The Free Exchange is a regular forum in which I reply to reader comments on the week’s articles. I encourage any reader who has questions, disagreements, suggestions, or statements to leave a comment here. I’m always happy to hear from you and willing to respond.
Welcome to the New Black and Red
Black and Red Fan writes:
Wow!! This is an answer to prayer. You were sorely missed and I am so happy to see Black & Red’s return. I am excited at all the possibilities. It’s probably too early for you to take requests but future possibilities/my requests include being able to access your old articles and audio blogs. Sky’s the limit.
Thank you so much. You’ve been with me from the beginning of this blog, always offering me encouragement and the impetus to improve the site. I’m in the tedious process of moving all of my old articles to a file and erasing them from the old site. They’ll be available to you and by request, but not widely available beyond that.
Once I get a good amount of material on the new blog, get the Facebook fan page humming and establish a posting schedule, etc., I plan to jump into the audio again. I just got a new mixing board for interviews, and I already have a good list of topics that I’d like to pursue for the podcast. The time required for creating even a single podcast can be quite much: editing 5 minutes of audio can sometimes take more than 10 minutes, for example. That said, I don’t want to sacrifice the budding blog to a budding podcast just yet. But I am excited about getting to the point when the podcast can become a regular part of Black and Red.
Keep praying! I need and appreciate it.
Thank God the hiatus has ended! I am looking forward to having more poignant conversations about today’s issues instead of having to deal with specious arguments from windbag hacks on the radio [looking at you Joe Walsh]!
I’ve marked my calendar… the day a long spell of laryngitis has been cured.
Thank you, sir. I look forward to keeping you engaged.
Colin Powell and the “Dark Vein” of Intolerance
Black and Red Fan writes:
Well said. This is a sermon that you should be giving, as these are such important points that you are making. One thing though is I would love to hear your thoughts on specifically why Powell would say this considering how well he was treated by the Republican Party?
I wanted to leave a 2nd comment but I don’t see any such option. And so as strange as it sounds, I need to leave a reply to my own comment in order to do so. So please excuse this strange result.
Your piece has been on my mind as usual when you write. My guess with why Powell would do this is that he is a leftist at heart? That he never shared the ideological values of conservatism? And so with leftism being a religion that is impervious to logic and his own life experiences, this is why he said this disgusting untruth.
In terms of the perception thing, my suggestion is that yes GOP should do more reaching out by going to NAACP events etc. But we should also call them on their lies such as Ferguson and its terrible result such as the 2 NY cops murdered. Same with George Zimmerman.
In addition, we can continue to make the logical arguments (majority white country voting in a black president, America least racist country based on ideas, not ethnicity, point out real racism in other countries such as Japan, Middle East etc) But as Prager said once, I think the real hope for progress in this area lies with minority conservatives such as me and you. Unfortunately the reality of life is that the messenger is more powerful than the message. Thoughts or comments are always welcome.
Thank you so much for your comments.
I’m glad that this piece has been on your mind, I know that this is a topic that’s important to both of us. I hope that my response offers more insight into my thoughts on Mr. Powell’s statements.
I will say that my own experiences in the Republican Party have been overwhelmingly positive. I don’t mention this to create any sense of equivalence between myself and Mr. Powell–I am a fish egg in the vast Republican ocean compared to him, and I have only been a Republican for about 15 years. Mr. Powell has been part of the Party much longer, and experienced the Party at a time when America was less enlightened on matters of race. I mention my personal sentiments only to say that my assertions about the Party’s race problems do not stem from mistreatment that I have personally sustained, but from observations and from others’ trusted testimonies.
First, I can’t exactly speak for why Powell said what he did except to assume that he expresses his own true belief. I also don’t begrudge his expression regardless of how the Party has treated him–I see the two as separate issues. He, for example, may have been treated well, but may have seen other blacks within the Party treated poorly. If that were the case, then he’d have an obligation to speak out. Otherwise, one could say, for example, that a well-treated black had no right to speak out against civil rights offenses in 1960s America.
