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Social Studies

The Color of GOP

Emily Flake

By Vincent Williams | Posted 11/26/2008

As you might imagine, the vast majority of my conversations since the election have consisted of dissecting every single component of Obama's victory. What's been throwing me is how bringing up the tragedy of the passing of California's Proposition 8, which overturned the right of gays and lesbians to marry, gets me cold stares from folks I've known for years. I've always known that, contrary to popular belief, the African-American community is very conservative, but it's really starting to dawn on me that I'm surrounded by people who would probably be Republicans if they weren't black. And, frankly, I wish the GOP would get its stuff together so that my brethren and sistern can just follow their hearts and join.

Since Barack Obama and the Democrats just straight put their foot in the Republican Party's ass, obviously I'm not the only person who's been thinking about the future of the GOP. Many smart folks are saying that the mass GOP exodus has to do with people's distaste with the influence the Christian conservative bloc holds. While I believe there's some truth to that, the overwhelming resistance that African-Americans and, to a certain extent, other minority groups have toward issues such as gay marriage and abortion makes me think that Christianity isn't the real problem; bigotry and racism is.

Oftentimes, if you're black, fairly or not, you have a very specific interpretation of basic Republican talking points. Any Republican support of "states rights," historically, has been understood as support for states' rights to do things like segregation. "Small government" means no resources for impoverished, mostly black communities. "Tough on crime" means "tough on black crime." Throw in rhetoric about illegal immigration, with a smidge of English-only, and it turns off many black people, Latinos, and other so-called minority groups that are quickly growing into the new majority any party is going to need to succeed in the future.

The first thing the GOP needs to do is change its image, and it needs to do something pretty dramatic to do it. If I ran the Republican National Committee, I'd run Michael Steele in '12, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal next, and, once the radioactivity of the brand had eased up a little, Jeb Bush's son, George. Before that, I'd send someone to talk to Bishop Eddie Long or T.D. Jakes and identify 10 of the most promising 30-year-old black preachers they knew and start grooming them now. While, yes, it smacks of tokenism, successively running such a racially diverse group of people would go a long way toward rectifying the GOP's reputation as a party composed primarily of old, rich, white guys. And, importantly, it would also piss off "Small Town America."

Because, seriously? Fuck "Small Town America." Now, I'm not talking about the purely descriptive notion of the demographic that, literally, lives in small towns. No, I'm referring to the specific group that use euphemisms like "small town America" and "Joe Sixpack" to convey a sense of tradition and innocence when, really, we're just covering up the fact that many small towns are hotbeds of hatred and bigotry.

And then there's that other euphemism, "the low-information voter," which is just plain misleading. They have plenty of information; it's just wrongheaded, hateful lies: "It's in the blood," "He's a Secret Muslim," "Jews run the world," "Gays are going to victimize our children." They have access to the same internet as you and I do, they just choose to go to the crazy parts. And, instead of treating this group of people with the open disdain and derision that we show to people who think the Earth is flat, or that England's royal family is made of reptilian shape-shifters, as a community, we tip-toe around them and act like they have something to offer the national conversation. No one has time for these people any more. 1984, "1999," 2001--we're so far into the future that all of the cultural-touchstone depictions of the future are now the past. As a society, the only thing we should be aggressively intolerant of is aggressive intolerance. And, pragmatically, as a political organization, such constituencies are holding the Republicans back.

Ultimately, I have selfish reasons toward wanting a more diverse GOP. If black people are truly welcome in the Republican Party and can wear the badge with pride, I believe we'll start to have some overdue conversations that haven't happened because, superficially, we're all voting the same way. Even though I don't buy into the hysteria that Prop. 8's passing was black people's fault, I do believe that, statistically, the reason black folks supported Prop. 8 more than other groups across all demographic lines is because we've never had a chance to discuss these issues. It's not so much a case of misinformation as it is no information at all. If an actual dialogue could open, I'm confident that many of the black people who blindly voted for the action would think it through and fall on the side of tolerance. And, at the least, I would avoid more awkward moments.

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