At nearly every outing, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, one of the top Republican presidential hopefuls, is pushing for African American votes for the Republican Party in 2016. He asked Howard University students, “How did the Party of the Great Emancipator (Lincoln) lose that vote?” He believes that his party can win over black voters because he says Democratic policies “haven’t worked.” He said the GOP could “transform an election in one cycle” if they made an earnest effort to appeal to a “new constituency.” Even if Paul does not win the nomination, Republicans will pick up his theme. So we thought we’d directly answer his question.
Republicans have no claim on minority voters until they stop cutting programs for lower income and working Americans, which disproportionately include African-Americans and Latinos. Here’s what Democrats have done, which the Republicans are trying to eviscerate: Roosevelt’s New Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal, Kennedy’s New Frontier, Johnson’s Great Society, Clinton’s 23 million jobs, and Obama’s Recovery from the Great Recession, Auto Rescue, Affordable Health Care, 5 years of job growth, and getting bin Laden while Bush didn’t, for starters. Not a bad answer for why to vote for which side. Black poverty has declined 2.41 per cent annually under Democratic Presidents, while increasing under Republicans. Under Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, black poverty dropped from 87 percent to 47 percent.
In contrast, Republican leaders in Congress and the State houses, and the 5-4 Republican-appointed Supreme Court, have tried and continue now to dismantle education, housing, food, health care, jobs, affirmative action, voting rights, and social programs created by Democrats that have helped minorities including African Americans and Hispanics. They are cutting back the very programs that allowed leaders like President Obama, U.S. Representatives John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Jim Clyburn, Barbara Jordan, and Shirley Chisholm, and BET founder Robert Johnson, as well as the sons and daughters of millions of Americans, to become what they did. They are blocking the current Administration’s infrastructure jobs program that would add one million jobs, reduce unemployment by a full percent, and counter Black unemployment. While suddenly claiming to be against “income inequality,” they are blocking the first real minimum wage increase in 30 years.
The Republican plan is the myth of trickle down, when the rich actually just keep most of their ever-increasing wealth. Tax break bills for the wealthy are not “jobs bills”– listen carefully to the real content.
Rand Paul’s libertarian beliefs caused him to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1965, even though he now denies this is the case. On MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show in 2011, he was unsure whether he would have voted on passage of the law. He wiggled to Maddow, “Those are difficult situations.” He tried to distance himself from these comments, but Rachel played the tape.
Paul’s push for criminal justice and drug policy reforms has received support. He is right that 60% of the prison population is Black though only 14 percent of the U.S. population. However, he never says that Bill Clinton and Clinton Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey called for these policy changes years ago, and Democrats now including Eric Holder have pushed for reforms. It’s good he got the idea from them.
Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, now Dean of the House, Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), told us, “I don’t understand why any African American would be Republican.” Conyers said, “We’re going to have to be up on how we protect hard fought gains now up for re-evaluation. Democrats can’t roll over for a corporate takeover of government. We have to give more help to working people and their families, not less.”
At a recent National Press Club Newsmaker, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Assistant Minority Leader and a past Congressional Black Caucus Chair, asked, “Where would I be today were it not for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act? Where would I be living today were it not for the 1968 Fair Housing law?” The Supreme Court is threatening all of these.
Republican Budget Chair, 2012 Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has called for an end to Medicare’s provisions and partial privatization. He also supports privatizing Social Security. Medicare and Social Security were created by Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. The Social Security Administration reported that Blacks aged 65 or older would have poverty rates as high as 60 percent without Social Security. Republicans’ calls for Social Security “reforms” simply mean cuts.
President Obama’s health care legislation, excoriated by Republicans, has reduced uninsured rates by 25%. The bill is critical to reverse numbers showing African Americans are 55% less insured than whites.
A verbal rebranding by Republican presidential candidates doesn’t excuse the Republican Party of decades of indifference to Black America and a current policy to remove life-improving benefits and voting rights. Democrats will continue to keep winning minority votes because they have earned them, despite Rand Paul’s mythology.
Robert Weiner is former White House spokesman and senior staff for Cong. John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Claude Pepper, Ed Koch, and Sen. Ted Kennedy. He wrote the epilogue to Bankole Thompson’s book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty.” Joseph Abay is a policy analyst for Robert Weiner Associates. Autumn Kelly assisted in this article.