Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Really is Morning in America...at least for Black Republicans


Amid fairly frequent debates about whether the tea party is racist, something extraordinary is happening in the Republican Party. More minorities are winning nominations than I can ever remember. In Florida, a Hispanic, Marco Rubio looks to be the favorite in the Senate race. Indian-American Nikki Haley captured the Republican nomination for Governor in South Carolina and should win. In that same state, a Black republican beat Paul Thurmond, son of Strom Thurmond.

George Will had an interesting take on this: "Could it be that because Democrats put more of an emphasis on identity politics, an Indian American Democrat would have to contend with other ethnic constituencies that might think that it's 'their turn' first? And once you go down the 'identity' route, your success as a politician tends to rest more on the weight of numbers -- the size of your ethnic constituency, or your racial voting bloc -- than on the weight of your ideas."

First of all, I’m not sure that Democrats actually put more of a focus on identity. To see evidence of this, look no further than the Religious Right. Every Presidential election cycle, candidates from Pat Robertson to Mike Huckabee are able to run competitive races, in part because their identities connect them to millions of evangelical and Catholic voters. Besides, the conservative movement was ultimately built on a very different kind of identity politics. Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon built a conservative majority in part by pandering to a white backlash to the civil rights movement during the 1960s.

Moreover, other ethnic constituencies besides Blacks have had success in the Democratic Party. Blacks themselves have long showed a willingness to vote for whites over blacks. Stephen Cohen—a white Jew in a majority-minority Memphis district—and Scott King, a white man who won the mayorship in 90% Black Gary, Indiana can both attest to that fact.

Regardless, I think this all is a great development. In an era when we have a Black President, a Black chairman of the Republican National Committee, along with Black and Indian nominees for major offices in the cradle of secession, something remarkable has happened. Both parties have substantial majorities of voters who are now willing to overlook race. Sometimes, when I see all this progress, I have to pinch myself and remember that it is actually reality.

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