Republicans must do better than this

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.


  1. Groseclose says:

    The top tier’s strategy MAY make some sense in the short-run political enviroment, but a cumulation of these short-sided decisions will undoubtedly be hurtful for the GOP in the long-run. Just one more reason to appreciate Mike Huckabee!

  2. Burdell says:

    And yet, whose four names do we see in reports about the debate? Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.

    Not Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee Alan Keyes, Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter, or Tom Tancredo.

    This is going to go down as the most stupidly absurd Presidential race in American history.

  3. GAWire says:

    Andre, I don’t disagree with you. I actually agree with what Newt said about it, as well as some of the others.

    In terms of explaining this, all these campaigns are trying to do is measure each move they make. Kind of like Benefit-Cost analysis for politics. Perhaps the projected costs for missing did not outweigh the perceived benefit for attending; maybe the benefits of attending were not enough to outweigh the potential risks. The potential costs of attending from the campaigns’ point of view probably had something to do with the fact that they could really damage their perception among black voters if they were to mess up in the least bit. This probably outweighed the (perceived) short term frustration with their lack of attendance.

    Now, what they probably failed to do was adequately measure the fall out from media and competition of actually not attending. Or they felt this would fade quickly, which in all actuality, probably will.

    Then there is the legitimate factor of scheduling, which I will admit is typically an excuse, albeit a good one, because let’s face it, these guys have plenty of places they could be.

    Chris Mathews’ comment misses the point. The true argument that he could make is: what was the scheduling confict? If they missed the debate because they participated in another debate or another venue where they would get much more attention (which remember, would play into the whole campaign measuing B/C analysis thing), then that is normal politics. If they were meeting at Joe and Jane Voter’s house in New Hampshire, then that’s something to call them on.

    We are all very quick to complain about things, but these are just some things to think about. Overall, though, Andre is correct and I think I see what Grose’s point is too. They missed out and there were probably some bad measurements on the part of the campaigns.

    Overall, though, it will fade and be forgotten. Good points, though, Andre.

  4. GAWire says:

    “””This is going to go down as the most stupidly absurd Presidential race in American history”””

    Just FYI, this quote is made every four years in America.

  5. Harry says:

    I don’t think it’s a stupid decision at all. Why should they set themselves up for potshots from an undeniably hostile group, where they have nothing to gain and something to lose? Sure, some blacks will vote Republican, but it will be because they agree with Republican principles like the rest of us, not because the front-runners failed to pander at such a pseudo-event.

  6. Still Andre has a good point. As a young black man and a democrat he comes across as more people should. All he and many others ask for is a little more working together and a lot less politics. I wonder what the participation would have been had this been an NRA hosted debate.

    I think Andre sums things up quite well in his last paragraph. I would welcome meeting more Democrats like him.

    Yeah, I can understand the whole cost/benefit thing but this just reinforces the stigma that Republican candidates have with the minority community. Was it a set up? Who knows. “Taking potshots?” Well they are running for President, they should be able to stand the heat. After all, they are applying to represent the whole country.

  7. YourFutureLeader says:

    I just dont understand the logic of not fighting for every vote. Its the same thing with how Republicans and Democrats will campaign hard in swing states and barely touch the opposittion parties states because its considered too Blue or too Red. To me it doesnt make sense, these guys need to be after every vote they can get not dodging tough questions because they might feel uncomfortable god forbid we make our elected officials feel that way.

  8. Federalist says:

    Considering that only 2 or 3% of the african-american population votes GOP, or .039% or the population (divide that by .39 and you would arive at the expected african american republican vote)…this was not a bad decision…from a managerial stand point. Especially for candidates that can afford to reach mass audiences with their advertising. We will see mccain, romeny, guiliani and maybe ft campaign ads…but the rest can not afford to campaign in the south…again this is a managerial standpoint. So ask yourself…would you rather concentrate on picking up votes in a key primary state by campaigning there and fundraising…or get .009% of the votes attention, when you already have it?

  9. StevePerkins says:

    By pointing to statistics of the number of black voters, and discussing “cost-benefit analysis”, people here are dancing around the ultimate issue without stating it flat-out.

    The ultimate issue is that snubbing a black organization will bolster their support within their base moreso than it will hurt their support within the black voter base. The benefit far outweighs the drawback (in the short run, at least).

    I’m not saying that all Republicans are, in the cartoonish sense of running around wearing sheets and burning crosses… but it’s naive and silly to pretend that resentment toward minorities is not one of the key “social values” driving the GOP rank-and-file.

  10. GAWire says:

    Honestly, I think most people here are arguing the same thing. Bottom line, it boils down to the fact that everything done at this level of politics is measured. That is the way they fight for every vote, YFL. Everything must be measured, and therefore decisions based on what presents the most opportunity have to be made. That is what strategy is all about folks. This isn’t a little congressional race where the biggest strategy question is whether or not to do a direct mail piece or not.

    Steve, this isn’t about establishing a base by snubbing blacks. Doing that will get no one no where. This is especially true today, where the race is who can get to the center fast enough. Federalist is correct that the percentages aren’t there for GOP candidates to go after the black vote. There’s no sense in wasting that time – the blacks who are going to vote GOP are going to vote GOP regardless of whether or not they show at the debate, for the most part. Steve is correct, though, if you say that some whites might look negatively to “pandering” to setup questions by those moderators.

