Without the unique positioning of Black Republicans to mitigate the differences between appropriate voter validation efforts and unethical voter suppression actions, the GOP will remain cast as civil rights villains – and the nation loses as a result.
Can there be voter validation efforts through the nation – particularly in this heated election year – without those efforts wading into the shark-infested waters of voter suppression?
Most progressives – and most minorities in America these days – say no. Yet, there is a way, but that path must be laid and led by Black Republicans.
Although there have been some Black conservatives that have supported efforts that have put into question access to voting moving forward, there is a large segment of Black Republicans that believe in upholding the civil rights efforts of the past. With the push to limit voting access to those that can prove their citizenry, it is up to these conservatives to both articulate the points about fair, valid voting records and the concerns for pushing legitimate voters from the ranks due to partisanship, even if keeping those voters in pocket would jeopardize Republican hopes for the fall.
These Republicans must look at this situation as as win-win from the long-term perspective. For starters, it can not merely be about towing the party line when it comes to the voter ID laws that are increasingly sweeping across the nation. For Black Republicans to continue gaining the trust of the Black community – and, as well, begin to form some significant bridges between Black voters and the GOP – Black conservatives must serve as the honest brokers in the push for stronger voter ID laws.
In essence, they must be the foil that ensures that these efforts are above board. Statements or sentiments that highlight ulterior motives aside from the fair and just commission of elections (such as those expressed recently in Pennsylvania) must be taken and addressed head-on by Black Republicans that carry both the responsibility to Black America’s past and their current political affiliation. Further, Black Republicans must understand and enact (at a higher level than the GOP is currently doing) that the way to win elections (and win over a younger, more diverse electorate) is not to win around them, but to win engagements with them. Eliminating brown voters in droves may shave the numbers down to create more toss-up areas in November, but the result may also include a backlash that brings minorities out in opposition to the GOP for years on end.
Therefore, no one is better suited to balance the efforts of voter validation than Black Republicans. Yet, as has been argued before, these conservatives must take their efforts to both the GOP party ranks and the Black community simultaneously. If Black Republicans are not willing to push back on voter ID efforts that, in their yield, prevent Black citizens from being able to vote in 2012 without appropriate Constitutional cause, then they must be willing and active in modifying the arguments, efforts, and laws that cause this unfortunate reality.
Despite the rhetoric from many Black conservatives, today’s political environment does promote some instances where Black Republicans must be dutifully aware of the history of discrimination in America and how it has consistently impacted Black people in this nation – from slavery to Jim Crow to voting rights. If anyone has the capability of making sure that voter ID laws are about validating voters and not suppressing the Black vote, it must be the active Black Republican, a politico that must be both aware of the realities of sanctuary cities and one-stop voting and the vile re-introduction of racism in American political discourse.
A semblance of hope for balance and political civility for Black America — and the nation overall — could sprout from a successful and appropriate Black Republican role in this debate. A pall of despair (and more partisan narrow-mindedness) could result if active Black Republicans do not understand and grasp the political opportunity – and historical responsibility therein – that stands before them with the voter ID debate.