When the Republican national convention came to Philadelphia in 2000, I attended every session of every day. At the time, I was working as a columnist at another newspaper here in town, and I wrote a tongue-in-cheek column mocking the GOP’s oft-repeated claim that week to be “the party of inclusion.”
Clearly that column was 12 years ahead of its time, since it’s become crystal clear this week that if there’s anything the Grand Old Party fears more than taxes, it’s being in close proximity to Black and brown people.
At the convention in Tampa, there are fewer Black people than ever, both in the audience and at the podium. Sure, they trotted out Condi Rice, Mia Love and Artur Davis in a half-hearted attempt at the illusion of diversity, but their actions spoke louder, and proved the gesture to be mere window dressing.
The real GOP was on display as well — with all its racial animosity intact. A couple of attendees were thrown out Tuesday for throwing peanuts at a Black CNN camera operator, telling her, “This is how we feed the animals.”
The offending racists were ejected from the forum, and late Tuesday night the GOP organizers issued a non-apology statement calling their actions “inexcusable and unacceptable.” What they didn’t say was that they’re sorry, or that any punishment was meted out to the peanut throwers beyond escorting them from the premises.
Organizers wouldn’t even say whether the pair’s credentials had been pulled, or if they were allowed to return the next day. The GOP, and coincidentally CNN, seemed content to dismiss the behavior as an aberration, and move on.
I wonder, though, if they’d have taken the same boys-will-be-boys attitude if there were, say, a couple of mean-looking, Black guys intimidating a white woman. Something tells me there would have been a lot more action than a hastily written repudiation, and those guys would be sitting in a cell until first daughter Malia Obama runs for president in 2036.
Then there’s Monday’s incident, in which Puerto Rican Committeewoman Zoraida Fonalledas took the stage, and was nearly drowned out by boos, catcalls and the chant of “USA! USA! USA!” It was an embarrassing moment, and one that played into the narrative of the GOP’s disdain for brown people who speak English with an accent; but event organizers were quick with another explanation.
The chants and catcalls while Fonalledas was on stage, they said, were the result of Ron Paul supporters on the floor being disruptive in their protest of rule changes which would shut down support of anyone other than the presumptive nominee in future conventions, and not directed at immigrants in general, or Fonalledas in particular.
It’s easy to see how convention organizers would be especially sensitive to hints of racism, considering that their party has become older and whiter than ever, and no longer bothers to try to convince anyone that they’d like to become more diverse.
What’s more difficult to understand is how the GOP repeatedly demonizes, animalizes and dehumanizes minorities — and blames Black and brown people for every problem in America — but then seems genuinely surprised that Mitt Romney is polling lately with zero percent of the Black vote.
Even after the draconian immigration laws and threats of electrifying a border fence across the Rio Grande; even after voter ID laws threaten to undermine the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of minority voters; even after telling women they should be forced to bear the child of a rapist; and after Romney himself is out there telling “birther” jokes, they somehow fail to understand why their policies are unpopular among anyone who isn’t white, straight and rich.
In fairness, some Republicans get it. Sen. Lindsey Graham was quoted this week as saying, “The demographics race, we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry, white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
He’s right. Of course, the constant lying about President Obama’s record, and the thinly disguised racial code words won’t help their case with minorities either. After all, if your cause is just, and you’re in the right, why would you have to lie?
For the record, Romney’s camp did address the lies and truth-stretching they’ve been doing. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News. Translation: The lies appear to be working, so we’re going to keep it up.
As long as they maintain their present policy of avoiding both the truth and minority voters in light of the nation’s changing demographics, the GOP knows it’s shooting itself in the foot in regard to long-term viability.
They just can’t help themselves.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
As the Republican National Convention moved into full swing, the Obama campaign swung through Pennsylvania this week — in a three-day bus tour — contrasting President Barack Obama to his challengers Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
The bus, bulging with dignitaries — some of whom had ridden just a few blocks down Broad Street from the Union League at Broad and Sansom Street — rolled into town, the final stop on a statewide tour that started Monday in Erie.
Participants in the tour, dubbed, “Romney Economics Wrong for the Middle Class,” pummeled Romney and Ryan on their proposed economic policies.
“They do want to take America back,” Mayor Michael Nutter said, riffing on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s convention speech. “Back to the failed economic policies that got us here in the first place.”
The tour, which travelled through Pittsburgh, Johnstown, State College and Scranton, among others, provided a diversion for Democrats during the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., which has dominated the airways and news cycles all week, with numerous party bigwigs from Gov. Chris Christie to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan criticizing the president for everything.
In his convention speech Wednesday night Ryan blasted the president and his economic policies.
“President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record,” said Ryan. “But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it.”
The city’s Democratic establishment hastened to disagree, charging that Republican policies would destroy the middle class.
“It’s Robin Hood in reverse,” said City Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr., referring to Romney’s time as head of Bain Capital. “He steals from the poor to give to his rich friends. He would do the same thing in the White House.”
And though Philadelphia politicians made up the bulk of the group, two legislators from Massachusetts — who had travelled the length of Pennsylvania — spoke about Romney’s tenure as governor of their state.
“Romney economics didn’t work then, and it won’t work now,” said Massachusetts state Rep. Jeffery Sanchez, telling reporters that while Romney was governor of the state, 40,000 jobs were lost and the state fell to 47th in job creation.
“What has Mitt Romney ever built but million dollar bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands?” he asked.
The arrival of the bus was the culmination of several events in Philadelphia this week as the Obama campaign continued to hammer at the Romney–Ryan ticket.
A number of smaller but related events were held throughout the week, singling out specific topics for attack. For example, on Tuesday, actress Tatyana Ali, former star of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, appeared with Councilwoman Marian Tasco to urge women to vote for Obama.
Ali, the daughter of immigrants, dismissed remarks Ann Romney made at the convention talking about the struggles she and her husband had early in their marriage.
“I don’t think they have any idea what it takes to pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” Ali said.
Pennsylvania is a key state in the November 6 contest. Most polls show Obama leading Romney but it’s too early to tell if the convention will provide the usual upswing in poll numbers for the Romney ticket.
Christie, in his convention speech, dismissed the polls, saying Republicans would reverse the numbers.
“Real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls,” he said. “That’s what we need to do now. Change polls through the power of our principles.”
The Republicans have outpaced Obama and the Democrats in the last three months of fund-raising. Since June, Obama has raised $75 million while the Republicans have hauled in more than $101 million.
OK, Republicans, we’ll go over this one last time: I am Black. I voted for President Barack Obama. I did not vote for him because he’s Black, and I’m willing to bet my meager paycheck that most Black politically astute voters didn’t vote for his skin color either.
I voted for the president because he was head and shoulders above the lying, smarmy, condescending, snake-eyed weasel you Republicans called a candidate. For most Black folk, and for most Americans in general, it turns out — it wasn’t even a choice.
Look, we Democrats didn’t complain when our nominee, the jelly-spined Michael Dukakis, got his butt kicked by George H.W. Bush in 1988. Dukakis was an idiot, and we knew it. Once we saw the ridiculous photo of that doofus riding in a tank wearing a battle helmet, we realized the race was over. But we sucked it up, and took the beating we deserved, because it was essentially our fault that our candidate was so weak.
Republicans seem to lack even that minimum degree of self-awareness. In defeat, the GOP has pointed fingers at everyone but themselves. Mostly, though, they’ve blamed Blacks and other minorities for their own dismal failures.
Paul Ryan, the phantom running mate — who magically disappeared as soon as he was named for the VP slot, blamed the loss on Obama’s turnout in “urban” communities — as if we’re too stupid to figure out the code. Mitt Romney, still clueless about his own culpability in turning off millions of potential voters, said Obama bought the election with lavish “gifts” to the president’s base supporters at taxpayer expense — “gifts” like health care and student loan forgiveness.
Only Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, attempted to grasp the message voters were sending the GOP on Election Day — and even he only got it half right.
Jindal said, rightly, that the GOP would need to reach out to minorities and disenfranchised voters if the party ever wants to become viable again. He said they’d have to soften the divisive language on rape, homosexuality, immigration, and contraception, to name a few — or perish like the dinosaurs.
Jindal’s on the right track here, but he’s still on the wrong train. The GOP has got to reach out beyond its base of rich old white men, to be sure — but not just by softening the language. They’ll have to completely shift their divisive platform, politics and policies to even give themselves a chance with the millions of voters who rejected them last week in disgust. Just changing the tone will only mask their intentions, and add another layer of hypocrisy to their present pack of lies.
The fact is that millions of Americans — Black, white, gay, Hispanic, or whatever — voted for Obama not because they were snookered by a Democratic snake oil salesman, but because they were justifiably horrified by the things that actually came out of Republicans’ mouths for more than two years.
Did the GOP really think that the softer, gentler Romney who emerged at the very end of the campaign would somehow negate the 47 percent putdown, or the legitimate rape fiasco, or Rush Limbaugh attacking a college student as a slut, or invasive ultrasound procedures forced on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies? Did they think we’d forget about Newt Gingrich’s “food stamp president” slap, or Rick Santorum’s vow not to give white people’s money to lazy Blacks? Were we supposed to look the other way while Michelle Bachmann blamed the economic recession on poor Black folks, or ignore Rick Perry’s frequent hunting trips to the N-word Ranch?
We haven’t even gotten to their unashamed hatred of gays and lesbians, their plan to build an electrified fence to fry undocumented workers crossing the border like a giant bug zapper, or their apparent willingness to let their own grandmothers search through dumpsters for food scraps in exchange for hefty tax cuts for millionaires.
No, they’d rather believe that somehow Black people conspired to undo them, because if history has shown them nothing else, it’s that blaming dark-skinned folks is easier than looking in the mirror.
So go ahead. Call me racist for voting for Obama, while ignoring common sense and a mountain of damning evidence. Blame everything and everyone but yourselves — and your obsession with a continuing white pseudo-Christian plutocracy.
Keep it up all the way until 2016, when you can blame President Hillary Clinton and all those darned women for your next scheduled butt kicking.
Daryl Gale is the city editor of The Philadelphia Tribune.
Gearing up for what is expected to be an ugly battle for the White House, the Obama campaign this week rolled out a Philadelphia “Truth Team” to counter “scurrilous Republican attacks.”
“This is a team of people from across the nation to make sure that people know the truth about what the president has done while in office, and also to respond to anticipated and expected scurrilous Republican attacks,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, one of six local elected officials who announced the launch of the local “Truth Team” Thursday at city hall. “We remain committed to insuring that our constituents know the truth. That would be t-r-u-t-h, clearly a word that the Republican Party and Republican candidates have difficulty spelling and saying on their own.”
Similar teams were put in place across Pennsylvania and the nation.
Members of the Philadelphia team were: Nutter, State Rep. Babette Josephs, District Attorney Seth Williams, state Sen. Anthony Williams, city Controller Alan Butkovitz and city Councilwoman Cindy Bass.
While there is a great deal of uncertainty as to who the Republican nominee will be heading into November, the campaign is likely to get rougher as the GOP fumbles to rally behind one candidate and the focus shifts to that nominee and President Barack Obama.
“We’ve seen these attacks already and know they will be coming soon to Pennsylvania,” Nutter said.
The Republican contest has narrowed, it seems, to three potential nominees: former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney; former speaker of the U.S. House, Newt Gingrich and former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum.
Nutter took a jab at two out of three.
“Mitt Romney will literally say anything to win, distort the president’s record and his own at the same time,” said the mayor. “[Santorum] remains clearly out of step with the needs of most Americans. Pennsylvania voters clearly rejected him, soundly, when his name was last on the ballot.”
In addition to the team, the campaign unveiled three websites designed to respond to Republican attacks: KeepingHisWord.com, AttackWatch.com and KeepingGOPHosnest.com. All three are intended to serve as quick, comprehensive resources to help set the record straight. The websites contain videos and information on the president’s record, and fact checks on Republican claims about the president and themselves.
The sites also contain tools for sharing materials via Facebook, Twitter and email. The goal, said a campaign release, is to ensure that “grassroots supporters can take ownership of the campaign and share the facts with the undecided voters in their lives.”
More than a million people took action as part in similar effort called “Fight the Smears” during the 2008 campaign. The goal of the Truth Team is to double that number, reaching two million grassroots supporters.
Film director Woody Allen once famously said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” I imagine this is what GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney had in mind when he showed up to speak at the NAACP national convention in Houston this week.
Romney knows he has to peel away at least some Black votes from President Obama to have even an outside chance of winning this election. I don’t think any reasonable Republican expects a seismic shift in the numbers, but maybe if they could just get Obama’s projected 95 percent of the Black vote down to under 90 percent, they’d consider it a major coup, and from there, hey, anything can happen.
I’ll give Romney credit where credit is due. It took a lot of gumption for him to stand in front of that audience and vow to repeal Obamacare, slash education, and set the cause of civil rights back 75 years. He took the boos, the jeers, and the catcalls like a man, and endured what I’m sure was one of the most uncomfortable events in his extremely comfortable life.
Probably adding to his trepidation in front of the NAACP audience is the fact that he knows Republican outreach in minority communities ranges from nonexistent to open hostility. You have only to look at Arizona, where the frenzy to root out illegal brown people has reached such a fever pitch that they detained their own former governor for questioning because he’s, well, brown.
The images of watermelons, bone-through-the-nose witch doctors, and dressed up monkeys on their posters and signs at rallies tells you all you need to know about how the tea party-dominated GOP feels about Black people. Since Obama took office, the racists have shed any semblance of subtlety they may have once had, and gone into full-tilt skinhead mode. If you think the NAACP audience was rude in booing Romney a few times, try to imagine how the president would have been received at a meeting of the John Birch Society.
Now that they’ve angered, alienated, disenfranchised, and marginalized women, Blacks, browns, gays, the poor, the elderly, and anyone else who isn’t a Caucasian male millionaire, the GOP suddenly realizes the numbers they have left won’t win a national election. So what can they do?
Outreach, that’s what. Or at least, what passes for outreach when you’d really prefer to avoid altogether the people you’re forced to reach out to.
In the Republicans’ case, it means look forward this summer to images of Romney eating Cuban sandwiches in Miami, wearing a sombrero in San Diego, and showing up at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans for fried chicken — probably wearing a hoodie.
They already know the lame attempt at outreach won’t do much good, but they’re obligated to put forth a cursory effort. Romney won’t make even the smallest dent in Obama’s numbers among African-American voters, and they know it. But since you can’t take any vote for granted in a tight race, he’s got to go places he doesn’t want to go, and smile in the faces people who know he doesn’t have their best interests at heart.
You saw the pictures of Romney back in May when he visited the Guion Bluford School in West Philly. I don’t believe I’ve seen a man so stiff and ill at ease, especially around children. He looked like he was waiting for a colonoscopy, not being serenaded by enthusiastic elementary school students.
Nervous? You bet. The last time Mitt Romney was around that many Black people was when he was — aw, who am I kidding? He’s never been around Black people, and it showed.
When the GOP convention was here in Philly in 2004, Republicans made a big deal of calling themselves, ‘The Party of inclusion.’ It’s even funnier eight years later, seeing as how they’re no closer to actual diversity than they were 50 years ago.
I was there for that convention, and at any given moment there were more Black people on stage than there were in the audience. I was also stopped by security volunteers and asked to show my press credentials an average of every 15 minutes or so. I remember saying many things about the GOP that week, but “party of inclusion” wasn’t one of them.
If Woody Allen was right, then the Republicans can count themselves 80 percent successful at reaching out to members of the Black community.
At least Romney showed up.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
One thing all political observers are certain of now: Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., desperately wants to keep his job.
But, what’s equally unclear is why would Florida Republicans try to snatch it away from him?
There’s been much chatter about that from Washington, D.C., to the idyllic retirement corridors of Boca Raton and Palm Beach. It all started when the state’s Republican-controlled legislature took knives to the Sunshine State’s political map, effectively cutting the superstar cable news Congressman out of his own 22nd district by molding it into a Democratic stronghold.
But, that’s ok, says West, who simply plays the game back and decides to move into the newly drawn 18th district which is less Democratic than his current one. The new 18th contains a majority of voters from the 16th, which is currently overseen by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.
“Congressman Rooney is a statesman and has been an honorable public servant to the constituents of Florida’s 16th Congressional district,” said West in a statement. “It is my goal to continue the success Congressman Rooney has had in Florida’s 16th Congressional district in the newly proposed 18th district. I welcome the challenges and excitement that lie ahead.”
Still, West’s sudden and very forced move seems peculiar for a number of reasons. First: Republicans like to win. While still feeling comfortable about their prospects for maintaining a majority in the U.S. House this November, Republican hacks shift uncomfortably at a number of general polling indicators. House Democrats were celebrating a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll that showed voters would support a Democratic candidate over a Republican candidate in their specific district by 4 points: 48 percent to 44 percent.
And as the Republican presidential primary drags on, with the candidates engaged in an ugly meat grind of nasty campaign ads, debate dramas and rhetorical gaffes exposing the party’s bigoted underbelly, observers point to a GOP image problem. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich slugging it out over national airwaves only weakens the eventual nominee — and strengthens President Obama’s position in November.
For Republicans, Florida is all-important. An amateur strategist would assume that the state GOP would do everything in its power to keep a grip on its majority of Congressional seats in a critical battleground state. Right now, out of 25 House seats in the palm tree and hurricane state, Republicans hold 19.
And while that’s a comfortable majority, why risk losing one when voters could get finicky, take it out on Republicans and vote all the way down a Democratic ticket?
It’s a risk the state’s GOP leadership either missed or deliberately dismissed in remapping West’s Democratic-leaning 22nd. Sources say it wasn’t an accident. A Republican strategist close to national and state leaders, speaking to the Tribune on condition of anonymity, says “West is being hosed.”
“He’s becoming a liability. He makes the state look bad, and, frankly, he’s attracting a bit too much negative attention to leadership on and off the Hill,” snorted the source. “That’s why they like Scott — he’s quiet and he’s easy to get along with.”
That comment adds another interesting angle for Republicans, continually smarting from the lack of diversity in its Congressional ranks. West is one of two African-American Republicans in the current Congress; the other is Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a fast rising star who is rarely found on cable talk shows, but was just picked as one of GQ Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful People in Washington” — after less than one full term.
Scott was one of only two Black people on that list, a slight not missed by longtime Black politicos (some thinking about a quiet boycott of GQ). And, he’s not an official Congressional Black Caucus member.
If Republicans have a diversity problem, why would they actively seek to cut the number of Black Republicans in Congress down from a paltry two to an embarrassing one?
The question becomes a bit more peculiar, considering Congressional Republicans find themselves in a fundraising crunch compared to their Democratic counterparts: Allen West is one of the party’s most prolific fundraisers. He ranks #19 on a list of the Top 25 Republican fundraisers during the 2011–2012 period, raising over $2 million dollars. He is the only Black member of Congress to make the Top 25 list for either Democrats or Republicans; with the exception of President Obama (who topped both Democrats and Republicans with a $46 million official pull last year), West is the only African-American elected official to make that list. Herman Cain, who suspended his presidential race in early December, was the only other African American, despite the fact he is not an elected official.
West has the numbers, and he has the national voice and following. Why crucify him with a redistricting pen?
Insiders point to West’s mouth as his biggest problem. Each day brings another controversial, off-the-cuff comment from the conservative firebrand. He is more popular for his rhetorical fire bombs and sling shots across the partisan aisle than he is for groundbreaking legislative accomplishments. And, a larger problem is that he loves it. While signs point to Republican leadership eager to tone down the acerbic messaging and move away from controversial statements that make the tea party element giddy, West still pushes the envelope, from constant Molotov cocktails about “Blacks on the Democrat plantation” to unloading a freestyle torrent of talking point missiles at Democratic National Committee Chair and fellow Floridian Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, D-Fla.
“We need to let President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and my dear friend the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain’t on the table,” said West, unloading yet again on favorite tea party bogeymen and women. “Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.”
He might as well have ripped off his shirt, beat his chest and did a 2004 Howard Dean Iowa imitation when he added amid cheers: “Yeah, I said ‘hell.’”
That’s the kind of political “hell” that makes establishment Republicans squirm — just like they’re doing now as the GOP primary battle drags on with insurgent former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now the party stepchild. Others point to former governor and current frontrunner Mitt Romney as a prominent anti-West source, too. Romney wants a clean, no-drama campaign if he can help it, and tea party candidates like West are unpredictable. And with tea party polling numbers dropping as more Americans are blaming them for unnecessary gridlock in Washington, country club Party of Lincolnites are trying to play it cool, slowly finding ways to quietly disassociate themselves from the rabble rousing “Don’t Tread on Me’s.”
“Get ready for the all new GOP, under the lead of Mitt Romney. It’s a GOP where the tea party won’t be welcome, where the federal government will continue to bail out banks and unions and everyone who’s anyone will continue to make money — except of course you and me,” said TownHall.com’s John Ranson, reflecting an uneasy mood among conservative hardliners that Romney is already controlling the party factions.
In the meantime, West is not as crazy as his rhetoric lets on.
There is pure political calculation when West publicly makes enemies, a perpetual campaign stump in a quest to paint himself as the Washington outsider. It’s a balancing act based on his need for support from the national tea party grassroots, an apparatus that accounts for a large chunk of his money, as 56 percent of his campaign contributions come from sources outside the district.
But, it’s also a way for West to reestablish ties with a tea party rank and file that had soured on him in the past year as he not only joined their archenemy Congressional Black Caucus, but he also voted for Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. West was showing signs of becoming a real legislator, and the tea party wants unapologetic activists on Capitol Hill. He’ll need to refurbish his tea party bona fides as a way to get both their money and boots-on-the-ground support come November.
Democrats are warning that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s much-discussed budget proposal would “devastate” public and higher education in Pennsylvania.
“While President Obama has worked to make quality affordable education available and accessible to all, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s budget plan would, in fact, reverse that progress,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “Pennsylvania students would feel a devastating impact … all while preserving historic tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”
The Obama campaign pulled together Nutter, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn from South Carolina and two teachers from Philadelphia public schools — Juanita Leyath, a speech therapist and Padraic McCaffery, an English and social studies teacher — to condemn the possibility of budget cuts to federal education spending should the Republicans seize the White House on Nov. 6.
Clyburn laid out the party’s point of view, saying that congressional Democrats, along with the president, have worked to lower the barriers to education.
“Just one example is the Pell Grant,” he said. “We took $60 million that would be going to banks to administer the program and turned the program into a direct loan so that colleges and universities would be able to direct those resources to the students themselves … we were able to double the number of students getting Pell Grants, and we were able to increase the grant size from around $4,600 per pupil to around $5,400 per pupil.”
Congress also provided $2 billion more for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, he said.
A Republican White House would reverse those gains, the two men agreed.
Nutter laid out a series of specific numbers, projections from the Obama campaign as to how the Romney/Ryan budget could impact Pennsylvania schools. The figures were based on across the board cuts under Ryan’s plan, which would slash federal spending by about 20 percent over the next decade.
According to those figures: $186 million in cuts for public schools, 12,000 fewer spots in Head Start, an average cut of $810 college scholarships for 313,000 Pennsylvania college students and 9,180 fewer work study positions for state college students.
In May, Romney visited a school in West Philadelphia, where he called for larger class sizes.
“Every second grader knows that’s not right,” Nutter said.
Romney has said he would not necessarily implement the Ryan budget, which includes $5.3 trillion in spending cuts — but since choosing Ryan as his running mate a week ago, debate on the plan has dominated the national conversation. While Ryan has laid out a plan that includes a set of sweeping numbers, he has consistently declined to get specific about exactly where he would cut or what tax deductions he would eliminate in an effort to balance the federal budget.
Leyath said she’s seen the impact of Obama’s plans personally. A teacher in Olney and the Northeast, she said the president’s stimulus package kept teachers working, allowing the district to keep class sizes smaller which ultimately benefits her students, who are “overwhelmingly Latino or African-American, or who come from low-income families.”
“I am standing with the president because I have seen how much he had done these last four years,” she said. “I know he is the man to keep us moving forward.”
If you’re Black in America, it appears that the country’s most important political strategists, and its most visible political candidates, have already written you off. They’ve decided, somehow, that you no longer matter, that your vote is not worth “courting,” as they try to gather the support they need to win the upcoming Presidential election.
Strategists in both parties don’t bother reaching out to you because you’ve already made it abundantly clear that you don’t have any issues that you, yourself, are willing to fight for. Republican strategists, specifically, don’t try because they believe we put allegiance to the Democratic Party ahead of all else.
In fact, following a recent highly questionable poll, conducted on behalf of BET, the pollster announced that Barack Obama commanded 94 percent of the Black vote, and that Mitt Romney could claim 0 percent. None, not a single digit, nothing.
It didn’t sound plausible. After all, we all know there will always be SOME Black Americans who still relate to the “Party of Lincoln.” There will always be SOME who consider themselves “conservative,” “extreme capitalists,” members of the “religious right,” or just plain “anti-Democrats,” for their own reasons.
