The Lion of the Blogosphere blog brought to my attention a post by Scott Adams, Dilbert creator and 2016 election savant that outlines a plan to have Trump co-opt much of the more moderate Black Lives Matter agenda using his famed deal making skills to put together a Republican agenda to attract Black voters:
Create safer neighborhoods to attract jobs and create optimism.
Fix school bureaucracies in communities where students are failing.
Create apprenticeships for unskilled adults
Address the opioid epidemic directly and by improving the environment
Prosecute and jail police that falsify reports.
Police must call an ambulance if defendant complains of illness.
Voting rights for people in prison
Independent prosecutors for police killings of unarmed civilians.
Comprehensive national database of police shootings.
New York holiday for Day of Remembrance for victims of police brutality.
Adams addresses these issues individually in his post, but LOTB finds it ridiculous since as he writes, “That is never going to happen. Blacks know which party sucks up to them. Republicans could never suck up to blacks the way Dems do.” Sadly, I find myself agreeing more with Lion on this one. It has nothing to do with the most of the list Adams has assembled. Prosecuting police for false reports is of course something that should (and often does) happen anyway, as well as calling an ambulance of a suspect complains of symptoms. That is probably standard operating procedure for most law enforcement agencies. A comprehensive database for police shootings, if the Justice Department isn’t already keeping one, is a good idea as is independent prosecutors to handle police shootings (or any crime handled by the police officer). But that is already being done by many localities and is definitely a good idea for those that aren’t. A local prosecutor who deals with the police in putting together cases on a regular basis is put in an awkward position trying to prosecute one of those same police officers.
The real problem is that Adams is a political novice in this area. He’s basically offering a warmed over Jack Kemp agenda, minus the enterprise zones and school choice. Kemp spent much of his career working to put together an agenda that would attract Black voters to the Republican Party. His reward was Republicans attracting fewer Black voters by the end of his career than when he started. The answer to the GOP making inroads into the Black voter demographic isn’t going to hinge on finding poll tested issues like School Choice.
There are a couple of obvious answers to the Republican’s near total estrangement from Black America. Sure, the media is quick to label any Republican a racist so that in this point in history the two are nearly synonymous. But there are a couple of deeper answers too.
Color-Blindness: I think that’s one of the issues that make it difficult for conservatives to reach out to Blacks; conservatives in particular and the Republican Party in general have adopted “color-blindness” as their answer to racial issues. They took King’s “Content of our character” speech and stopped there. For Republicans, the civil rights movement was basically won in 1964, But Blacks, and the Democrats moved on from that. That’s thin offering to a Black population that considers color-blindness as the same thing as being thrown to the wolves of institutional racism and white privilege.
Today “civil rights” doesn’t mean equality before the law and equality of opportunity; it means the exact opposite; affirmative action, set asides, reparations and all sorts of special treatment. So for Democrats to say that Republicans oppose civil rights, they have a point. At least civil rights as they are understood today, not the classical understanding.
Black Leadership: Republicans have nothing but contempt for what passes for Black leadership now days. Both the now fading Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are considered crooks and con men by most Republicans. And although I’ve met plenty of Black people who tell me that Al Sharpton doesn’t represent them, when you get right down to it, when there is some sort of police shooting or similar incident, at least a majority of black people do recognize Jackson and Sharpton as having some sort of legitimacy to speak on Black issues. Partially it’s white media anointing them, but they couldn’t get away with it unless the majority of Black people agreed. Who did Trayvon Martin’s parents go to when they felt local authorities were not taking them seriously? Not Colin Powell or Herman Cain.
It’s the Oppression Stupid: Over the years the left learned that they needed to inculcate the Black worldview into the leftist pantheon of grievances. It was easy for the left since they already bought into the history of America being a history of oppression. If you’re African American, that is literally true, so it was easy to add the racial component. The OJ Simpson trial is the last time I recall that a social issue that was racially charged was also split racially more than politically. White conservatives and liberals thought OJ did it, Blacks, by and large, didn’t. So when Trayvon Martin came along, the left automatically assumed the position of most Black Americans; that it was a racist murder. Following the story as I did, the story was, from the beginning, broken down in a partisan way, with Democrats including almost all Blacks thinking it was a racist murder and Republicans thinking it was probably a legitimate case of self-defense. So from the African American point of view, which party was on the side of, and supporting, Black people and which side wasn’t?
African American Insecurity: African Americans feel that their position is extremely unsecure. I’m not talking about economically, although that too, but politically. It’s as if the civil rights movement could be unrolled any moment. That’s certainly how the voter ID issue has been presented in the media. Not as a common sense measure to secure voting, but as Bull Connor running the electoral process, ready to turn his water hose on any Black person who dares ask for a ballot. When you have an entire media establishment running with that to support their party and attack the party that they regard as the enemy, that’s going to make a difference. That’s actually worse than the “Republicans are Racist” meme since it creates the idea that all Black people should band together for political survival. That’s why Black Republicans are hated and treated worse than white Republicans; they represent a crack in a unity that’s needed to prevent a rollback to the Jim Crowe era or worse.
As a party, Black people don’t trust Republicans and that’s why some of the craziest advertising can run a few days before the election, like “Republicans want to re-institute Jim Crow” or “Republicans want to chain blacks to the back of a pickup” carry weight. Remember Biden saying that “He is going to put y’all back in chains?” That stuff works, even though it sounds crazy. A minority group that feels threatened and under the gun, as Blacks often do; is susceptible to that sort of message. After all, Jim Crow is actually the memory of many older people, and deep down, they must think if white people ever got a chance…
I don’t think Republicans can win Black votes in any appreciable degree, at least not this generation. The reason is because most people don’t really vote on “issues,” like a Black friendly Scott Adams-Jack Kemp position by position agenda. That’s why although almost all of the Black people I’ve known personally were small “c” conservatives, hardly any of them voted Republican. It’s a matter of trust. And there isn’t any real way for Republicans to win it.