Second, I am not inclined to attribute Powell’s statement to a flawed political conviction. Again, I see the two as unconnected. For more on this point, I recommend reading Clarence Thomas’ essay in the book, “Black and Right: The Bold New Voice of Black Conservatives in America.” His assessment of race problems in the GOP are simply scathing–hard to read, even. Thomas says, for example, “there was the appearance within the conservative ranks that blacks were to be tolerated but not necessarily welcomed.” He writes further, “It was made clear more than once that, since blacks did not vote right, they were owed nothing…there was a general sense that we were being avoided and circumvented…There was a general refusal to listen to the opinions of black conservatives. In fact, it often appeared that our white counterparts actually hid from our advice.” There is more text like this within the essay, and just these excerpts dwarf the criticism Powell levied. I don’t doubt Thomas’ political convictions, though, so I definitely don’t doubt Powell’s.
Third, and most importantly, I don’t believe that what Powell said is untrue. For starters, Powell didn’t say that the Republican Party was a racist party, or that it was uniquely racist. He said that he stills sees it (strands of racism) in the Republican Party, but you don’t have to be a Republican to be touched by it. That latter statement confirms my sense that it would be extraordinary if this were not so, given America’s racial history and how that history affects us today. Racism shapes part of who we are as a people. It doesn’t define us, it is simply a part of us–a negative part. The Republican Party, which best represents the whole of America, will inevitably quarter racists. That said, we are a great nation and the Republican Party is a great party, just as the philandering Martin Luther King Jr. was still a great man and had much to teach us. What makes us a great people, and a great party lies in how we deal with our shortcomings. As a nation, we fight our inherited flaw.
As for the GOP, I fear that it does a poor job at purging racists. We did a much better job, in the 1960s, purging anti-semites. I see this not only as it pertains to blacks, but also as it pertains to Latinos and others as well. There is a sickening self-righteousness that costs us the hearts and minds of too many groups (see the Texas delegation’s planned walkout on Jim Kolbe in 2000 and CPAC disinviting GOProud in 2012). Since losing black support between the 40s and the 60s, we have concluded that we shouldn’t pursue blacks as aggressively as we pursue other groups (Suburbanites, Middle-classers and Latinos, for example). We are at the point now, where we consider presidential candidates successful if they get as much black support as George W. Bush received in 2004–11%. We say that we only need enough blacks to win. But if conservative ideas make for better lives, why don’t we try to attract even more? Why not try for 35%? What would that take?
You don’t have to wait long after asking that question to a room full of conservatives before someone says we cannot get 35% of the black vote without changing our message. But that is not true, and I think we know that is not true. Otherwise, we hold that either blacks are inherently liberal (which is wrong and racist) or that they are incapable, somehow, of receiving our message (which is wrong and racist). I think the sentiment is closer to: they’re not worth the trouble. I admit to having even thought this myself.
At the 50th anniversary of the Selma March, President George W. Bush marched with Reince Priebus and others. The New York Times cut him out of the image it posted on its front page. Civil Rights icon, Diane Nash, refused to march because Bush was in attendance. Nash supported her cowardly, moronic position to an applauding audience. Some Republicans, viewing this, would argue that we can’t win–that we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. That, too often, serves as an excuse for why we shouldn’t even try. As you may know, that is not an uncommon conclusion. But it is a wrong one. One that makes blacks wonder why the GOP hasn’t taken a new approach, or simply tried harder. After all, Republican candidates like Bruce Rauner and Aaron Shock (both coincidentally Illinois politicians) when asked how they did so well among blacks, simply answer that they went to black neighborhoods to talk to black people and set up events in black areas. Often, they report, these are areas that haven’t seen Republicans in decades. Why is that? More importantly, put yourself in the shoes of the Republican, like me, who wants to grow the party and convince the vast majority of blacks who did not vote for Bush or McCain or Romney that the GOP wants them to join us. The skeptical black asks, “If the GOP wants us, why aren’t they here? The Democrats say they don’t care about us, and it appears as if they don’t.” What should be my response when Republicans have abandoned these areas for decades?
