Charles Blow's rejoinder to Rand Paul in the New York Times today about precisely how and why the GOP has lost black voters is priceless. Paul naively (as in faux naiveté) asked yesterday in a speech at Howard University how it could be that the party of the Great Emancipator lost the black vote.
Blow offers to answer Paul's question:
Let me explain.
Republicans lost it when Richard Nixon’s strategist Kevin Phillips, who popularized the “Southern Strategy,” told The New York Times Magazine in 1970 that “the more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.”
They lost it when Nixon appointed William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court, a man who, while he was a law clerk in Justice Robert Jackson’s office, wrote a memo defending separate-but-equal during Brown v. Board of Education, saying, “I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by my ‘liberal’ colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.”
They lost it in 1976 when Ronald Reagan adopted the racially charged “welfare queens” trope. They lost it when George Bush used Willie Horton as a club against Michael Dukakis. They lost it when George W. Bush imperially flew over New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when people were still being plucked from rooftops and were huddling in a humid Super Dome.
They lost it when the McCain campaign took a dark turn and painted Barack Obama as the other, a man “palling around with terrorists,” a man who didn’t see “America like you and I see America.”
They lost it when Republican Representative Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress. They lost it when a finger-wagging Republican Gov. Jan Brewer publicly chastised the president on an Arizona tarmac.
They lost it in 2011 when a Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrinch, who was the front-runner for a while, falsely and preposterously claimed that: “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.”
They lost it when another Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, he of “blah people” infamy, accused President Obama of “elitist snobbery” and “hubris” for supposedly saying “under my administration, every child should go to college.” (For the record, the president never actually said that.)
The Republicans lost the black vote when Herman Cain, an African-American candidate for the Republican nomination, began using overt slave imagery to suggest that he had left “the Democrat plantation.”
They continued to lose it when the African-American Republican of the moment, Dr. Benjamin Carson, echoed Cain and said of white liberals:
“Well, they’re the most racist people there are. You know, they put you in a little category, a little box. You have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?”
Did you hear that, Mr. Paul? No, I didn't think so. Because you weren't really asking for an explanation, were you? Especially not from an African American. Since you were at Howard to lecture to your African-American audience, weren't you? Not to hear what they might have to say to you.
The chart providing a breakdown of demographics of voters in the 2012 U.S. federal elections is from the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility.