First Step For GOP African-American Outreach: Tell the Truth

In an article for the New York Times on the frequent futility of Republican outreach efforts towards African-Americans, University of Connecticut professor Jelani Cobb offers GOPers some very good advice on a best first step:

An honest appeal to African-Americans would start with the admission that Republicans didn’t lose the black vote but forfeited it. The Republican Party now faces the same dilemma as the mid-20th-century Democratic Party: whether its interest in black voters might ever outweigh its investment in the reactionary politics of race.

The blatant revisionist history associated with some efforts to rehabilitate the image of the GOP among African-Americans is perceived as insulting, perhaps because it is. But so too are less mendacious but equally peculiar pitches like that of Rand Paul, who implicitly argues African-Americans made a fatal error in not embracing Republican resistance to the New Deal. And all kinds of “friendly” or “inclusive” Republicans have a real hard time admitting, much less repudiating, the conscious and deliberate white identity politics that has been so influential in the GOP since the 1960s (and harkening back to very old GOP traditions that uneasily coincided with a commitment to basic civil rights) and not just in the South.

“I want to apologize…” ought to be the first four words, at least figuratively, in any GOP “outreach” speech to African-Americans audiences. It would definitely raise eyebrows, and perhaps open some channels of real communication.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.