Outreach, Rand Paul Style


Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    “This was a publicity stunt.”

    Exactly–and should be treated accordingly.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    So in other words, a “typical” politician.

    The apple that fell from the tree is less than the tree. Sadly.Report

  3. Avatar superdestroyer says:

    Maybe you should just admit that there is no way for conservatives to appeal to blacks and that any Republican who would give a speech at any HBU or at any gathering of blacks is a fool. Blacks are the most liberal voters in the U.S. and have zero interest in what Republicans have to say.

    Any Republican who tries to speak to a group of blacks either is cricized for not pandering enough to blacks or panders his ass off to not be criticized. Republicans speaking to blacks in a no win situation and should be avoided by all conservatives.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to superdestroyer says:

      Could you give an example of what you mean by “pandering”? I think conservative politicians could expand their appeal among African-Americans, but it would entail two things. First of all, they would have to change some policy positions, as well as emphasize more heavily some that they already accept and deemphasize others. This is the political equivalent of a routine fly ball, and shouldn’t pose any major problems–examples might include vocally opposing stop-and-frisk, talking more about the need for quality education in urban areas (it should be possible to combine a “bash the teachers unions” approach with a call for every kid in the city to be guaranteed a well-funded, quality education), and so on. Rand Paul did some of this.

      The second part is where he fell flat on his face, and it’s equally as important. No matter how much conservatives agree with black voters on policy issues, they’ll never get any votes as long as blacks see conservatives as insulting them to their face. For example, when you accuse the Democrats of being the real racists while ignoring all history after 1965, it’s so flagrantly unconvincing as to be disrespectful–any attempt at winning black votes for the GOP has to acknowledge that the GOP has frequently and recently sought the votes of people who are prejudiced against blacks in one way or another. When conservatives obviously respect and follow a dude like Rush Limbaugh, that sends a signal to black voters that the GOP isn’t actually interested in their votes. And of course this says nothing about stuff like voter ID laws. Even if you think they’re a good idea or necessarily, they are frequently (and, IMHO, rightfully) seen as an attempt to limit African-American voter participation. A political party looking for votes has to agree on policy with its targets; but it also has to have a basic level of respect for them. Imagine you were buying something on Craigslist, and you showed up and threw the cash on the ground, making it clear that you loathed and disrespected the guy selling his sofa to you. You have cash and he has a sofa and you both want an exchange, but if you act like an asshole he may well call the whole deal off, and he wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to do so.

      In a way I’m sympathetic to the plight of the GOP here, because the things they would have to do to gain black votes go against the ingrained instincts of every political campaign. When I worked at a Democratic political consulting firm, the mere fact of a voter being African-American was enough to put them into the “we want this person to turn out to vote” pile. Age, gender, support scores–all of it got overwhelmed by whether the voter was black. I assume it’s the same for the GOP–if you’re a GOP campaign manager, your goal is to win the race, and in the short run that means voter suppression. Asking them to give that up is like asking a running back to take a knee on the one-yard line after a 98-yard run. But that, and other gestures like it (going on Limbaugh, talking about Robert Byrd and not Jesse Helms, etc), are what really stops African-Americans from voting for the GOP. It’s not that African-Americans are more liberal than other groups; it’s that they’re continually disrespected by the GOP as a strategic play. Fixing that isn’t “pandering”; it’s the necessary prerequisite for competing for black votes. A democracy where one major party doesn’t reach across ethnic lines is not a healthy place to be. It’s on the GOP to fix this.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Dan Miller says:

        The other trick is that it takes a lot more effort to fix your reputation than to screw it up in the first place. The idea that a one-time stunt like speaking at the right venue (or even one full campaign, for that matter) is going to win back the black vote is wildly optimistic. It’s like cheating on your wife and then getting upset when things aren’t totally fixed by flowers from WalMart.

        The party is going to have to do the long slog on this one, and as the OP noted, it’s not going to pay off immediately. They’d have to stop being asses and lose the extra votes that it was getting them, and the wouldn’t seee a real payoff for a few election cycles.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

          Good point. It’s really an iterative process–the party makes an effort to not alienate black voters, at which point black voters start moving towards the party; thus, politicians are elected who depend a little more on black votes (and have more black campaign volunteers et al influencing their campaigns), and are less likely to alienate them, in a hopefully virtuous cycle.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Dan Miller says:

            Except the party is currently at the stage of “Those voters are so dumb they won’t notice we’re alienating them”.

            (See: Voter Suppression. And see also: Pretend that the post-CRA years never happened).Report

            • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Morat20 says:

              Yeah. Rand Paul’s response to the criticism he received really makes this clear. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/the-limits-of-good-faith/275001/Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Dan Miller says:

                Seems to me his audience was actually people like superdestroyer. Paul wanted to pull the “see, they’re just hostile to conservatives” card.Report

              • Avatar superdestroyer in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Of course, the audience was going to be hostile of Paul or to any Republican. The only question is whether the Republicans who think that they can appeal to a meaningful number of blacks are realistic or delusional.

                I believe and the response to the Rand speech shows that any Republican who tries to appeal to black is not only wasting their time but will receive nothing but negative press.

