A "Redneck" Solicits
By Arnold Weiner
JANUARY 20, 1998: The Shelby County Republican Party has recently devoted a considerable amount of effort into attracting more support from the black community. For example, Rod DeBerry was heavily financed in two races for Congress from the 9th District as the Republican nominee. Another black Republican, Calvin Williams, was recently elected as Shelby County Republican Vice Chairman for Minority Affairs.
In every presidential election since 1964, about 95 percent of the black voters in Shelby County have voted for the Democratic nominee. These statistics can be verified by a trip down to the Shelby County Election Commission. The Republicans can do better in the black community if they adopt the appropriate strategy.
Even though an overwhelming percentage of black Americans vote for liberal Democrats, they actually take quite conservative positions on social and cultural issues. For example, most blacks are pro-life, for a moment of silence in the schools, pro-military, for English Only, and against aid to illegal immigrants.
On social issues, the view of most blacks is closer to the conservative wing of the Republican Party than it is to liberal Democrats of the likes of state Senator Steve Cohen, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, or former congressperson Pat Schroeder.
The Republicans can do better in the black community if they emphasize cultural conservatism and convince the black community that the term conservative does not have racial connotations. In a lot of ways, blacks are where white Southerners were 40 years ago; theyre basically conservative but still voting for liberal Democrats. The Republicans need to talk to the black community about the cultural divide between them and the white liberals.
During the 1980 Democratic presidential primaries, at least half of the black community voted for President Jimmy Carter instead of Senator Ted Kennedy. If they were all that liberal, they would have voted for Kennedy (most of the elitist liberals did). I dont expect the Republicans to get anything approaching a majority of the black vote, but I think that they ought to shoot for 15 percent; that was the goal that the late Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater had set as a goal for the 1992 presidential election. Obviously, that goal was not obtained.
The Republicans need to form tactical alliances with black Democratic congressmen on social issues. For example, lets ask black Democratic congressmen to vote to ban partial birth abortions and for an English Only constitutional amendment. On cultural issues, black Democratic congressmen will find that they are much more comfortable with the conservative Republicans than they are with the white liberals.
I consider myself to be right-wing, Republican, politically incorrect, and redneck. They may not realize it, but most black Memphians are a lot closer to me than they are to Cohen, Feinstein, Boxer, or Schroeder.
The challenge for conservatives in approaching the black community is to convince them that the term conservative does not have racial connotations. In other words, its cool to be both black and conservative.
(Arnold Weiner is a Republican activist and a former member of the Shelby County GOP steering committee. He is currently operating a process-serving business.)
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