Discuss: Black voters give cold shoulder to Mitt Romney
I was dismayed by reports that the NAACP gave a cold shoulder to invited speaker and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. You don't have to vote for him, but everyone should listen to him and weigh his words. They can be used to hold him accountable should he win, or to better understand why he lost. That's the American electoral process.
The audience was largely unmoved when he talked about black students overrepresented in bad schools. He mentioned the economy, saying it was bad for everyone, but especially so for African Americans who after decades of historical discrimination, remain more vulnerable to poverty, unemployment and poor health than other groups. Things warmed up some when Romney moved into socially conservatives areas, such as gay marriage. African Americans, particularly the very religious, are politically conservative. Yet another reason for those who skew that way to open dialogue with Republicans.
Romney knew he was going into the lion's den. The arc of African American politics skews largely toward Democrats. That's for good reason. Democrats were the political party supporting the Civil Rights movement, school integration and other efforts to inject equality into a system that had been built on discrimination. See Jim Crow laws, segregation and the Tuskegee experiment for elaboration. Yes, as one astute reader has already pointed out, not all Democrats were on board the equality train. The term Dixiecrats hails from that tumultuous period when Democratic support for civil rights split the party, with Southern Democrats threatening to leave altogether. Indeed, some did.
But African Americans have reached a point where we should be more open to other political parties. We ought to put Republicans through the paces, not simply ignore them. We ought to make Democrats work for our vote rather than take it for granted.
Listen to Romney's speech and let me know what you think:
Yes, President Obama is likely to draw most of the African American vote. No surprise because most African Americans are Democrats. If some pollster were willing to carve out the results of the upcoming election, I'm confident Mitt Romney will receive most of the Mormon vote. People vote for people they believe are most like them, either through viewpoints, family makeup, religion or race. But that isn't an ironclad rule. If Clarence Thomas ran for president, I doubt he'd get a lionshare of the black vote.
Women were unabashed supporters of Hilary Clinton. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain hoped to make a dent in the gender gap with his choice of Sarah Palin. That's why political television ads are so important. Politicians know that most people want to vote for people with whom they share similarities.
I'm not knocking African Americans' tendency to vote Democratic. But Republicans must be held accountable too, otherwise it is too easy for that party to write us off.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics