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Will Gay Marriage Hurt Obama with African Americans?

11:05 AM, May 18, 2012 • By JAY COST
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Final point: The Republican party really needs to think hard about breaking in to the African American community, for a very large chunk of self-identified African Americans conservatives nevertheless vote Democratic. A big reason why is that the Republican party does not compete for their votes, which in turn leaves the Democratic party a virtual monopoly over political communication. The Democrats have used this to great effect, defining the GOP in the most negative of lights in this community.

To counter this, the GOP really needs to spend some serious time, attention, and money in rebuilding its image in the this community. This is something the party should do – not only because it was once the historic home of African Americans, but also because the Democratic party is not a perfect fit for the 90 percent these voters who reside within it. There are votes to be won here, in theory, but the GOP needs to do some significant rehabilitation work.

It would also, I hasten to add, be good for the African American community. Democracy only really exists in and through the competition between the two political parties in our nation. When one party has a monopoly, the big political decisions do not happen at the ballot box, but behind closed doors. Hence the nature of the alliance between the CBC and the labor-liberal coalition. The best way for African Americans to get the Democratic party to reflect their interests on the issues where they are usually ignored is to at least threaten to vote Republican. That would also have the effect of shifting the GOP in their direction on issues where Republicans usually do not pay attention to African American concerns.

The best example of this is the quick movement on civil rights in the middle of the last century. For generations, African Americans were locked in the segregationist South, effectively unable to vote. When they started migrating northward, the were loyal Republicans, and so the GOP actually ignored their interests, knowing full well that their votes were in the bag. It was only after the Great Depression that black voters started shifting, and for a brief period were actually a swing constituency. As their numbers in the North grew, both parties suddenly grew responsive to their needs. Harry Truman ended a century of the Democratic party's essentially racist attitude toward blacks, Dwight Eisenhower was the first president in some seventy years to push hard for voting rights, and LBJ -- the Texas senator who successfully watered down Ike's civil rights bills -- executed the flip-flop to end all flip-flops by putting his weight behind the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. 

It is amazing what both political parties are willing to do when they think votes are actually up for grabs!

Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.

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