                The question to really ask black voters is will they be happy when the U.S. becomes a one party state and national politics becomes the same as the current state of politics in the District of Columbia.Report

              • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to superdestroyer says:

                I think the real lesson is that any Republican who tries to appeal to blacks in a condescending and ineffectual manner, and then whines about people being mean when he’s called on it, will get nothing but bad press. This doesn’t strike me as a terrible state of affairs. If the GOP actually wants to appeal to black voters, they have plenty of good politicians and good consultants–they could come up with a message that would resonate a lot more than this. The fact that they don’t bother, preferring to hide behind cries of reverse racism, speaks volumes.Report

              • Avatar superdestroyer in reply to Dan Miller says:

                But is there any way that a Republican can appeal to blacks without throwing other Republicans under the bus. Any position that a Republican takes that does not throw middle class whites under the bus will be seen as condescending and ineffectual.

                No one can ever get close to stating what conservatives can do to appeal to blacks (and Hispanics). And no, saying that blacks are really conservatives is not only wrong but is very condescending by itself.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Dan Miller says:

            So your party has built up a rep that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of one voting demographic. You could try to fix that, but it would not pay off for you in the current election cycle. Momentum is such that it would take many candidates over many election cycles to remove the bad taste and start seeing dividends.

            Meanwhile, you have a small but vocal constituency that won’t vote for you if you do this. Worse, it requires that you call out and aggressively police your own party–not something that goes over well in a highly disciplined party.

            So what do you do? Pretend you’re reaching out but make sure you earn a poke in the eye in the process. Leave the hard work to somebody else. Kick the can down the road until your party has lost so much of the minority vote that they simply have to do penance if they ever want to hold office again. That day isn’t today, so it’s really not your problem.Report

            • Avatar superdestroyer in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

              You avoid the question that all progressives avoid: how does the more conservative party appeal to the most liberal demographic group in the U.S. while still being the least big conservative.

              How does the more conservative party appeal to a demographic group that demand high taxes, high levels of government spending, race-based entitlements, separate and unequal standards for education, employment, and government contracts.

              If the Republicans changed enough to really appeal to blacks, then the U.S. would effectively have two liberal parties. And then the question is, why does the U.S. need to liberal parties.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to superdestroyer says:

                The short answer is that I think you seriously overestimate how much elections are about issues rather than party loyalty and personality. If elections were about issues, the results wouldn’t swing back and forth so wildly from year to year.Report

  4. Avatar Philip H says:

    The African American community is no more or less “liberal” “libertarian” or “conservative” then any other segment of society. They do have a long and ongoing experience with discrimination based on skin tone – discrimination that less then 200 years ago made them property, not human. SO they are perhaps more skeptical of politicians then many groups, and they are therefore more demanding then other groups as well.

    Republicans as a political party have missed extraordinary opportunities to leverage social conservationism in African American communities into political success. As but one example, many African American pastors and churches have campaigned heavily against gay marriage all over the country, yet socially conservative Republican candidates and politicians have refused to honor that campaign by joining it. Likewise, the breakdown of families, the loss of marriage as a community institution and the disproportionate incarceration rates of African American males are all social justice issues that socially conservative Republicans can speak important truths on. even today, in the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson noted the pernicious impacts of income equality in America’s minority communities. But Fiscally conservative Republicans silence their socially conservative brethren on these issues because the changes needed would require – at least initially – would require additional government outlays which the fiscal conservatives and libertarians vehemently oppose.

    Thus do Democrats continue to be the only real political voice in African American communities.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Philip H says:

      This has always struck me as a reasonable rapprochement, but whenever I see it voiced by republicans, it is quickly swatted by democrats as somehow both tactically and morally wrong… since I don’t much care whether folks vote for Republicans, I can never remember why this is so…only that it always happens. Is this really a viable approach (setting aside, for the moment, the bogey-man of the Koch brothers squelching it)?Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Marchmaine says:

        I suspect it’s because liberals see social conservatism (even more so than economic conservatism) as fundamentally immoral and oppressive, and thus find the idea of Republicans seeking black voters on the basis of shared social conservatism as repellent (and as, sort of, an application of “What’s the Matter with Kansas” tactics to black people rather than just lower-income white people). In addition, it’s a bit of a problematic assumptions since, as TNC has pointed out, opposition to same-sex marriage isn’t any higher among African-Americans than among other ethnicities once you control for other factors such as income and religious observance.

        On major news sites – and even more so on this site – you can find a substantial number of economic conservatives who are also social liberals; this position is broadly accepted. Social conservatism is a lot less socially acceptable among the major media organizations. The Atlantic, for example, has lots of economic conservatives, but they haven’t had a pro-life person since Douthat left for the NYT, and I think Douthat’s the only social conservative at the Times.

        Politically, this approach would be a challenge because it’s the diametric opposite of what libertarians want, and big business (which doesn’t give a hoot for social conservatism) is more behind the libertarian side of thing. The GOP isn’t going to risk losing its whole funding-and-lobbying base. Nor its voter base – when you look at the exit polls, richer people tend to be Republicans and poorer ones tend to be Democrats, even when you control for factors like ethnicity.Report

    • Avatar superdestroyer in reply to Philip H says:

      The idea that blacks are socially conseravative has been debunked many times. Do you really think that a demographic group where more than 70% of the children are born to single mothers is really socially conservative. Blacks could not care less about home schooling, covenant marriage, abortion, prayer in school, or social engineering in the public schools. Other than their hatred for affluent white homosexuals, they have nothing in common.

      However what blacks seem to want, based upon their votes, is a big, high tax government that provides a large assortment of entitlements. More than 70% of blacks support the idea of race-based reparations and even more than 70% support race-based quotas , set asides, and affirmative action.

      Do you really think that Republicans should throw blue collar whites like Jennifer Gratz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratz_v._Bollinger) to pander to blacks? How many votes would Republicans gain and how many would they lose if they made such choices.Report