THE GOP & THE AMERICAN BLACK VOTER
Perhaps no other phenomenon has perplexed the Republican political establishment as to why it is that in every Presidential election of recent memory that upwards of 90% or more of the Black vote always seems to go the Democratic aspirant for President.
For years the Grand Old Party (GOP) has wondered what it must do to increase its share of minority voting participation. There was one time in which the (GOP) was the natural home of the Black American voter.
Perhaps a historical analysis would be helpful at this juncture. Let us take a brief look at American during the midst of the Civil War.
The year was 1863 and President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the blacks living in the Confederacy from perpetual bondage and servitude. Blacks – or Negroes as they were referred to back them were elated and proclaimed that Lincoln was mightily used by “Divine Providence” to set them free.
Over the next few years, the Republican controlled congress would pass landmark legislation which included sweeping changes to our national character:
- The Republican controlled 38th Congress that passed the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery; the Republican controlled Congress passed the14th Amendment that granted freedom to the former slaves; and the Republican Controlled 40th Congress passed the15th Amendment that conferred the voting franchise on Black Americans.
- Furthermore, from the end of the Reconstruction Era of 1877 to 1932, Black Americans identified the (GOP) as the party of Liberty, Political Freedom, and Economic Growth.
What happened to change this political paradigm within the Black American community where they left the Republican party and defected to at that time the party of the Ku Klux Klan and States Rights? This writer suggests that the Black vote was lost to the (GOP) due to three watershed Presidential elections – each sixteen years apart – from a 32 year period from 1932 through 1964 ( Presidential elections in 1932, 1948, and 1964).
1932 – America was in the midst of the “Great Depression.” The incumbent President was the Republican Herbert Hoover. Mr. Hoover was bewildered over why the economic downturn which began on Black Tuesday in 1929 was so persistent. President Hoover offered America a “balanced-budget” and Governor Franklin Roosevelt of New York offered America an unbridled optimism later to become known as his New Deal. For the first time in history, many Black Americans abandoned the party of Lincoln and cast their votes in large numbers for a Democrat for President.
President Roosevelt created his “ Black Brain Trust” which was an early harbinger of a “Black presence” in a Cabinet position and he signed an Executive Order 8802 in 1941 which banned discrimination in the Defense Industry. The order also established the Fair Employment Practices Commission to enforce this new policy.
1948 – The incumbent President was Harry Truman. Many political observers thought that the 33rd President of The United States was in over his head. Mr. Truman did not possess the natural charisma of Mr. Roosevelt. However, President Truman did several things that forever endeared him to Black Americans:
- 1947 – President Truman became the first sitting president to ever address the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); this was an unprecedented step by an occupant of the Oval Office;
- 1948 – President Truman signed an Executive Order desegregating the nation’s military. Again, in Ancient Rome, one of the quickest way for a person outside of the empire to gain citizenship and credibility was by serving in Rome’s legendary army. President Truman knew that as Whites and Blacks served together in the military that the walls of Jim Crow segregation would eventually come tumbling down;
- 1948 – President Truman signed another Executive Order outlawing discrimination within the Federal Government
These bold moves by the 33rd President of the United States enabled him to gather 80% of the Black “Negro” Vote on Election Day in November of 1948.
1964 – Sixteen years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson was running for the office of the Presidency against Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona. In the summer of 1964, President Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act which was one of the most sweeping pieces of “human rights” legislation passed anywhere by any government in history. The Civil Rights billed outlawed the remaining vestiges of “Jim Crow segregation” in both the North and the South and it prepared the way for Black Americans to fully participate in all aspects of American Political, Economic, and Social Life.
Unfortunately, while 80% of Republicans in both the Senate and the House voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Senator Goldwater opposed the bill on “Libertarian / Constitutional grounds.”
[This writer is a lifelong admirer of the late Senator and notes that Mr. Goldwater’s devotion to “Constitutional principles” was unassailable. However, while Senator Goldwater was “legally correct,” he was both “politically and morally” on the wrong side of this historic issue. In his native state of Arizona, Senator Goldwater worked tirelessly to desegregate the military and to integrate many of the institutions in his home state. Liberals often forget that Mr. Goldwater despised segregation, but his chief concern was the unwarranted accumulation of power by an overarching Federal Government (was he an early proponent of “Tea Party” convictions? Smile!).
On election night in 1964, President Johnson received 94% of the Black vote and the final nail in the coffin took place – Black American voters now solidly identified with the “Democratic party.”
If the GOP is to make inroads into both the Black and Latino constituencies, then there must be a carefully laid out and concerted long-term strategy – similar to the one carried out by the Democrats from 1932 through 1964 – that enables the GOP to stay true to its beliefs in “limited government,” but at the same time expressing to politically displaced minorities that the GOP – to quote former President Ronald Reagan – is a “big tent” that welcomes ALL PEOPLE who subscribe to the vision of our founding fathers in Free enterprise, Religious Liberty and Limited Government.