Rick Perry and Electoral Capture
In 1999, political scientist Paul Frymer published a book called Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America. His basic thesis was that black voters were disadvantaged by the structures of American politics, having been victims of “electoral capture”: because black voters were basically forced to vote for Democrats by the electoral structures of American politics, their interests would be subsidiary to the interests of swing voters. In other words, Democrats were disincentivized from focusing on African-American concerns because they were probably going to vote for Democrats regardless. (A similar dynamic exists in the Republican Party with conservative Christians, but it is less consequential, because Christian conservatives have been more privileged in America.)
I had that book in mind when reading through (and then watching) Rick Perry’s remarkable speech from yesterday, which is the first speech from a Republican candidate in this cycle that is worth watching. He started his speech with a horrifying historical anecdote about a lynching in Texas in 1916. (He described the lynching in graphic detail. Humans are capable of terrible evil.) He transitioned into a speech discussing opportunity in America, and why he believed that African-Americans have often been deprived of opportunity. The most important section is below:
I know Republicans have much to do to earn the trust of African-Americans. Blacks know that Republican Barry Goldwater, in 1964, ran against Lyndon Johnson, a champion of civil rights. They know that Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because he felt that parts of it were unconstitutional.
States supporting segregation in the South cited “states’ rights” as a justification for keeping blacks from the voting booth and the dinner table.
As you know, I am an ardent believer in the Tenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. The Tenth Amendment says that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
I know that state governments are more accountable to you than the federal government is.
But I am also an ardent believer in the Fourteenth Amendment, which says that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
There has been – and will continue to be – an important and legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing civil rights.
Too often, we Republicans – myself included – have emphasized our message on the Tenth Amendment but not our message on the Fourteenth – an Amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.
For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found that we could win elections without it. But when we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln. As the party of equal opportunity for all.
It is time for us to once again reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.
All of this was in the context of trying to make a conservative economic pitch. Perry’s speech is worth reading in its entirety, and I think it’s worth watching, too. His delivery is somewhat unorthodox, but it hits, hard.
I have been bullish on Rick Perry for a while, but I was not expecting him to go this route. Because Perry has so much credibility with conservatives on the Tenth Amendment, I suspect he has more latitude than other candidates to push this sort of message. And I am very glad he is doing so. A country where the two parties compete for African-American votes is better than one where one party simply writes them off.
It will be interesting to see if this pitch resonates, and/or if other candidates respond with similar ideas.
Full video is below: