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Dr. Boyce: Romney’s Address of the NAACP May be Appealing to “Black Political Orphans”


Dr. Boyce: Romney’s Address of the NAACP May be Appealing to “Black Political Orphans”
by Dr. Boyce Watkins, KultureKritic.com
Today, in a column for CNN.com, Roland Martin writes about the pending visit of Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney to the NAACP.  Martin says that Romney won’t get many African American votes in November, primarily because the GOP has done such a terrible job cultivating African American voters.   He says, however, that Romney’s appearance could be beneficial to future GOP candidates.
Yet despite the long odds, Romney’s decision to speak to at the NAACP national convention in Houston next month is a smart move, and one that could be beneficial to his candidacy and the future prospects of the party.
Let’s face it, the Republican Party is as white as it could be. Sure, the party can boast of the electoral wins of Reps. Allen West and Tim Scott, both African-American; Indian-American Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina; and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, both Hispanic. But the GOP gets virtually nothing from black folks, and Hispanics predominantly vote for Democrats.
Martin makes an accurate point that “minorities are now the majority,” meaning that Republicans need to step up their appeal to black and brown voters in order to win future elections.  But in spite of the party’s decision to reach out to Latino voters, Martin argues that they are still afraid of African Americans.
Yet it seems the GOP is deathly afraid of reaching out to black folks. I’ve even said that it seems like the GOP is scared of black people. That has ticked off some conservatives, but it’s real.
I’ve had a difficult time getting white Republicans in Congress to come on my TV One cable network Sunday morning news show, “Washington Watch.” We’ve had an open invitation for the last three years for every member of the GOP’s House and Senate caucuses to come on the show, but only Reps. Tom Price of Georgia, Pete Olson of Texas and Steve King of Iowa have accepted the offer.
 Martin’s point about GOP reps being afraid to come on his show is interesting.  On one hand, it sounds like a dare, similar to the one presented by Tavis Smiley back in 2007, who was highly disappointed when few Republican candidates showed up to his debates at Howard University.  I’m not sure if tapping at their egos or calling them out is going to get them to change their behavior.  Also, appearing on Roland Martin’s television show is hardly a prerequisite for showing that you care about African Americans voters.
Perhaps a more reasonable explanation for why the Republicans are afraid of black folks is because they should be.   When you’ve spent decades doing someone wrong, you don’t want to walk into the belly of the beast and be held accountable for your behavior.  The Republican party has allowed itself to be hijacked by individuals who hate having a black president and have written off the bulk of black Americans as unethical, uneducated, welfare recipients.  That’s hardly a secure platform on which to stand.
Romney’s appearance at the NAACP convention is brilliant because he is planting a seed into the minds of millions of black folks who are tired of the same old abuse coming from the Democrats.  He’s saying to them, “Look, I’m not a bigot and I respect you.  I want the same things for my family that many of you want:  Jobs, education, a moral society, and a chance at the American dream.”
Many African Americans, interestingly enough, are closet conservatives who feel that they have no political home.  These “socio-political orphans,” are in perpetual limbo, like the woman with an abusive boyfriend waiting for a nice guy to ask her out on a date.  They are looking for an excuse to consider the Republican Party, but each time they open their minds, the Republicans do something racist and stupid.
In 2004, millions of African Americans (including those in my own family) switched to vote for President George W. Bush.  I was not one of them.  But my relatives who made the switch did so for some of the same reasons as Colin Powell:  They believe that every American should work hard for what they get; they are not fans of abortion, gay marriage and a host of other consistent liberal talking points;  they believe that loyalty to Jesus is nothing to be ashamed of.  The list goes on and on.
When Roland Martin was suspended by CNN for his anti-gay remarks on Twitter, millions of African Americans saw nothing wrong with what he said.  Some also feel highly threatened by the assertive homosexual agenda, as if their own children are going to be pushed to consider a lifestyle that they are not comfortable with.  Yes, homophobia is quite rampant in the black community, there is nothing wrong with someone disagreeing with the lifestyle for religious reasons.  This is hardly the thinking of a voter who fits snugly within the liberal political space.
So, if I were to give Mitt Romney advice on how to address African Americans this week, it would be simple:  Be yourself and treat them like they’re human beings.  Don’t patronize them and don’t write them off.  If you give respect, you will get it.  Not every African American can be considered part of the black Republican target audience, but there are millions of African Americans who are willing to consider every option.
I am personally in favor of Romney’s appearance and hope Republicans work harder to woo African Americans.  I am not in favor of the move because I will ever be a Republican.  I support the move because African Americans should be encouraged to be independent thinkers and to consider every alternative when deciding where to place their votes.  The idea that you should be a Democrat just because someone told you to do so is highly disrespectful and impedes on your right to free political choice.
We didn’t fight hundreds years for our freedom just so we could hand it over to the Democrats.  If they want to keep the black vote, they should be required to compete for it.
 Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


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