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Eugene Volokh Headshot

Why Would Blacks Become Republican?

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"Why would blacks become Republican?" some ask in response to my post about the "I don't support conservatism ..., and I support black conservatives even less" article.

How about the same reasons that anyone might become Republican? Imagine a black person who's pro-life, and who feels pretty alienated by the Democratic party as a result. Imagine that he's conservative on various other social issues, perhaps because he's deeply religious, and belongs to a denomination that takes such views. Imagine that he thinks we're doing the right thing in Iraq, even if he thinks we may have made many missteps there.

Imagine that he thinks government social programs tend to do more harm than good. Imagine that he believes in low taxes and low government spending, and thinks such an approach is ultimately better for the poor as well as for the rich (though he might be one of those Republicans who's not wild about the Bush Administration's spending record). Imagine that he thinks school choice programs, including those that would support parents who want to send their children to religious schools, are better than maintaining the government near-monopoly in education.

I'm not saying observers need to think this person is right. But is he really so implausible? And if those are his views, then even if he thinks that Republicans are wrong on some racial issues, it is really so implausible that his affinity with Republicans on the other matters (such as, for instance, abortion, which to many conservatives is a pretty important issue) would overcome his disapproval of the Republicans on racial ones? Caring about moral or patriotic matters that go beyond one's own selfish interests, or one's identity group affiliations, is usually seen as a mark of nobility, not of folly, self-deception, or betrayal.

Even if a black person supports a position or party that you think is bad for blacks, why not show him the same respect that you'd show anyone else? Why not assume that he must think that on balance some important consideration, perhaps an important moral principle that even rises to the level of life or death — even if it's a consideration that you disagree with — might outweigh what he sees as more parochial concerns?