    And, Ray, I see your point, but let’s be real here … everything is setup in politics, and you have to admit that any white GOP candidate that walks into that stage has some ammunition coming their way.

    It’s a tough one and there is going to be some fallout, but that’s what managing Presidential political operations is all about … making calculated decisions that weigh the advantages over the disadvantages and measure risk … and then move forward and never look back.

  11. Federalist says:

    It does seem as is everyone is saying the same thing…to an extent. I think were there may be disagreement is whether people think it is a good short term or long term strategy. It does work short term seeing as how the primaries are just around the corner…but I think it is a good long term strategy for the GOP as well.

  12. I think Charles Krauthamer said it best when he said there are far too many debates but, it’s short-sighted for GOP candidates to skip this debate.

    You can’t be so primary-race focused that you hurt yourself in the general.

  13. TPSoCal says:

    I hate to sound like I have a big ego, but I am beginning to think maybe I am too smart to be a member of either major political party. I have been a member of the GOP since I was 18, the party just seems to be making bad judgements for the past few years. The Dems only seem to stand for not being Bush and socialism. I want my party back. How did we end up electing all these idiots in our party, and how can we elect better people? I have never felt this bad about being a Republican and I don’t like it!

    Elect new people ’08!

  14. Federalist says:

    The Dems do not stand for socialism. To answer your question about electing idiots in your party…it is because so many republicans do not vote for policy. They vote for candidates who believe in social conservatism…not conservatism. Essentailly…Reagan happened. Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson stole the party, and now if you are not pro-life, anti-gay rights, and all that other crap…you can not easily get elected. Particularly in the south and mid west.

  15. AlanR says:


    Your youth is showing. Over the past 30 years many republicans have made an effort to reach out. The cost of the effort usually is not justified by the return in percent of the vote.

    I’m sure at Morgan the fear was based on Youtube. Look at what MediaMatters is doing to OReilly.

    Don’t misunderstand. I don’t really disagree. I am eager to support conservatives that reach out to everyone without changing their message or attempting to appeal to the wants and desires of a specific audience. For that matter, I’d love to see Hillary appear before a pro-life group or a group of doctors and state her positions clearly instead of pandering. I’m not a Newt fan, but on this he’s right.

  16. GAWire says:

    Buzz, I definitely see your point, but remember, right now there is no general, the general election does not exist for any candidate. It is primary or nothing and of course for most, it will be nothing. Everything right now has to be about the primary, b/c doing things for the general right now will do nothing to actually get you to the general.

    I do see what you’re saying though. Your point is that the campaigns need to be thinking further out than the present. That is definitely true. I think this is one of the main things that separates the boys of politics from the men of industry. In politics, it is always about right now, or the next two years or next four years. How can any effective strategy really make any change thinking like that? It’s the steady long term outlook that really initiates change. That’s the only way of thinking that is going to help “create a better America for our children” blah blah blah. And I will say the ONLY candidate that thinks, talks and acts like that is our own Newt Gingrich.

    Others can try to argue that there are other candidates who think like that but they will fail. The only other candidate that might have that ability is Romney, because at least he did something effective before going into politics that wasn’t government (i.e., Bain & Co, Bain Capital).

  17. Donkey Kong says:


    I’m with you 100%. Though I don’t think its the entire party, just the ones that are trying to represent the party. I was talking to a guy I just met today who worked for one of our elected officials on capitol hill for a while and we both agreed that our slate of candidates are awful (though he said Ron Paul looked the best of them *gag*). Is a sincere, unapologetic conservative too much to ask in a politician? It certainly looks that way.

  18. TPSoCal says:

    Ok Fed, let me restate: the Dems stand for a bigger government than I would like. How’s that? For the record, so do most GOP elected officcials. Personally, I would like to see the GOP reach out to a lot of groups, but not promising hand-outs. I do wish we would lay off the anti-gay stuff, it’s unbecoming. Oh well, things looked pretty bleak in 1975, but we came back by 1980. Things can swing pretty fast in politics.

  19. Federalist says:

    Regardless of the size and scope of the government…the democrats form of “big gov’t” is much more desirable. Better to have the government provide services and such rather than spy on its citizens and declare ambiguous wars (i.e. war on drugs, war on terror, etc.)

  20. Holly says:

    Federalist is right about the social conservatives. While social conservatism is a form of conservatism, it is not fiscal conservatism, and look at the result. I think it’s hard to find a candidate who represents both factions of conservatism, which is why so many are unhappy with the Republican candidates for ’08 right now. The funny thing is, though, that W. is certainly no fiscal conservative, but the party backed him twice. Will we do that again? Gosh, I hope not. I want someone who is going to actually push for real solutions to things like the Social Security problem, instead of ignore it. Also, I’d like someone who would get rid of this NAFTA Superhighway mess. And immigration reform? Oy vey.

  21. Federalist says:

    Too bad Goldwater was not cryogenically frozen. Are there any nothern republicans or dems from the 60’s left?

  22. ConservativeCaucus says:

    I have seen candidates over and over again write off a group of voters because they don’t expect to do well only to have that decision come back to bite them in the end.

    As Michael Steele said recently, If President Bush had not increased from 6% to 16% of the African American vote in Ohio, we would now have President Kerry.

    Thank you to the six who had the guts to appear at the debate and share their views.

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