With campaign season for Congress in full swing, there has been no shortage of public jockeying, political pandering and deviations from the partisan norm. But there is one aspect of the 2010 campaign season that dilates the pupils more than a little bit.
35 Black Republicans running for Congress. The most since Reconstruction. And the obvious causality points to the ascension of one Barack Obama. Perhaps this is the easy link, which makes this phenomenon all the more intriguing.
Vernon Parker from Arizona. Princella Smith from Arkansas. Allen West from Florida. Angela McGlowan. These are four examples of black politicians who attempt to reverse the trend of monochromatic Republicans. McGlowan, Political Analyst for Fox News, recently told Essence’s Cynthia Gordy that the black Republican movement was inspired by Obama’s win.
“Even though he may have given hope to people on the right side of the aisle, we’re all Black people in this,” McGlowan said. “Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, the first Black President has made a difference in our lives.”
This strikes me as a dubious statement. You can’t beat someone over the head on his policies, but claim in the prior breath that you’re glad that he was elected. The election of their (black Republicans) political “enemy,” a Democrat, is the spur to the explosion of more intraracial opposition. Obama’s election was not only inspirational in the Disney movie sense, it brought a whole set of black politicians out the woodwork.
Black Republicans are no more monolithic than black democrats. Not all black Republicans aim to serve the dominant agenda. Many believe that black loyalty to the Democrats have led to the current economic and educational disparity between the races. It was Democratic presidents that launched the two largest entitlement programs in U.S. history (New Deal and Great Society). These programs, largely seen to benefit African Americans at the time, has become a subject of debate since.
Many Republicans view these entitlement programs as proof of the government’s (Democrats) mission to foster dependence among its citizens. They argue that, despite the immediate relief of these programs, there is no incentive for the people on the programs to get off the programs. Black Republicans may feel that being attached to a liberal agenda has exacerbated the income inequality and achievement gap. More than that, some may feel as if the Democratic agenda limits African-Americans’ internal locus of control, which is at the core of the Republican philosophy.
However, a major hurdle for black Republicans: Many of them are siding with the Tea Party, asserting that the racism aspect has been overblown. This might flatline their congressional aspirations before it start. Obama received a record 96 percent of the black vote. With the recent events in Texas and Arizona – spearheaded by the Republicans – heightening racial tensions, it’s safe to say that many blacks won’t all of a sudden “see the light” and vote for Republicans. Even if they are black.
If race is a factor for one side, it is also a factor for the other. For example, McGlowan is in a three-way GOP primary race for Mississippi’s first congressional district seat with Mississippi State Senator Alan Nunnelee and Henry Ross, who are both white. Considering the current climate, a black Republican candidate would have to garner majority support from the white and hispanic voters, a la Obama.
The question then becomes: Is it about politics or race? To actually think you have a shot of winning as a black Republican, you would have to think it’s about politics. You would have to think you can get the white vote based on the issues. Is America at a point now where issues take precedence over hundreds of years of racial strife?
This is a question that black Republicans may find an answer to this election cycle.
If this surge has proven anything, it has shown that there are possibly many latent black Republicans and Independents who have aspirations like any other politician. And latent they should be. Only two black Republicans has served in Congress since the 1930s, which was when the party’s alliance shifted.
After Franklin Delano Roosevelt received 71 percent of the black vote in 1936, more blacks begin aligning with Democrats. But it wasn’t until Lyndon Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act and received 94 percent of the black vote (a record until Obama broke it) that clinched the loyalty.
To say that black Republicans are delusional in thinking they could get support from both sides may be, to some, an understatement. Even Michael Steele, the off-the-cuff Republican National Chairman, stated to Depaul University students earlier this year that there is no reason for black people to vote Republican.
Talk about being hoisted with one’s own petard.
Perhaps this surge is meant to be more symbolic. Obama won’t be in office forever. Whether there will be another black president in office is unknown. But what we do know is more black people are entering the arena of politics. Some may think they’re delusional in their aspirations, but they are certainly not daunted.