The Failure of the Republican Party to deliver anything for Blacks

My good friend, Timothy Johnson, Ph.D., was recently honored by the Buncombe County Republican party.  Timothy Johnson has been elected party chair.  It did not go unnoticed that he is the first black elected party chair in Buncombe County – Republican or Democratic.  In an interview with the Weaverville newspaper, Tim commented on how many blacks are “ignorant” of the bedrock beliefs of the Republican Party.  Dr. Johnson believes that the ideals of the Republican Party line up very well with the ideals of the Black community. 

Before I go on any further, I would like to say that no one and no party has cornered the market on ethics or morality.  There are bad and evil people that are motivated by greed and power in both parties.  But, with that being said, I think we can look over the past 40 years and honestly begin to evaluate which party truly benefitted Blacks and continues to benefit minorities and the underprivileged.  Let’s look at a few issues.

Civil rights.  This one is easy.  There is no contest.  In the 60s the Democrats stood with Blacks.  Southern Democrats who were opposed to integration did not like the direction of the party and slowly but surely left the Democratic Party and joined the Republican Party.  Were there individual Republicans who believed that integration was inevitable?  Were there individual Republicans who believed that segregation was an abomination?  I think the answer is yes on both counts.  Did the Republican party change their platform in 1964 and 1968 to appease Southern Whites?  Yes. 

The Economy.  Republicans like to talk about cutting government spending.  I lived in Texas most of my life.  Republicans rule in Texas.  I saw the state government cut so deeply that some regulatory agencies had to stop regulating.  They had to fire some government workers because there was no more money.  Republicans stood back and smiled but when you go to the DMV and have to wait 2 or 3 hours just to talk to someone before you can begin the process of getting your license?  Please think of those cuts.  When you get a brand new tatoo which gives you a skin infection or possibly even hepatitis because there was not enough inspectors to regularly inspect that parlor who’s smiling now?

When Ronald Reagan took office he promised to cut the size of government and to cut government spending.  Conservatives talk eloquently about how masterful Reagan was with the budget.   They forget to tell you that the budget deficit grew during the Reagan years.  No matter how the Republicans like to sugar coat their policies, the fact that under Reagan, Bush and now, George W. Bush the budget deficit has grown completely flies in the face of any fiscal responsibility.  Even the conservative Cato Institute, in an article by Chris Edwards states, “Reagan’s failure was that he did not control federal spending growth. By 1989, federal spending was up 69 percent from 1981. The deficit widened.”

In my own book, A Letter to America, I criticized the Bush administration for its tax cuts for the rich.  I believe that your tax policy should reflect your morals beliefs.  The budget process is more than pushing numbers around.  The process should reflect the hopes and dreams of America.  A small and simple program like LIHEAP (low income heating and energy assistance program), this program provides assistance to the poor for heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.  Who can be against this program?  The Bush administration.  Bush tried to cut funding for this program several years in a row.  In 2003, it took a Senate vote (88-4) to force the Bush administration to release the funding.  You can’t tell me that this helps Blacks, minorities or the poor.

Race.  When President Reagan increased the low interest rates on student loans, it was clear that he really did not understand the needs of working Americans.  When Ronald Reagan stood by and supported Apartheid well that’s a completely different story or is it?  You don’t have to take my word for it, take Bishop Desmond Tutu’s.  In 1984, while on Capital Hill, Bishop Tutu blasted Reagan’s support of South Africa, “In my view, the Reagan administration’s support and collaboration with it is equally immoral, evil, and totally un‑Christian. . . . You are either for or against apartheid and not by rhetoric. You are either in favor of evil or you are in favor of good. You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor. You can’t be neutral.”

Right wing Republican think tanks have been working on trying to reverse affirmative action for over 30 years.  Affirmative action has been fundamental to the progress that we have seen recently.  From Justice Clarence Thomas to Barack Obama, affirmative action has begun to equalize the playing field.  Thomas came from a small town in Georgia.  Why would Holy Cross take him in 1967?  He wasn’t a great student from a small Georgia town.  In college, he did well then went on to Yale.  Remember before affirmative action, colleges would simply pass over Blacks and other minorities.  Whether they were qualified or not.  No matter how some folks try to spin affirmative action, it is an excellent program that has benefitted Blacks, Whites, Latinos … Americans. 

Education.  This is the great equalizer.  You can lift someone out of poverty by giving them the winning lottery ticket (Evander Hollyfield’s house is up for foreclosure so having a pile of money doesn’t guarantee that you will keep that pile.) or by giving them an education.  There are no guarantees in life but an education maybe the closest thing.  Everyone has seen the numbers that the average income for someone without a high school diploma is about $23,000.  The average income for someone with a college degree is $52,000. 

