Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson did not participate in a nationally televised debate held at the historically black college, Morgan State University; and this morning, the lead story on the Today show questioned the reasoning behind the four top-tier Republican presidential candidates skipping out on an attempt to share with a majority black audience what it is the GOP stands for and why minority voters should consider voting for the Republicans next November.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said the absence of the four leading candidates was a mistake. Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts called it a “stupid decision.” Last night, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said, “I’m embarrassed for those who didn’t come.” And this morning, NBC’s Tim Russert scoffed at the rather lame excuse of “scheduling conflicts” when he said to Matt Lauer, “As a presidential candidate, you make time for debates.”
Earlier this week, I highlighted a statement made by former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman at the 2005 NAACP Convention. At that event, Mehlman said, “Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”
I personally don’t believe that Ken Mehlman was paying lip-service to the NAACP and the black community as a whole, but it sure looks like the Republican Party is saying one thing and doing another when their leading candidates for President of the United States skip out on a debate geared towards “people of color”.
Putting aside my involvement with the Democratic Party, I want the Republicans to compete with the Democrats for the black vote. I want to see people like John McCain, Mitt Romney, President Bush, et al. in my neighborhood asking for the votes of people that look like me. I think there’s a real frustration brewing in the black community over the Democratic Party. We look around our communities and we continue to ask the question, “What has voting for the Democrats gotten for us?”
Have our schools improved? Has crime gone down in our communities? Are more blacks becoming small business owners and relying more on themselves than on the government? Are our communities as a whole being improved? I had a conversation with my mother on this topic about two years ago, and she agreed with me, but she asked me, “Who else are we going to vote for? The Republicans don’t care about us. The Republicans are for the rich man.”
This is a lady who has a Master’s degree and whose favorite Republican was Illinois Senator Everette Dirksen. This is a lady who came from a time where there was a conscious effort made by Republicans to reach out to the black community and court their votes. In 1960, Richard Nixon and the Republican Party captured 32% of the black vote. Now, the GOP would be lucky to capture 10%. Something happened along the way (and I have my theories) that drove all those black voters over to the Democratic side.
I don’t think it is good for democracy for one political party to have a monopoly over one segment of the population. I believe, as Howard Dean said, that both political parties have to “show up” and compete for every vote. Are you going to run into a hostile voter or two? Sure, that’s the nature of politics. But should you avoid an entire demographic group because you’re afraid of any hostility that may be directed towards you from that group of people? Heck, no!
That’s just foolishness.
The Republican Party has got to do better than that, and I know they can. I truly want to see some Republicans down in South Fulton saying to my neighbors, “Hello, we’re Republicans. This is what we stand for. Vote for us.” I would love to see that happen. I would love to see a genuine debate occurring between Democrats and Republicans over the issues that concern black voters and the black community as a whole, but that will never happen as long as Republicans continue to do things similar to what McCain, Giuliani, Thompson, and Romney did last night.