At the same time, Democratic strategists haven’t felt the need to address our issues, because they know they can count on us, like clock-work, providing high-80 percent, and low-90 percent support levels to their party, no matter what.
To the Republicans, therefore, we’re seen as a “lost cause;” to the Democrats we’re considered “cooked, packaged, and ready for delivery.” With our track record of voting overwhelmingly Democratic in presidential elections dating all the way back to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and our “love and adoration” for Barack Obama, the Democrats, not surprisingly, feel no concern, at all, that we will stray from the “reservation,” on election day.
So where does that leave us with November 6 fast-approaching?
After marching and dying for the right to vote, after the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, after fighting to register every eligible Black voter in our communities, nationwide, we’ve been reduced to mere “bystanders” in our country’s most important election.
There are 42 million Black people in the U.S. and, as of November, 2010, we constituted 12 percent of all the country’s registered voters. That compares to Hispanics, who represented 7 percent of all registered voters, Asians, who represented 2.5 percent of registered voters, and whites who saw their numbers decline by 2.9 percent, to 77.5 percent of registered voters, by the same date.
When you consider the fact that one out of every eight registered voters in this country is a Black person, it's difficult to accept the fact that both parties, both major candidates, have gone out of their way to exclude us from the national political conversation.
Black unemployment has remained consistently at a level that is about twice as high as white unemployment. In fact, the government recently reported that, as of the end of September, Black unemployment stood at 13.4 percent, while white unemployment was 7.0 percent (Hispanic unemployment, by the way, was announced at 9.9 percent).
Somehow, for some reason, Black folks in this country continue to catch way more hell in the job market than everybody else.
Do we care? Are we holding anybody accountable for that? Do we want that pattern to be turned around by whoever wins on November 6?
If that’s what we want, we certainly haven’t said so. Maybe we’re beginning to believe that it’s normal and appropriate for Black people to be twice as unemployed as whites, more unemployed than Hispanics, and almost three times more unemployed than Asians (4.8 percent).
Maybe what Black folks used to say about themselves, in the South, years ago, is still true: “We’ve been down so long, getting up don’t even cross our minds.”
How about the disproportionately negative impact of high-rate subprime mortgage loans and home foreclosures on the Black community? The Center for Responsible Lending has disclosed that about 11 percent of Black homeowners are in “some state of foreclosure, “ and that more than one million Black families will lose their homes in the year 2012.
The Washington Post has reported that those foreclosure rates would damage the credit scores of future generations of Blacks — permanently.
In addition, due largely to a combination of discriminatory lending practices, and Blacks often being “first-fired” in corporate layoffs, Black home ownership has dropped from 50 percent, six years ago, to 44.8 percent, in 2011. That compares to a 74.1 percent home ownership rate for white Americans.
Who should be held accountable for not interceding with financial institutions and large corporations on our behalf, in these situations? Maybe it should be the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, Mitt Romney and the beloved President Barack Obama. None of them seems to be interested in the job.
Also, schools in Black communities are the most underfunded and the worst-performing in the country, so, as bad as things are now, our futures most likely will be even worse.
How else have candidates demonstrated their complete disregard and disdain for Black voters? Among other things, they leave your communities out of their budgets, and they don’t visit your neighborhoods, when it’s time to make a political speech.
Hey, judging by the content at the last, sorry “presidential debate,” both candidates also seemed to go out of their way to avoid even saying the words "Black," "African American," "West Indian," or "African." Even when the esteemed Mr. Obama talked about his family on Wednesday, he was very careful only to mention the respect and admiration he holds for his grandmother and grandfather, who came from Kansas, while saying not a single word about his grandmother or grandfather from Kenya.
That didn't seem to matter to us.
We were, apparently, too focused on whether the "Republican who ignores us" or the “Democrat who ignores us" put on the best show, during the debate.
There was no outcry about the absence of our issues from the two candidates’ talking points, from any of our so-called Black leaders.
Even worse, since the campaign began, we have been able to identify no senior-level campaign operatives in either the Romney campaign or the Obama campaign. With Black folks having already declared their undying allegiance to Barack Obama and his re-election, we shouldn’t have been shocked by such a situation among the members of the Republican candidate’s brain trust.
But, Team Obama, despite its assumption that Black voters have nowhere else to go, could have benefitted significantly from input at the senior level that might have helped to keep 14 million potential Black voters energized and turned out, on Election Day.
Perhaps we should have gotten a clue when the president opted not to attend the NAACP National Convention, or when he failed to attend the Black Caucus Gala, just last month, or when he joined Romney in declining an invitation from the National Newspaper Publishers Association to engage in a public discussion of Black issues.
After the debate, Team Obama immediately began to circulate among other excuses, the notion that the President’s dispassionate, unfocused and losing performance was based on his concern about being perceived as an “angry Black man."
Hey, there’s a time and a place for everything — including justifiable anger.