With student loans harder and harder to come by and college tuition going up faster than the price of gas, college students need some help.  Unfortunately, the Bush administration has had none to offer.  There is no major program that the Bush administration has designed to help college students. 

No Child Left Behind.  The fact that the program has never been fully funded should be considered a crime.  The whole concept of teaching to a test just never sat well with me.  There is no data suggesting that testing equals learning which is the whole basis of NCLB.  As a matter of fact, I think that the opposite happens.  When focusing on the information for a test, students and teachers miss great learning opportunities. 

Reagan, Bush, Sr. and Bush, Jr. have trying to suck funding out one of the only government programs that has been universally praised – Head Start.  This program has been credited for helping minorities get out of poverty.  We need more programs like it and not less.  We need a Head Start like program for middle school and for high school, so our children can get ahead and stay ahead.

One of the best hoaxes played on the American people are school vouchers.  The Republicans have been pushing this idea from coast to coast for some time.   The idea is if your public school isn’t performing well then you should be able to take your child out of public school and place your child in some other school using public funds.  It sounds great.  Of course, if you pull funds out of failing schools how are those schools going to get any better.  Actually, these cash strapped schools should get increased funding if they are failing.  We need better teachers and better books and facilities in these schools.  The other side of voucher hoax is where are you going to try to put your child?  Is there a good school that has a bunch of openings for kids from failing schools?  No.  School vouchers are just another way to cripple the public educational system. 

Tim Johnson, I congratulate you on your new position but I don’t think that the Republican party has been friendly to minorities in general or Blacks in particular.  I saw Senator John McCain, the Republican party’s presidential nominee, speak last week in Kenner, La, just outside New Orleans.  He spoke in front of an almost completely White crowd.  Outside of Governor Jindal, I was unable to see any face of color in the crowd.  I have watched the video several times.  I think that’s telling.  You can’t tell me that you can’t find a Black face in Southern Louisiana.  Tim, I wish you good luck hopefully you can change the Republican party for the better.

* * * * *

Finally, I must say something about Barack Obama.  Wow.  It is simply amazing.  A Black man is the nominee of the Democratic party.  This Black man isn’t running for dog catcher or mayor or even governor, but for President of the United States.  I didn’t want to get my hopes up but it was a thrill to see him win in Iowa.  I was crushed when he didn’t win in New Hampshire.  He then won and won big in South Carolina. It was after South Carolina, I knew something different was happening.  I watched him rake in money over the internet.  No one has ever done this.  No one.  1.6 million donors!?!?  I watched his speeches but I also watched the enthusiasm that he generated.  I just knew something bad was going to happen.  Something awful.  Something like he never paid his taxes, ever or he used to drown baby seals.  I didn’t know.  I just felt something was going to trip him up.  He racked up 13 victories in February and the Democratic race was really over.  Yes, there was “bitter-gate” and Reverend Jeremiah Wright but Barack Obama turned negatives into positives and kept on going.  Finally, there was a Democratic Presidential candidate that I enthusiastically run to polls and vote for.  Barack Obama, Democratic nominee for president.  Man, oh, man.  I just wish my father had lived to see it.  For the first time, last Tuesday night, we would have cried, together.

5 Responses

  1. Tim –

    thanks for your thoughtful remarks.

    I don’t want you or anyone else to change party affiliation, just because I’m so. You have come to the Republican Party based on your beliefs. You believe that your believers wind up with the ideals of the Republican Party. You’ve come to a conclusion, not out of some knee-jerk reaction but because of thoughtful reflection. I appreciate that.

    I’m sure that you didn’t want to overlook the Black Congressman during the period of reconstruction. Although their 10 years in the US House of Representatives and the Senate were relatively short, they were the Trail Blazers. People like John Menard of Louisiana and Hiram Revels (the first black senator) of Mississippi were just a few of the 22 blacks that were elected to the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate during Reconstruction. (It was the Republican Party which passed a sweeping legislation that allowed these events to occur — the 14th amendment, the Reconstruction act of 1867 and the 15th amendment.)

    I acknowledge and applaud the accomplished them so Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. I also acknowledge their failures. As human beings, none of us are perfect.

