Conservatives to Black People: "Remember Abe Lincoln!"

I’m not sure that this is the most hilarious advertisement of the 2012 election cycle, but it surely comes close: A conservative super PAC called the Empower Citizens Network asks African American voters to abandon President Obama—who, obviously, has failed them—and choose Mitt Romney. Why? Because Romney belongs to the same party as the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. Here’s the ad:

All of these things are true, but they’re also irrelevant to the question of who African Americans should support in 2012. Given Republican hostility to social insurance programs, aid for lower-income Americans, and a general willingness to tolerate anti-black prejudice (see: the continued popularity of figures like Rush Limbaugh), there’s every reason for blacks to continue their support for the Democratic Party and, in particular, President Obama.

This ad doesn’t deserve a serious treatment, but—with that said—it is reflective of an attitude that seems common among conservatives, or at least those interested in explaining the durability of black support for Democrats. Often, conservatives treat African American political perferences as either an artifact of history or a manifestation of false consciousness. It's why this group feels the need to emphasize the long-ago civil rights accomplishments of the GOP, and why politicians like Florida Republican Allen West—who is African American—routinely say that blacks are stuck on the Democratic “plantation.” If only African Americans would see where their interests really lay, they’d vote for Republicans.

But the fact of the matter is that blacks are well aware of their political and economic interests, and on the balance, they feel that vDemocrats are the ones who best benefit them. If that were to change—if, tomorrow, the Democratic Party were to return to its segregationist past—African Americans would act accordingly.

If you want evidence of this, look no further than the actual history of African American voting. Blacks were reliable Republicans up until it became clear that Democrats were more interested in winning their votes, supporting their leaders, and offering concrete policies to serve their interests. This courtship has lasted decades, and it’s responsible for the huge margins Democrats win among African Americans.

To go back to the ad, if conservatives genuinely want African Americans to support them, they have to do more than give history lessons—they have to turn conservatism into something that’s responsive to the concerns of a historically marginalized group. If they can’t do that, then they should at least save their money and avoid any more embarassing spectacles.


Does anyone remember that the parties "swapped places" on race in the 1960's due to Nixon's southern strategies? Originally, the Democrats were a mostly Southern party who supported slavery, as well as "state's rights", the idea that the United States WERE (yes, the plural was used up until the Civil War) a league of allied countries, like today's European Union, which states should remain free to pursue an agrarian, conservative economy OR a more industrialized economy (and the Southern states, preferring the former, depended economically on slavery). They were opposed first by the Federalists, then the Whigs, then finally by the new Republican party, who favored industrialization, free labor (both for religious and moral reasons AND because it makes more sense for factories to hire workers by the hour than to maintain slaves as a long term investment), and central banking; in other words, a corporate economy.

When the South was defeated in the Civil War, Republicans enforced the end of slavery, citizenship, and voting rights for former slaves, but they figured the emancipation was "finished" once it was legal. For a decade, ONLY former slaves could vote, since most white men were under the rebellion disability. Once their sons were old enough, the familiar Jim Crow regime took hold under SOUTHERN Democrats.

Meanwhile, the national Democrats rebuilt by recruiting naturalized immigrants in large urban centers, most of them laborers, and emphasized equal rights for immigrants, pluralism (since the immigrants were mostly non-Anglo Europeans, Catholics, Jews, and others), which resonated with the blacks who made their way north, and WORKER'S ECONOMIC RIGHTS, vs the Republican pro-business, anti-union establishment.

From then until the 1960's the Democrats OUTSIDE the South favored dropping Jim Crow; FDR actually defied VA laws when building the Pentagon, claiming that it was under Federal jurisdiction and was NOT required to have racially segregated restrooms (it never did!) and encouraged black participation in the military; Truman forced the entire military to integrate; Southern Democrats went along because ALL the people of their states NEEDED the New Deal for economic reasons. Strom Thurmond broke away from the Democratic party and ran for President as a "Dixiecrat" in 1948, and the Southern segregationists were thereafter known as Dixiecrats.

The Civil rights act that the ad says was "passed by Republicans and opposed by Democrats" was actually passed by non-Southern Democrats AND Republicans, and opposed by SOUTHERN Democrats. Shortly afterward, the Dixiecrats gradually began shifting to the Republican party, and today, THE FORMER DIXIECRAT IDEOLOGY HAS THE REPUBLICAN NAME.

So the reason that the black voters are primarily Democrats is that only the Democrats, once the Dixiecrat politicians and voters left, address the issues that WORKING POOR people of ALL races care about. The Republicans include both non-racists who look out for the wealthy regardless of race (so they can recruit Herman Cain and other wealthy black people) and the racists of the old days. The ad is equating Abraham Lincoln, who would be considered a SOCIALIST by today's conservatives, with today's GOP? Not a chance!

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