What the African-American community needs; in fact, what America needs, is a new generation of intelligent, courageous, issues-focused, “angry Black men and women” to go along with the “angry Hispanics,” “angry Jewish people,” “angry gays," “angry Asians,” and "angry whites” that we already have as part of our national political process.
Until we, in the Black community, identify such people, and put them to work for us, we’ll most certainly continue to be "political bystanders" in our own county’s most important elections.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
It’s a question that comes up every time you hit the home page of the Republican National Committee’s website: Where are all the Black Republicans?
Only a year after celebrating the last days of its first African-American chair, the RNC is fairly light on Black faces these days. What was once, especially during the ’90s, a fairly aggressive photo-op promotional strategy strung together by a small network of die-hard Black political consultants, former elected officials and partisans, is all but dead. While it did little in the way of yielding any results comparable to Democratic counterparts, there was a sense — leading up to the election of Michael Steele as party chair — that some progress had been made in mending the often bitter relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party.
Now, as a bloody Republican primary carries on, the GOP appears smitten with the Latino vote. Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are bending over backwards, and breaking the bank, to connect with Latinos — looking for every conceivable angle to attract skeptical Brown voters turned off by a wave of anti-immigration sentiments. And the RNC happily trotted out a Director of Latino Outreach in January, eagerly announcing the move in a gritty effort to snatch Hispanic voters away from Democrats in what observers expect to be a grueling November election.
“The RNC will place staff on the ground across the country to coordinate the GOP’s Hispanic effort as part of a program to make sure Barack Obama is a one-term president,” said RNC Chair Reince Preibus when introducing Betinna Inclan as the point person for Republican Latino strategy. “Latinos play an integral role in our communities, and the Republican Party believes it is essential to involve Latinos at every level of our Party’s efforts in 2012.”
Meanwhile, the move angered a number of Black Republicans who were already feeling left out in the cold following the abrupt downfall and forced removal of Steele in 2011. Many continue to express disgust at the GOP love fest for Latinos, some out of concern that they have no other political home to turn to.
“You have no Blacks on staff at the Republican National Committee — or any of its other committees — and there are no Blacks on staff of any of the presidential campaigns,” snorts longtime Black Republican strategist and marketing expert Raynard Jackson. “But maybe after a few more electoral loses you will awaken to the most loyal customer you have ever had.”
Most politically active and prominent Black Republicans — and there are only a few compared to Black Democrats — are not as vocal about their displeasure with the GOP’s intense focus on the Latino vote. Most are quiet, some out of fear they might anger RNC bosses who are already stressed trying to keep a fractured party intact. But many are seething over what they view as a combination of betrayal and intrusion, a knife in the back from a Republican Party that was theirs from its Abraham Lincoln beginnings.
However, a source tells the Tribune that focus could shift back to Black outreach as the Romney campaign prepares to hire a senior advisor for that exact purpose. While the source would not give details on the timing of an announcement, it was clear the embattled former Massachusetts governor is thinking ahead to the general election. “We’re finalizing the details,” said the source. “But, we’re not completely there, yet.”
The reason behind that reluctance could reflect a larger sense of caution surrounding the primaries. There are still many more states to go, with the delegate-rich “Super Tuesday” on the horizon for March 6. With the Romney campaign nervously gauging the rise of Rick Santorum while smarting from triple losses in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, it may be difficult to start thinking about the national scene while you’re still engaged in state-by-state trench warfare. Plus, finance reports are showing a Romney campaign low on cash and near tapped on donors. Do they even have enough to go the distance?
In terms of the Black vote, it’s much more complex than that. Much of it has to do with pure numbers — only 10percent of African-American voters, on average, vote Republican during any given presidential or congressional mid-term cycle. The only Republican in the 21st century to slightly defy that trend was President Bush in 2004 when he won just over 11 percent of the Black vote against Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. In statewide races, Republicans tend to garner 15 percent of the Black vote on average. In 2006, then Lt. Gov. Michael Steele was able to capture more than 20 percent of the Black vote in Maryland’s U.S. Senate race — but that was still very negligible for a Black candidate with extensive local roots and who never shied away from his Blackness.
Many Republican strategists and candidates alike are quick to attribute those dismal ratings to Black dismissiveness. “It’s hard. We get called ‘racists,’ but we’re expected to go out and do outreach with these people,” complains one veteran white GOP campaign expert who wanted to speak off the record. Visibly angered by the question, the senior aide to numerous Republican campaigns accused Black voters of “setting unfair expectations.”
Hence, Republican insiders point to the math in recent primaries. For example, only 2 percent of Black voters in South Carolina are registered Republicans. To make it worse, only 1 percent of South Carolina primary voters in January were Black — and that was in an “open primary” where voters of all partisan stripes can vote. In Florida, it was the same: only 1 percent. And, in Iowa (where there are sizeable pockets of African Americans living in such cities as Des Moines), Black votes didn’t even register on a significant scale.
The problem is two-fold. The Republican Party’s southern strategy in the 1960s alienated Black voters in the race for southern white and segregationist votes. This has led to the prevailing image of a political party either constantly attacking major Black policy priorities, or serving as the face of institutionalized political racism. But there is also the problem of African Americans refusing to force the two major political parties to compete for their voters. Most are fiercely loyal to the Democratic Party to the point where such affiliations are based more on personal considerations than political interests.
