmly in the Democratic Party than ever before.  It is tempting for some in the media to blame white racism for this shift, and there is more than an element of truth to that.  But you can also make the case that black racism is equally to blame.  Indeed, if Mr. Obama were white, his economic record in the black community would be the subject of intense protests.  The unemployment rate among African-American youths is horrendously high, and the President has done little to address it.

Despite the record, blacks support him at historically high numbers.  And as evidenced by Mr. Romney’s reception in the city of Brotherly Love, there wasn’t much brotherly love there for the presumptive Republican nominee.

It wasn’t always the case.  Yesterday, I was having lunch with Bob Michel, the former Minority Leader of the House and the former colleague of Everett DirkTara Wall has a tough job.

She is a true-blue, deeply red-state conservative.  She makes most movement conservatives look weak in the knees.  She is a true believer.

And she happens to be an African-American  in charge of black outreach for the Romney campaign.

The Washington Post had an interesting story today about Wall’s efforts to build an outreach machine to black voters (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/romney-campaign-begins-quiet-push-for-african-american-voters/2012/05/24/gJQA).    She was able to convince the candidate to go into a predominantly black community in Philadelphia to try to get some votes.  Romney’s message to them keyed on education, the new civil rights struggle.   Not a bad play, although not very original.

Mr. Romney wasn’t exactly warmly received.  Here is how the Post reported it: “Madaline G. Dunn, 78, who said she has lived there for 50 years, said she is “personally offended” that Romney would visit her neighborhood. “It’s not appreciated here,” she said. “It is absolutely denigrating for him to come in here and speak his garbage.””

Talk about garbage.  Usually, candidates get criticized for not reaching out and campaigning everywhere.

Despite Tara Wall’s best efforts, the Romney campaign is not likely to get more than a few votes in most black communities.  He might gain a few converts on the gay marriage issue, but polls show that President Obama’s approval ratings are still in the upper 90 percents among black voters.

But that doesn’t mean that Mitt Romney should simply ignore black voters.  And in many ways, Tara Wall’s efforts are extraordinarily important for the future of the country.

Mr. Obama has been one of those most divisive Presidents in our national history.  White voters, especially working class white voters have deserted Mr. Obama and his party in huge numbers.  Black voters are now more firmly in the Democratic Party than ever before.  It is tempting for some in the media to blame white racism for this shift, and there is more than an element of truth to that.  But you can also make the case that black racism is equally to blame.  Indeed, if Mr. Obama were white, his economic record in the black community would be the subject of intense protests.  The unemployment rate among African-American youths is horrendously high, and the President has done little to address it.

Despite the record, blacks support him at historically high numbers.  And as evidenced by Mr. Romney’s reception in the city of Brotherly Love, there wasn’t much brotherly love there for the presumptive Republican nominee.

It wasn’t always the case.  Yesterday, I was having lunch with Bob Michel, the former Minority Leader of the House and the former colleague of Everett Dirksen.  We talked briefly about Dirksen’s leading role in the pushing through the Civil Rights laws in 1964.  More Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act in the Senate.

Of course, a lot of history has flowed under the bridge since that moment in time.  The once solid Democratic south has become almost exclusively Red.  And the Republican Party has become a truly conservative party while the Democratic Party is now exclusively liberal.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all black voters are liberal.  In fact, on social issues, many, like Tara Wall, are more conservative than many Republicans.  And on economic issues, leading Democrats like Harold Ford and Corey Booker, don’t share President Obama’s antipathy for free-market capitalism and perhaps someday they can be persuadable on economic issues to vote Republican.

This is good news for the long-term efforts of Tara Wall and other African American Republicans to build more black support for the GOP.  Should the political parties break down primarily among racial lines, the result could lead to a breakdown to our democracy.  And that is not a good thing.   Black conservatives (and there are more than a few of them) should vote Republican.  White liberals should stick with the Democrats.sen.  We talked briefly about Dirksen’s leading role in the pushing through the Civil Rights laws in 1964.  More Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act in the Senate.

Of course, a lot of history has flowed under the bridge since that moment in time.  The once solid Democratic south has become almost exclusively Red.  And the Republican Party has become a truly conservative party while the Democratic Party is now exclusively liberal.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all black voters are liberal.  In fact, on social issues, many, like Tara Wall, are more conservative than many Republicans.  And on economic issues, leading Democrats like Harold Ford and Corey Booker, don’t share President Obama’s antipathy for free-market capitalism and perhaps someday they can be persuadable on economic issues to vote Republican.

This is good news for the long-term efforts of Tara Wall and other African American Republicans to build more black support for the GOP.  Should the political parties break down primarily among racial lines, the result could lead to a breakdown to our democracy.  And that is not a good thing.   Black conservatives (and there are more than a few of them) should vote Republican.  White liberals should stick with the Democrats.