Florida GOP Congressman Allen West, in his trademark shoot-from-the-lip style, made brief news recently when he dredged out the worn term" plantationism" to describe the alleged relationship between blacks and Democrats. The slave inference translated into modern day political vernacular is that the Democrats for the past near six decades have promised blacks everything, and delivered almost nothing. Blacks still have the highest failed public schools, unemployment, poverty, and mortality, incarceration rates. Yet despite the alleged failure to deliver on their promises, blacks still slavishly give the Democrats 80 to 90 percent of their vote.
West's "plantationism" broadside against the Democrats was quickly and eagerly picked up by a legion of conservative talk show hosts and bloggers. A few Democrats were rocked back on defense and forced to parry the attack. An arguable case can be made that Democratic presidential candidates in the past two decades have shifted political gears and deliberately downplayed explicit appeals to black voters on expanded civil rights protections, criminal justice reform, ramped up spending on education and jobs programs, and in some cases out-GOPed the GOP in rushing to hack away at welfare, income support, and affirmative action programs. Some have pushed tax cuts for the corporate rich, and been hawkish in rubber stamping Bush's costly war ramp up in Iraq and Afghanistan. Former President Bill Clinton's election blueprint virtually directed top Democrats to appeal more to the white middle class with tax cuts and decreased government spending to dispel the notion that the Democrats inherently tilt toward minorities at the expense of whites. President Obama repeatedly gets an earful from the Congressional Black Caucus and other blacks for allegedly not doing enough to explicitly tackle the crisis of jobs and poverty among African-Americans.
This all feeds into West and the GOP's crack about "plantationism." The inference is that it's time for blacks to wise up and cease their knee jerk hostility to the GOP. There was some hope in the run-up to last's November mid-term elections that blacks might get that message. Black Republicans peddled the fantasy that would make history and elect a record number of black Republicans to Congress. More than a dozen black GOP candidates tried. With the exception of West and South Carolina Congressman Tim Scott, they all failed miserably. Scott and West won with white votes, and represent predominantly white districts. They have no political traction among blacks.
The rock solid loyalty of blacks to the Democrats is based on elementary pragmatism. Despite the shots they take at the Democrats for taking them and their vote for granted, most blacks still look to them to fight the tough battles for health care, greater funding for education and jobs, voting rights protections, affirmative action, and against racial discrimination. Civil rights organizations were the only groups that consistently fought back against Reagan, Bush Sr., and W. Bush's draconian cuts in job, education, social service, funding and programs, their retrograde nominees to the Supreme Court appointments that would roll back the civil rights clock, and their peck away at affirmative action, civil rights and civil liberties protections.
This alone might not be cause enough for blacks en masse to repeatedly give their firm backing to the Democrats, especially when the Democrats compromise, conciliate, and flat out fumble the ball when it comes to caving to the GOP in fighting for increased funding and initiatives that help the urban poor. But the real kicker has been the GOP. West, Scott and black Republicans delude themselves that the GOP is a party that has something to offer blacks and delude themselves further in implying that the party has put out the welcome mat for blacks.
The GOP's long, blatant, and infuriating history of racial exclusion, neglect and race baiting, and polarization is smoking gun proof of that. The endless foot in the mouth, racially-insulting gaffes, racially-loaded campaign ads by Republican officials and politicians, and the refusal by mainstream GOP leaders to loudly condemn them, ignore, downplay, or worse defend them hasn't helped. The endless racist taunts, mockery, depictions, and ridicule of President Obama has been a textbook example of how a party that claims to want to break the grip that the Democrats have on the black vote does everything to insure that the Democratic grip is even tighter. This further confirms black suspicions that the GOP is chock full of bigots.
Tea Party leaders have done even more to heighten that suspicion. They loudly protest that blacks should not judge them as racists based on the lunacy of a few bigots and race-baiters among their ranks. Yet their movement is regarded as the shock troops of the GOP and the fact that with few exceptions Tea Party leaders have not drummed the bigots and race-baiters out of the movement speaks for itself.
The GOP presidential contenders and other GOP candidates in 2012 will occasionally try to look and sound like they want to get a few more black votes. But it will take a lot more than slapping at the Democrats with a racially-loaded comparison to slavery to convince anyone that they're really going to do anything to get those votes.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/earlhutchinson