    I also at knowledge that the Democratic Party is not perfect. Over the years, the Democratic Party has made numerous mistakes. They’re really too many mistakes for me to even adequately outline in a short comment. But, I will try, for completeness sake. Some of the reforms of the 60s clearly went too far. Welfare for everyone, really helped no one. The behemoths of Medicare and Medicaid, are the classic double edged sword. On one hand, millions of Americans would benefit from these programs. On the other hand, these programs have grown government, they become victims of fraud and abuse. I believe, overall, they have hurt the medical community as doctors and hospitals have seen the reimbursements decreased over the last 20 years. Yet, the pharmaceutical industry has thrived under this program. The motorized wheelchair industry has exploded.

    I invite all Americans — black, white, brown and all other colors to join our conversation. It is conversations like these that make America stronger. I look forward to having more of them.

  2. To My Good Friend Dr. Errington,

    There is no doubt you have done a great job re-capping the past 40 years and the elusive relationship the Republican Party, in general has had with the Black community, overall.

    However, I feel you did not provide your audience with enough information to include the fact that in 1966 Edward Brooke, a Black Republican from Massachusetts was elected to the U.S. Senate and re-elected in 1972. I find it even more interesting that you don’t mention it took 20 more years for another Black person and the first woman, Senator Moseley-Braun to get elected to the Senate and another 12 years, before the election of Senator Obama.

    While you are well versed in history, I find many people I speak with are not.

    In 1854, when the Republican Party was founded, it was known as the anti-slavery party. The 20 Congressional founders wanted to end slavery not because it was the popular thing to do, but instead it because it was the right thing to do. At the conclusion of the Civil War, the first blacks elected to Congress were Republicans and from southern states. In 1898, when the Wilmington riots took place, 2,000 blacks and 1,000 white Republicans were lynched and forced from their homes by Democrats. The KKK was started by the Dixiecrats, who were Southern Democrats, affectionally known as yellows dogs.

    Coming into the present times, are you not going to acknowledge J.C. Watts historic accomplishments, General Powell’s numerous accomplishments or Secretary Rice historical accomplishments?
    Are you willing to be so partisan that you wouldn’t even acknowledge the fact that President Bush has appointed more Blacks to senior level positions in his administration than any other President in history, to include the so call first Black President-William Jefferson Clinton?

    And this year alone, three Blacks have been elected National Committee Men and Woman from South Carolina, North Carolina and Michigan. Black Republicans are being elected around the country and are current candidates for local to national offices. Furthermore, Black community activist, like myself, are being elected to lead our local volunteers. Re-establish our rightful places, without forgetting we are “Black Republicans not Republicans who happen to be Black”

    Finally, for those who love history, we know history keeps track of our past. Those failing to acknowledge and learn from it are doomed to repeat it.
    Please do not think the Republican Party is asleep at the wheel or unaware of its past history and relationship with people of color. If they reach out to us and we don’t reach back, we can’t and shouldn’t expect anymore than we have traditional received.
    Like you, I am proud of what Senator Barak Obama, the fifth Black U.S. Senator and the second Black Democratic Senator in our nation’s history, has accomplish. But, I am fearful for us, as Black Americans, submitting ourselves to this single minded thinking that the Democratic Party is and will be our only political option.

    I am free to think, feel and vote my preference. I pray to God that the mental shackles will free more of us to think for ourselves, seek out the real truth and vote for the person who will actually represent us without controlling us.

    That’s what I continue to believe and think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was saying to us during his work for civil rights and that is the legacy that remains with me.

    As a lifelong Black Republican, are his words useless and meaningless because of his political affiliation? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

  3. Errington,

    Thank you brother. I too would like to encourage more dialogue and deeper conversations.

    PS: Please remove my first response. Entirely too many spelling errors.

    Thank you again.

  4. There are many great comments in this Discussion. I am surprised to see that there are conversations about how many blacks were appointed to this and that. I would be even more proud to know that that person was appointed because of their individual abilities, rather than skin color or party affiliation. I am a Youth Minister who works in a urban city Ministry. It breaks my heart to see a youth wearing a Dr. King or Malcolm X t-shirt and yet act like a street thug or wanna be gangsta. I work everyday trying to instill in them that those to GREAT MEN would be horrified to see what they do everyday. The youth today need the leadership,guidance and mentoring of a adult male in their lives. They do not have that in their lives. Mom is working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. No supervision.I ask for help from the black community to stand tall and mentor these young adults. As for the article Failure to Deliver? What is to be delivered? Are we to be given something? Is it about delivering anything for a particular people or is it for all people? I don’t believe we can move forward while looking backwards. Although we should learn from our mistakes in the past ,we should not live in the past. We need to see what life is truly about. We have all done wrong sometime in our lives. We all need to forgive as we have been forgiven. I pray for this country and its people.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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