Why don’t influential African Americans in the Republican Party like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steel, Allen West, Herman Cain and Dr. Ben Carson step up and speak up to try to help save the Republican Party from self destruction? Are they afraid of the repercussions that they might be faced with? Are they afraid of the personal damage that they might sustain from the sheer impact of any blowback that they might receive?
I tried to find out how many African American Republicans there are but could not come up with a definitive answer. Even if there are very few they should step up and speak up. They should at least make an effort to educate the conservative faction of the Republican Party on the perspective of African Americans and other people of color on these ‘pure’ conservative points of view.
I read and then reread E. J. Dionne’s recent article, “Republican self-destruction is fun to watch, but bad for us all”, dated January 29, 2016 in The Washington Post. I learned some things that I did not know about conservatives, in particular pure conservatives, and their perspective on governance. Although I do not agree with all of the things that they advocate in how they believe that America should move forward I believe that there can be common ground and that Democrats and Republicans should seek that common ground. But that presents a major problem because pure conservatives believe that compromise with the Democrats is a deal breaker and therefore a non-starter.
As naive as it might sound coming from me, someone who has followed politics for a very long time; after reading Mr. Dionne’s article, it strikes me that perhaps I never really knew the definition of conservatism. Maybe the definition is continuing to evolve and I will never fully understand what conservatism means. A lot of conservatives still argue about this so I shouldn’t let something like that bother me. But the point is not whether or not I can define conservatism. Instead, the point is what the takeaway for me was from that article and its impact on my thinking as it relates to influential African American Republicans.
I have watched Michael Steele defend the Republican Party many times on the Hardball with Chris Matthews Show and on other MSNBC shows. I have witnessed him bristle when others on those shows rightly asserted that congressional Republicans in Washington were divisive, seemed to be more interested in obstructing than they were in governing and that they are a Party that is continuously becoming more exclusive, older and whiter.
Michael Steele is a Republican and I can understand why he becomes agitated and comes to the defense of his Party when he feels that someone is attacking it. What I do not understand is how as an African American he can know how many of those in his Party feel about people who look like him and still remain attached to it without making any effort to fix it. How can he be comfortable with that?
The very definition of conservatism by too many in the Republican Party precludes me as an African American, and no doubt many other people of color, from even considering becoming a member of that party. Why? Because these Republicans want to go back to what they consider to be the ‘good old days’ when slavery existed (they now seem to want what fundamentally amounts to slavery in a more palatable form), there was no Social Security, no civil rights laws, no women’s rights, no gay rights, no push for universal health care, lower taxes on the wealthy, the government’s focus was on assisting “makers” and “job creators”, and there were fewer minorities. This definition, which defines how Republicans really feel, is likely also what predestined them to fail in their effort to build a bigger and more inclusive tent.
It is nonsensical for anyone to believe that people of color would want to be part of a Party that wants them to subordinate themselves to white people and allow them to rule their lives no matter how nice and compassionate that those white people might be toward them. I wouldn’t do it and I am sure that today’s young African Americans would not do it. I want to be equal to them and I want to be treated as an equal. I want to be able to rise based on my ability and reach my full potential, no matter what that level might be and not held back because they believe that my cognitive powers are limited and I am not cerebral enough in their eyes. I want to be judged by the content of my character, not the color of my skin.
If the true definition of conservatism is grounded in those previously mentioned things and those things are etched in stone and unmovable then therein lies the problem. It should not be this way. That is why people like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele, Allen West, Herman Cain and Dr. Ben Carson should step up and speak up. They have the opportunity and the responsibility to help the Republican Party get back on track. Their efforts, even if not immediately successful, would be beneficial to the Republican Party, people of color, and to America. America needs the entire Republican Party and that includes the conservative facet of it.
I don’t know if E. J. Dionne even gave a thought to calling out people like those that I mentioned. Even if he did, in his capacity it would likely be unethical and or against the rules. In this blog, however, I am allowed to interject my opinion. The downside is that I obviously don’t get anywhere near the amount of readers that The Washington Post gets and so this message will reach a lot fewer people.
Mr. Dionne said in his article that “An intellectually vibrant conservatism is essential to a healthy democracy. The United States needs conservatives willing to criticize the grand plans we liberals sometimes offer, to remind us that traditional institutions should not be overturned lightly and to challenge those who believe that politics can remold human nature.” I agree with him. And that is why we need the Republican Party and the conservative presence to remain a consistent part of our two party system. They must not be allowed to self-destruct because of their stubbornness and lack of pliability.
And because their continued presence in the political process is in the best interest of America, whether we are Democrats, Republicans or Independents we have a responsibility to convince them that this is the case. Further, those previously mentioned influential Republicans should be leading the pack among those who should be first responders.
Eulus Dennis – author, Operation Rubik’s Cube and Living Between The Line