I disagree with Powell on Voter ID laws, but I don’t write off his critique–not with black poll numbers like the ones we experience. Haven’t we moderated our verbiage on immigration to keep from turning off Latinos? (I’d argue that we need to do more of that, but we, at least, entertain the notion.) What have we done to appeal specifically to blacks? Is it helpful to never campaign in black neighborhoods, but then refer to black Democrats as being on a plantation or having a plantation mindset? When Mitt Romney said that 47% of people won’t vote for him, essentially because they’re voting to get free stuff from the government, he was impugning more than 90% of blacks. Instead of castigating the assumption of Romney’s claim, questioning whether years of bad messaging made blacks feel unwelcome in the Republican Party, many Republicans wrote his statement off as being bad, not because it was untrue, but because it was too honest for politics. Does that help or hurt our cause among blacks?
I’ll close by saying that the biggest mistake we can make is to vilify internal critics. That would create a chilling effect that we can’t afford, and don’t want even if we could afford it. That is why I detest calling other Republicans “R.I.N.O.s” or trashing our brethren for holding a slightly different view. What we should do is moderate our message (not our policies). We need to speak to how our policies will help black people, and we need to do so in a way that is accessible to all. We also have to accept damned if you do, damned if you don’t; and simply choose to be damned for doing. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
I hope this answered your question. As you know, I’m always willing to discuss further.
All politicians know, because their handlers and campaign managers know, that perception IS reality. So, the perception that the head honchos of the Republican party don’t care about acknowledging racism among their ranks IS the reality that blacks and other minorities who have any interest in joining the Republican party are going to experience. This event is one of those “NO SPIN NEEDED” news stories that just emboldens the Left in their quest to officially own the minority vote. Go ahead guys, turn ‘em away. We’ll see a Republican president in 2048 maybe… a house divided and all that jazz…
Thank you for the comment, Brian. I would say simply, you’d be amazed how diverse the opinions and abilities of handlers and campaign managers is. I wouldn’t say that GOP leadership doesn’t care about acknowledging racism in the Party, rather, I’d ask how one addresses it. We work with what we have. Right now, there aren’t enough blacks in the party to give it the look of inclusion that we need. So, we must seek out more people of color. What tools do we have to do that? People who don’t as readily identify with their target audience. It is a frustrating situation that can lead to hopelessness. I think that the answer is to fight the despair because to do so shows an interest level that is not seen currently.
Black and Red Fan writes:
Another article! What a treat. This is an interesting one. Like you, I actually don’t care about this story. I don’t see any substance behind it but I read that Trende article as well. And I guess that’s where this story plays out. It just shows her arrogance and her political clumsiness, which is great news for us.
You once said that Romney’s loss in 2012 was mainly attributable to the public perceiving (rightly or wrongly) that Romney didn’t seem to care about/relate to the troubles of the common, middle class citizen; that he seemed like a cold, detached, rich Gordon Gecko type. Do you think that Hillary Clinton has the same unlikability problem (which was raised in a debate with Obama) or the same unrelability problem as well? Interesting. I’m more drawn to substantive and policy discussion, as this seems like high school/reality show type of stuff, but if it helps us, I will certainly take it.
I am completely with you. I thought the dust up over the emails was absurd and childish before I read Trende’s piece. I will add this, too, I spoke with someone who works in messaging and opposition research with some prominent national Republican candidates. He posited that one of the candidates rumored to run in 2016 dug up this information on Clinton, positioned him/herself in an advantageous way and then leaked the findings to the press. In other words, this is a shot across the bow of Team Clinton.
As for Clinton’s likeability, I think she’s still lacking. That said, the most important thing is, her lacking does not matter if we offer a worse alternative. Primaries matter.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
Hillary has a big broom and the public a big rug to sweep all of this underneath. I don’t believe this will be an issue to her election-worthiness unless she comes out as the “transparency” candidate. I mean really, her husband said that “depends on what the meaning of “is” is,” and people love him.
If we don’t focus on getting OUR candidates together, we won’t have to worry about her Secretary of State emails, we’ll have to worry about her Presidential ones.
I definitely agree, Brian. I would add that too many people see Hillary and Bill as being equally adept politicians. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
What matters, though, is what we offer. About that, you couldn’t be more right.
Thank you for participating.
I’d like to thank each of my commenters this week, and all of my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment–positive or negative (but, preferably clean) whenever you feel so inclined.
Please, also, feel free to share any and all of what you find on Black and Red with anyone and everyone. You can find me on twitter (@blkandred) and the Facebook fan page is coming soon. Thank you for your support. Have a wonderful week!