John Feehery: Speaking Engagements



Posted on November 11, 2008



            Republicans need to pull an Inchon maneuver and go behind the lines of the Democratic coalition.  The prize?  African-American voters.


            I know, I know.  Black voters will never vote Republican, especially with Barack Obama as the new President.  Or so the conventional wisdom goes.   But hear me out.


            As was proven the Gay Marriage vote in California, African-American voters are actually a lot more culturally conservative than many other parts of the Democratic coalition.  They are not for gay marriage.  Many African-Americans voters are pro-life. 


            They are in the Democratic coalition for a couple of reasons.  Economically, they don’t like the Republican message of free-markets.  And, unfortunately, Republicans decided in the 1960’s to change their basic philosophical message on civil rights from Lincoln’s example of strong federal involvement to John C. Calhoun’s example of state rights.


            For the last forty years, Republicans have made unholy deal with Dixiecrat Democrats.  You help elect us, and we will help you fight further civil rights legislation.


            As a result, African-American political leadership has steadily and overwhelming migrated to the Democratic Party.  This year marked the culmination of that migration, as African-Americans voted for Barack Obama at the highest percentage in history, about 95%. 


            The election of Obama gives Republicans a great opportunity.  Just as Jack Kennedy’s election marked the high point for Democratic Catholic voters, this election could mark the high point for Democratic African-American voters.


            When Kennedy became President, Catholics became more confident in their place in American society, and they became more willing to look at other political options.  This accelerated as Catholics moved to the suburbs, became more prosperous, and started breaking from the grip of machine-politics. 


            Black America has started to do the same thing.  Throughout America, a more confident and prosperous African-American middle class has sprung up.  And they will start to think more about their political options.  Many of their leaders, including guys like Harold Ford Jr. and Cory Booker, have distanced themselves from the old guard, and are beginning to present a more moderate image.


            Social conservatism is just one issue where black America is more in line with Republicans than Democrats.  Two other issues are ripe for the picking. 


The first is crime.  Crime has devastated the African-American community.  Kids are killing kids, the prisons are teeming with young black men.  If Republicans can craft an anti-crime, but not anti-black, criminal justice package, they can win this issue with this community.  Republicans should move to scrap the death penalty, and then move in with a tough anti-gang program that will take back the streets for law-abiding citizens.


The second issue is education.  School choice is extraordinarily popular with the African-American community.  The GOP should continue to push it.  And as Barack Obama chooses to send his girls to a private school in DC, Republicans should make the American people understand how hypocritical this choice is.  As his friend Adrian Fenty struggles to improve DC schools, and as the District’s citizens clamor for more school choice funding from the Congress, Obama turns his back on both school choice and on public school education.


Michael Steele is making a run to be RNC Chairman.  He may not win the post, but he deserves a shot.  And if he does get it, he should lead project to win over African-American voters for the GOP.  It may seem crazy, but the time is right to make a play for these voters.

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