In contrast, Latino voters only lean 60 percent Democrat on average. In key primary states like Florida and Arizona, they represent 12 percent of the Republican primary electorate — a significant presence that warrants the attention of campaign strategists battling for every vote they can get. And a recent Cooperative Congressional Election Survey found 14 percent identified as Republican and a significant bloc, 19 percent, identified as “Independent.”
It’s that 19 percent that gives Republicans reason to believe they can compete for Latino votes in the general election against Barack Obama, despite recent anti-immigration rhetoric and legislation. The survey also found Latinos are more inclined to vote by race than party. With scores more Latino Republican elected officials than Black, Republican elected officials (there are no Black, Republican elected officials under the age of 40), the GOP figures it has a better chance chasing after Brown votes than Black ones.
Political strategist and former congressional candidate Princella Smith argues that because African Americans vote “lopsidedly Democrat — 80 percent to 90percent of the time,” the Republican Party fails to see any prospect of a return on the investment. “Why should I campaign to a community who will reject me as soon as I get to the front door?”
Ron Thomas, a Black Republican and former senior advisor to Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s, R-Minn., failed presidential bid, agrees, quickly arguing that the GOP’s enthusiastic focus on Latino voters should be something for Black Republicans and African Americans in general to worry about. “I have a bottom line philosophy: You have to have tensions on both sides of the aisle. We’re the only culture where we don’t make the political parties compete for our vote. Until we decide as a people that we’re going to do that, we’re going to stay in the same situation we’re in right now.”
Flipping through the channels Tuesday night, I stumbled upon the Republican presidential debate, live from Las Vegas, of all places. Being the fifth such debate in six weeks, I had forgotten all about it. But I also didn’t expect the party of pious morals and upright family values to hold a serious political event in a place known as Sin City.
Turns out though, that Vegas — America’s entertainment capital — was the perfect venue, because that debate had more sheer entertainment value than all the others combined. I’m glad I tuned in — it was comedy gold, worthy of being saved for posterity and the benefit of future generations of Americans who may want to pinpoint the exact moment the Republican Party officially went off the rails.
Business guru Herman Cain, the newly crowned GOP front-runner, found himself in the crosshairs early. Mitt Romney, the man of the perfect teeth and the empty suit, joined Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the man of the empty head, in hammering Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan.
Cain’s idea would set income and corporate taxes at nine percent, and add a nine percent federal sales tax. Sounds simple, but a study released by the Tax Policy Center this week said that Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal would raise taxes on 84 percent of Americans, with low- and middle-income families being hit hardest.
Cain tried to defend himself, countering that only lawyers, lobbyists and his ignorant onstage colleagues would argue in favor of the present tax code, which he called “a million word mess.” But between Romney and Perry ganging up on him, coupled with the incoherent babbling from Newt Gingrich and punctuated by occasional condor-like screeches from Michele Bachmann, Cain never had a chance.
The part that got me, though, was that even while bashing his proposal, Perry more than once referred to Cain as “brother.”
I don’t know about you, but few things make me want to punch a white man in the mouth more than that patronizing, condescendingly familiar way they call you “brother,” or even worse, “my main man.” Sometimes I think they do it because they don’t actually have any Black acquaintances and this is their awkward way of being friendly; and sometimes I think they do it just to see how far they can push you before you haul off and punch them in the mouth.
In Perry’s case though, I suspect the reason was overcompensation — a feeble attempt to clear up the recent controversy surrounding the former name of his hunting ranch by publicly reaching out to the only Black man he knows who isn’t one of the domestic help.
Even kooky old Ron Paul showed he still has a few chuckles left in him when he spoke in favor of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, defended the middle class from the excesses of the super-rich, and — get this — freely admitted that the recession, and the resultant lousy economy, is a direct byproduct of the short-sighted policies of the Bush administration. You can imagine how well that went over with the GOP faithful, but the oblivious Paul clearly has no idea that his chances of the nomination fade a little more every time he completes a sentence.
The best part, though, was when Perry and Romney grew tired of attacking Cain and turned on each other like a couple of pit bulls.
Perry brought up the illegal immigrant story that haunted Romney during the 2008 primary, calling it “the height of hypocrisy.” Several years ago Romney hired a landscaping company whose managers weren’t too vigilant about checking employees immigration status, and it’s hung around his neck like an albatross ever since.
Romney countered with a dismissive line about how Perry should be forgiven because he’s been losing ground with each successive debate, and the rumble was on.
Back and forth they went, the volume — and the tension — rising with each snide interruption and catty retort. I thought for a minute there it might come to blows, and found myself sitting on the edge of the couch eagerly anticipating the first wild left hook.
That punch was never thrown, but plenty of equally damaging verbal shots landed cleanly, with Perry once again forced to repudiate his friend, the pastor who called Mormonism a cult, and Pennsylvania’s own Rick Santorum once again forced to justify his own relevance.
I sure hope President Obama was watching. Seeing the caliber of the best that the GOP hopes will unseat him must be quite comforting — and funnier than anything else on television.