Not long ago, Ishmael Reed wrote in the NYT:
The Republican Party was influenced by the abolitionist Liberty Party, whose leading lights included William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, who later said: “I recognize the Republican Party as the sheet anchor of the colored man’s political hopes and the ark of his safety.”
Likewise, in an 1872 letter to her fellow activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony wrote: “I shall continue to work for the Republican Party … for what the party has done and promises to do for women.”
Why can’t that emancipationist sentiment return today? The original Republicans were born from a challenge to the far right — Lincoln gained influence by criticizing the Know-Nothing Party, the far right of his time. The same could happen today, gaining millions of adherents tired of the right’s racism and the left’s big-government stereotypes. Call it “neo-Classical Republicanism.”
The door is wide open. As Mr. Obama’s critics on the black left have noted, blacks haven’t benefited from his presidency as much as other factions of the Democratic coalition. He’s less of a Malcolm X than a Booker T. Washington, who would have endorsed the president’s belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
The Republican Party I know is playing three games. The first game is the Washington game of winning and spinning. It takes whatever power it has and can wrangle to get its way inside the Beltway. That results in just what you think it does. These are the Republicans of Boehner and company – they are who they are – lords of influence, power- brokers, men with no time for nonsense. The second game is the game of money and votes. If you are local, your job is find out where the money is and get that money. Money means the guy who owns the Ford dealership who shows up at fundraisers and charity auctions. Votes means the people who will walk house to house and knock on doors and sit at voter registration tables for hours on end every weekend. What you want into is the third game.
The third game is the game of narrative and ideology. It’s about the culture of the Right. And that is a media game – an open game. Whoopi Goldberg once said that TV is the only place where you can have a million followers and be called a loser. Everybody who is black in the American Right knows that there are something on the order of four million black Republicans, and yet we all seem to feel that’s never enough. The Republican Party cannot do and will not do what Ishmael Reed says because Ismael Reed is not standing up on national TV saying “I am a Republican and this is what I believe”. Everything he said rings perfectly true and is perfectly acceptable to the GOP, but that’s *his* way with words, backed by *his* name recognition by black Americans. It’s the same way with Dr. Ben Carson, whom all of a sudden gets this groundswell of support because he knows how to diss Obama in a way that makes lots of blackfolks tingly. But every black American on the Right already knows this.
Any and every proper idea of black self-determination is baked into Republican values. It always has been, and the GOP is not hostile to, but welcoming of all those ideas. It’s the broad American media that is hostile and most black Americans – those who are waiting for Denzel Washington on a golden chariot – are playing right into that hostility. The ideas have never changed. When JC Watts was speaking on those ideas, we laughed at him because Chris Rock told us to. When Glenn Loury was speaking on those ideas, we dismissed him because we wanted to wait and hear him say Republicans are racist too. When Connie Rice was speaking on those ideas, we said she was sleeping with G.W. Bush. When Michael Steele was speaking on those ideas we said, he can’t win a statewide office. You name the black Republican, all of them have the same ideas, and all of them have a bullet aimed at their head with a lame excuse on it. Do you hear what I’m saying? Crabs can’t wait to get their claws into black Americans who climb up and say “I’m a Republican and this is what I believe.” The ideas have never changed.
Let me tell you what it’s like to be black on the American Right. No, on second thought, you figure it out for yourself. Because it works for me and my family, and that’s all the black I’m responsible for, thank you. Nicki Minaj is never going to sing that song because it’s an old solid idea that works for Scandinavian farmers in North Dakota, and it works for everybody outside of the cool demographics all around the world and it doesn’t make you popular. Conservative values are like calculus. Knowing them only helps you solve problems, and being unpopular isn’t a problem.
Let me repeat that. Being unpopular is not a problem.
Singing has always been a good idea. You can’t grow up in America not knowing how to sing a Michael Jackson song. But Hollywood is the bastion of Frankfurt School propaganda and so their job is to put their cool demographics on TV singing Michael Jackson songs. So that way you get popular. I think people like Glee because it’s wheelchair and GLBT friendly, and guess what? You don’t get to be on national TV making the big bucks by accident. The professionals know how to make you popular – that’s the game they are playing because one million friends is never enough. So Glee is what it is by mass media design and dad-. But the songs are old and singing is good. The ideas have never changed.
I don’t do broadcast media any longer. I’m fortunate enough to be a part of the second industrial revolution – the information technology revolution. That’s my day job – I build stuff. I used to be in the meme game. But after a while I realized that I didn’t have to come up with any more new ideas, I just had to get more exposure to the ideas I was on about. When you’re on TV, that means playing a game – a game I called ‘Famousity’. How famous can you get? To win that game you do your damnedest to stay in the public eye saying *something*. After a while you get famous for being famous. Yeah well, my mama didn’t raise me to be a media star. Everybody knows Connie Chung, but what ideas does she stand for? She’s popular, that’s all. I prefer to write so that the insights get passed along, not my gleeful, pretty face.
So when somebody tells me what the GOP *ought* to do to get black votes, what they really mean is somebody ought to make the Republican Party *popular* – because they have an *image problem* with ‘black America’. But the ideas have never changed, and being unpopular is not a problem.